MANILA -- The spread of “yaya horror stories” on social media, as well as the decline in the availability and quality of home-based childcare providers, prompted young mom Michaela “Mikki” Mejia-Paderanga and her Filipino business partner to put up PurpleTree Daycare Center in Mandaluyong City.
It was in December 2017 when Paderanga and her partner, who’ve known each other since they were nursery and have been friends since grade school, opened the doors of their daycare center.
“My business partner and I saw the gap in childcare in our community because of the increase of two-income households,” explained Paderanga. “PurpleTree also spurred the desire for some alternative option.”
While she admits that agencies and referrals still made it possible to get a live-in nanny, Paderanga also believes that another option should be available for parents, especially the moms, in rearing their toddlers.
She and her husband, Paolo, had been fortunate enough to live in Japan for a couple of years prior to putting up the daycare in Mandaluyong. They had experienced first-hand, the benefits of having a daycare as part of the routine of their eldest child, Sophia, now five years old.
“She was more independent, adaptable and sociable,” Paderanga said of her daughter. “After talking with my partner about this, we thought that this kind of alternative should be available for parents here (in the Philippines).”
The first challenge for Paderanga and her business partner was finding a location. “It needed to be accessible for parents, so that dropping off and picking up their children would not interfere with their daily commute too much,” she said.
“We wanted to find a location that was along the major thoroughfares that our target market would be passing to and from work. With today’s traffic, we also had to give enough room for the parents to be able to drop off their kids before work and pick them up after, which is why we offer the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule.”
The daycare is located at Lee Gardens Condominium along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City.
Next challenge was marketing, a task “so alien” to most Filipinos. “Culturally, we are used to having a strong support structure for childcare with stay-at-home-moms, extended family and nannies or yayas at our disposal,” Paderanga noted. “That landscape is gradually changing.
“We mentioned earlier the increase in yaya horror stories going around. Extended family is also becoming less accessible with the increasing distances between homes and traffic brought about by an ever growing metro. We do not think that mothers should be forced to choose between career and family because of a lack of options for childcare.”
Maintaining the quality of care is top-most in the agenda of its owners. “As a brand, this is what would define us, so we always need to be sure that parents can be assured of the care and attention that we give their children," Paderanga said.
“Next is making sure that our caregivers are people that you can put your faith in. We make sure that all are caregivers have the proper accreditation and screened thoroughly by myself and my business partner. Then, they are put through training and probationary period to ensure that they follow our practices and standards.
“Lastly, we make sure that we take every precaution to ensure the children’s safety. This is not just in the care that we provide, but in the environment as well. Aside from the usual precautions, we have a strict daily cleaning regiment that includes wall-to-wall disinfection and we regularly schedule UV treatment for our equipment and facilities.”
The young owners were inspired by different childcare paradigms that also became their guiding tools in putting up the daycare center. “We wanted to draw from our experience in Japan, where the daycare focuses on giving the children life-skills and increases their independence,” Paderanga said. “We also wanted to incorporate elements from the Montessori paradigm where you focus on child-centered learning.
“In a nutshell, we provide a scheduled routine and have activities throughout the day that exercise different aspects of a child’s growth. This gives the children a structure for their day, so we have a time for arts and crafts, sensory play, music and movement. We also separate the areas for naptime and play, so the children are able to discern when they should start to wind down.”
Paderanga is a registered nurse who obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the Trinity University of Asia. Her first job was an operating and delivery room nurse and then as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse in a hospital in Pasig. Her business partner, meanwhile, finished her AB Literature and MA in Marketing Communications at De La Salle University (DLSU).
“Our courses both help us in the different aspects of the business,” said Paderanga, who is the operations manager of PurpleTree Daycare Center. She oversees the scheduling, training, procurement and other day-to-day activities. She is also involved in planning the children’s activities with their teacher.
“In dealing with toddlers, we must be patient and consistent,” Paderanga insisted. “We also encourage independence by teaching life skills. The children are exposed to music during circle time and free play when they arrive.
“After lunch, they have their naptime in a separate area. Once they wake up, they are offered their afternoon snacks and then more fun activities are done. We do storytelling sessions and learning time to expose them to letters, numbers and shapes.”
Since daycare is an alternative to having a nanny, PurpleTree understands, however, that adapting to this kind of setting still varies with every child under their that shelter.
“We sometimes allow parents and nannies to stay for a short time or until the child’s anxiety is put to ease,” Paderanga explained. “While other children can be left at the get go.”
Paderanga is the third child and eldest girl in a brood of four children of Oscar, a contractor, and Ma Anicia “Boots” Mejia, a retired corporate officer. Her older brothers Kiyo and Akie, are both married with young children. She also has a younger sister, Ericka, who helps in the daycare from time to time.
“My siblings have been supportive of the business from the beginning,” Paderanga beamed. “They have been giving their ideas for the daycare on how to improve our service and expand the business.”
Her parents, meanwhile, never lose their loving reminders and consistent advice to her endeavor. “My parents have taught me that the business will take a lot of your time, but patience and being hands-on are key to growing a business,” Paderanga said. “They also reminded me to be respectful of one another and taking care of your staff like they are family.”
Paderanga and her business partner are both very hands-on with the daycare center. “My partner and I develop programs for the daycare and playgroup sessions we have at the center,” she said. “We also manage our staff, caregivers and teachers, from hiring to training. The expenses vary from month to month, as the number of children enrolled also differ.”
Paderanga recently gave birth to a baby boy, Koda, her second child. “Koda is a variant of Nicholas, the second name of my husband,” the mom said. “We wanted a shorter version. Koda means Little Bear or rice paddy of happiness or victory of the people.”
The eldest is five-year-old Sophia, who attends the daycare from time to time. “She already made a lot of friends since we opened,” Paderanga granted.
“We are a small family of four. When we are not working, we spend time together and watch movies at home or go to the mall to unwind. Spending quality time with my family and maintaining a household are very important.”
Paderanga and her husband have been married for six years now. He works as the student recruitment manager for Dusit Hospitality and Management College. “He helps me when I have queries on the business aspect of the daycare,” she said of her hubby. “He also taught me how to use Photoshop to make posters for our daycare ads.”
Admirably, Paderanga has managed her work as a mom and businesswoman. “As a mother and an entrepreneur, juggling tasks can be daunting, but I have learned to manage my time wisely. With a great support system, one can have a good work-life balance,” she said.