Fees of private childcare in Cape Town are not affordable for all families, mostly if they are migrants, refugees or asylum seekers. Often they can’t count on the support of grandparents to look after the kids.
Phionah, 37 years old, a Zimbabwean business women living in Cape Town, decided to answer the basic need of those families: she turned her idea in a profitable business, providing a safe and nice childcare at her place with the same standards of a private childcare and cheaper price.
We met Phionah at her place in Brooklyn (north of Cape Town) to discover how she is managing the childcare. We were impressed when, with shiny eyes, she declared “my inspiration is the love for children”: we perceived the passion she put in her job and we understood that she really chose the best job ever.
Phionah and the children doing a puzzle
What’s your first feeling about the period when you moved to South Africa?
I moved to South Africa almost 13 years ago and I expected to find job opportunities but I faced lot of challenges. First, I discovered there were opportunities in domestic works, but it was not my background. Secondly, when we moved, my husband and I had not any friend or member of the family already living in Cape Town.
How did you get to know about Scalabrini Centre?
I heard about Scalabrini Centre the first time in 2009 through some friends working in government associations. But at that moment I was not able to visit the centre because I was totally focused on the job. Probably the Scalabrini Centre was in my destiny because, six years later, in 2015, a friend of mine told me again about Scalabrini Centre and suggested to have a look on its programme for women. I went there and it was a very good choice!
How has the Women’s Platform helped you?
The Women’s Platform gave me motivation putting me in contact with Women from other countries who faced lots of challenges coming to South Africa. Their stories and their energy gave me the strength to reach my goals.
I have also attended a 3-days-workshop about childcare, arranged by Women’s Platform, managed by a women who had already developed that kind of business. She gave us directions about childcare, child nutrition, child routine programme. Considering that I was already managing my childcare, it was the best thing that might happen to me. Apart from the workshop, I met great women, migrants and refugees coming from several African countries, whose stories inspired passion and ignited the will to improve my business.
Why have you chosen childcare as your own business?
I was born with that in me. Since I was young, I have always loved to spend time with kids. I have studied and I have acquired a deep knowledge about that field.
What makes you feel proud of your job?
I am happy to see these children growing up and developing. I am happy to see people wondering where these children come from and who is been teaching them. When they go to school, they perform very well. School teachers call me to appraise the work I have done and this is a good advertisement, which supports the positive word of mouth about my childcare.
What do you like more of this kind of job?
This is my life, it makes me happy.
How do you promote your business?
The love I put in my work is the best marketing strategy. I am sure that even if you have the best business cards and advertising posters, if you don’t put love in your work you won’t increase your business. That’s way the best promotion is basically the word of mouth.
Who are the children attending your childcare?
Currently the childcare looks after 18 children, from 9 months to 4 years old. Almost all of them live in Brooklyn. Their parents are migrants, intermarriage and South Africans.
How your typical day looks like?
I wake up between 5am and 5.30am and I make sure my own children are prepared, I clean and feed them, I take them to school. At 8 am the childcare opens and the daily routine starts. The day is pretty structured: we serve porridge at 8am, my two assistants look after children divided in small groups. Personally I care about the group of children 2/3 years old. During the morning, children have physical activities, play with building blocks, do drawing, singing, jumping, and puzzles. At 10am they have a break time with yogurt and fruits. The lunch break is at 1 pm. After the nap, we clean them and start the last activities of the day. At 5pm they have the last break with muffin, fruit juices and sandwiches. We make sure children go to home already filled.
What’s the big challenges of these kind of job?
This is a job full of responsibilities and challenges: not only because I deal with lots of children, but also because I deal with their parents, which require skills in negotiations, diplomacy, public relations.
How do you imagine your business in a couple of years?
I want to grow up. I would like to buy a place where to run my business. Owning the place gives the opportunity to be sustainable and to retain clients. In the past, I used to rent a place in Salt River, but after some years the place was sold and I moved to Brooklyn: I lost clients and I had to rebuild my reputation in a new area. That’s why now the childcare is in my house.
What motivates you?
The children motivates me a lot. They are so clean, so pure. When they look at me, I feel that is the greatest motivation.
What makes you happy?
I am happy managing my business
Which advice would you give to other women willing to run their own business?
Always keeping alive vision, passion and desire. From my experience I have learned that when you really want to achieve something, you will find resources to do that!
For further information contact Phionah on 063 573 6026 or on her Facebook page.