SVS' investee interview series 2 - Noldam
ETC 2021. 12. 17. 00:55
Category: Education and Childcare
Impact related to UN SDGs:
"I would like to hear people say, ‘How ever did we manage before Noldam?"
Q. Please describe your company.
The corporate name of our company is Jalnoneun, which can be loosely translated as ‘Good at Having fun’. As can be deduced from our company name, our mission is 'Making Korea a country where homo ludens reigns free'. The reason we became interested in childcare issues is also related to this: we wanted to ensure children’s ‘right to play’. In 2015, while researching childcare issues, I learned that children had disappeared from playgrounds largely because they were being sent to private educational institutes or a childcare provider (so-called 'auntie') after school, as the number of dual-income families increased. It was then that I decided to develop a service to protect children's 'right to play'. ‘Jalnoneun’ creates and develops care services for children. We evaluate and select university students who wish to participate in childcare and nurture and develop them into childcare experts. In addition to one-to-one care, we also provide group care in which children can play with other children. We believe that our childcare services can provide an alternative for households of all financial levels. Up till now, our services have focused on enhancing professional competency in childcare for vulnerable groups. These families tend to have more complex problems in general, which means they require greater consideration than usual.
Q. What social problem do you want to tackle?
I believe the issue of childcare is a structural social problem. In the past, childcare was undertaken within the neighborhood. After school, children played with friends close to home often returning home after sunset. However, with industrialization and individualization, our neighborhood is no longer safe and children cannot be left to play on their own. This has increased the burden on parents and carers. In this regard, I believe that childcare is not just a matter for the individuals directly concerned, but a problem for which stakeholders should cooperate in a combined attempt to find a solution. On March 24th, we launched a new service ‘Care for multiple children’ on our app ‘Noldam’. The profit structure of 'Jalnoneun' is based on the fees we collect when parents and carers pay for the services of care teachers. When our ‘Care for multiple children’ service takes off, the cost of childcare per child will be lowered, reducing the burden on the parents and carers, while the wages of care teachers will increase. Of course, the company will benefit from higher fees, which would be reinvested in our services. This, I believe, is a much more sustainable structure than simple one-to-one care. In the market, the cost of childcare ranges from KRW 50,000 to 60,000 per hour, which is considerable. Using the service 2-3 times a week could be burdensome for many. Our ‘Care for multiple children’ service starts at KRW 8,000 per hour, dramatically lowering the financial burden of parents and carers. Another huge advantage of this service is that it will allow approximately 1.8 times increase in wages to care teachers, which means providing better quality jobs.
Q. What are the benefits and challenges of running a business which pursues both profit and social values?
As for the challenges, we must seek profit as a corporation. The way to make profit in the childcare sector is simple. You just need to combine childcare with learning, or provide childcare in English. It is easy to make a profit if you offer a ‘premium’ product. However, it could make us little more than a 'private educational institute that comes to you'. ‘Jalnoneun’, however, doesn’t take the easy route. We consider ‘what children need the most’ from their perspective and try to find more sustainable ways to address childcare problems. It is not easy, and it is even more difficult sometimes to convince team members, investors, stakeholders, and often, even myself. The joy of doing this work, I would say, is our conviction that we are ‘doing the right thing’. ‘Jalnoneun’ has introduced ‘Group care’ in order to pursue financial and social values at the same time without compromising our principles by taking the easy and profitable route. This has allowed us to provide high-quality services while lowering the cost to parents and carers. I am confident that this program is very marketable in apartment complexes and has potential to bring about great changes in childcare in communities. The greatest satisfaction I get from this work is that we are helping to ensure children's right to play.
Q. How did you get the investment? How did it help your business to grow?
Social finance investors differed greatly from other investors, right down to the questions they asked about the business. Conventional venture capitals generally asked questions such as 'what was your major in university and what did you learn?', whereas impact investors asked many questions that were central to our mission, such as 'what is your personal motivation in starting this business?’, ‘how did you become interested in this social issue?’, or ‘how confident are you that your solution will solve this social issue?’. In addition, after making the decision to invest, they helped us at every stage to convert our ideas into a working business model.