At the beginning of April, I took my young daughters with me to the Women Techmakers event in Montreal. This wasn’t an event for kids, but because the organizers recognized that there are people who have children (gasp!), they hired a local startup called Popup Camp to provide daycare services for the participants.
While I watched talks and panels, interviewed the organizers of the event and chatted with the attendees, my daughters played and did themed activities: unscrambling letters to write “code” and learning about women in technology from the animators who were caring for them.
“Can we stay just a little while longer?” asked my eight-year-old daughter, when I went to pick them up. My four-year-old also had to be cajoled before she reluctantly agreed to leave — with the promise that we would attend another tech event “with the fun daycare” a few days later.
Thanks to Popup Camp, we did attend another event that week. And at that event, one of the other participants applauded me for taking my girls along. “You’re showing them what it means to have a career,” he said. “They’re lucky to have a mom like you.”
While I don’t disagree that modelling behaviour is exactly how we’re going to help girls grow into powerful women, it’s companies like Popup Camp that will enable us to expand our kids’ horizons.
Popup Camp co-founder, Geneviève Bégin, not only feels that it’s necessary to have childcare services at a broad range of events to help out parents, but because of the value you’re giving to the kids.
“I hope people will start to think: how can my child benefit from coming with me?” said Bégin. “Childcare service on the spot isn’t only for single parents with no friends, neighbours, or other options. I want parents to be proactive and bring their children because they have a great experience, because they see amazing venues. You can take your kids to the Caisse de Depot and they see the beautiful glass walls. It’s pretty impressive for a child and very different from school and home.”
The concept is simple. Popup Camp is a mobile daycare that can set up anywhere. They arrive at a venue with all of their gear in plastic bins, create a fun kid-friendly space within half an hour, and then spend the duration of the event playing and doing activities with the kids, who range in age from babies to ten years old.
“One of the big challenges we have is to convince people that it’s a priority.”
Their clients have included the city and municipalities, who hire them for townhalls, to tech and corporate events to shopping centres — and they’ll even be at C2 Montreal this year, a move that Bégin hopes will help raise their profile and credibility.
“I hope that event organizers will think of the venue, the catering, and the childcare — in that order,” said Bégin. “To me, it’s that important. That’s our main goal.”
While it’s a no-brainer that childcare at events will get more people to attend, Bégin feels that it will take some convincing to get traditional businesses on board.
“One of the big challenges we have is to convince people that it’s a priority,” continued Bégin. “When you use it, you’re convinced, but in the meantime it’s a big challenge that we’re facing.”
I, for one, will do everything I can to help this company succeed. As I sat, finishing this article as my kids ate breakfast this morning, my younger daughter asked “Mommy, when can we go back to the Popup Camp?”
As for my older daughter, who currently wants to be an astrophysicist, I’m going to do everything I can to show her what a career in a field that’s currently male-dominated can look like. And that starts with taking her to every tech event I can, which is now more viable, thanks to Popup Camp.