Myvyllage missoula start-up mentors new child care businesses, connects families ~ missoula current database ranking

Burns’ daughter is enrolled at Missoula Baby School, but will age out of the program this August. Fortunately, she has found a facility with open spots for 2-year-olds. Others aren’t as lucky, and when they do find care it’s often expensive.

MyVyllage focuses on care for children ages 0 to 5, making it easier for families to find preschool options and educational programs. Montana is still without a public preschool system, so many parents must find ways to nurture and extend their child’s early learning.

Since the company is new, finding providers and getting their businesses set up to start taking children will take some time, Mackey said, who hopes to develop 20 businesses in Montana by the middle of the summer and 50 to 70 by the end of this year.

“While we have lost centers in Missoula and in Montana, we have lost far more home child care businesses. Home-based child care may be something a person does for 3 to 10 years; very few do it more than 10 years.

So the fact that they close is not so surprising.”

“It was the first time for me that I really spent time navigating through child care, and I was a working mom on the road a lot and had a unique opportunity to experience child care through the lens of a lot of different cultures,” Mackey said. “What was really interesting was how challenging it was everywhere I went. It didn’t really seem like anybody had a solid system figured out.”

“If you didn’t get on a wait list before you started thinking about conceiving, you had to compromise in at least one of those areas,” she said. “For me, what got me very motivated and also incredibly angry is how much those compromises existed, particularly as you are moving to lower and lower income families.”

Missoula MyVyllage mentor Michelle Burton owns Missoula Baby School and is currently helping a few new providers develop their facilities. She has experienced her own troubles running a child care facility in her own home for the past three years.

Burton, who only cares for infants and toddlers, said that she barely makes a living wage, even when parents are charged around $800 a month for care. Legally, providers who care for children aged 0 to 2, can only have four children at one time, resulting in a wait list. Many providers who can’t make ends meet are forced to close their facilities.

“I’ve lost people because they can’t afford it, but also I’m barely making a living wage,” she said. “That’s an obstacle for families and it’s an obstacle for providers because I support my kids and I completely, 100 percent. So just trying to support them and still charge something that parents can afford, I mean, they’re paying more than a mortgage in a normal town on a monthly basis.”

“Everyone I have encountered for the most part in Montana has a very DIY, entrepreneurial focus, and I think that very much aligns with us and our values as a company,” Mackey said. “It’s also what’s going to be required for somebody to take the leap to start a business in their own home.”