Geneviève Bégin didn’t want to have to choose between her career and her family. That’s why she founded Popup Camp, a mobile daycare for events that fosters the parent-child connection, encourages citizens to get involved and promotes a healthy work-life balance.
Finishing a master’s in business administration is one thing, but doing it as a mother is a whole other story. But this is just one more accomplishment to be added to the resumé of Geneviève Bégin, co-founder and CEO of Popup Camp, a mobile child care service unique in Quebec. But it was hard work.
“I brought my daughter to every networking event and conference during my MBA. Even though I was happy that she was able to see my daily routine, I’m sure I only caught about 10 percent of what was said,” explains the single parent who decided to go back to school (she was previously a self-employed photographer). She was struck by how many of her classmates were absent from these events, especially the women. “They weren’t there to enrich our conversations, it was such a loss,” she says.
Towards the end of her studies at HEC Montreal in 2014, the young 30-something participated in two Startup Weekends back to back. There she met Mélyan Vézina, with whom she developed what eventually became Popup Camp. “In the beginning, we wanted to start an Uber-style daycare. Obviously that wouldn’t work—we can’t ask a 12-year-old caretaker to watch over several children at once!” she recalls. Despite the false start, the core idea that remained was to centralize the daycare, instead of having parents assume sole responsibility.
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Popup Camp was finally born early in 2015. The idea: Offer a child care service linked to events attended by young parents from 30 to 45 years of age. Their first contract, won in March of that year, confirmed that they had a valid business on their hands. “For the organizer, hiring us was another cost on top of many others, like the food service or wine. On the other hand, it allowed him to reach customers that otherwise would never have been able to attend the event,” explains Bégin.
Popup Camp attempts to bring parents and children together through theme-based activities related to events. For example, during a theatrical play attended by the parents, their children might be introduced to the dramatic arts through fun role-playing games.
“We don’t just take care of children, we want to educate them at the same time. These workshops enable them to better understand their environment and to have a conversation about it with their parents.”
– Geneviève Bégin
To operate her mobile daycares, Bégin relies on educators who are on call—the business is available seven days a week for up to 20 hours per day. Their workforce includes early childhood educators as well as secondary-level teachers and students, all aged anywhere from 18 to 60.
Three years after its launch, Popup Camp has gone beyond its initial target market of cocktail parties, conferences and professional development events. Today the company is called upon by those holding marathons, weddings, funerals and even political events. “For just over a year we’ve been present at all the City of Montreal council meetings. We’re supporting citizen involvement by enabling councillors to represent their fellow citizens and electors—that’s a big deal!” adds Bégin.
Offering mobile child care has led the entrepreneur to secretly dream of tackling the work-life balance problem once and for all. “Popup Camp allows women to have greater presence in the labour market without giving up their family. We’re more than just a private business, we’re a community service,” concludes Bégin, who identifies as a feminist.
Popup Camp in Numbers
30: Number of employees
95: Number of events in 2017 at which Popup Camp was present
$125,000: Popup Camp’s revenue last year in Canadian dollars
Want to learn more?
Visit the Popup Camp website