Worker-conscious restauranteur Camilla Marcus, the founder of Soho’s vegetarian cafe Westbourne, faced head-on the challenges her employees endured to find affordable and flexible hours childcare in New York. Formerly director of business development for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and the cofounder of TechTable, Marcus clearly has a “let’s get-it-done” mentality.
At first Marcus assumed research on finding affordable, flexible healthcare for her workers was primarily a “connecting the dots” job of finding realistic alternatives to the average $16,000 annual cost of having a family in New York as a working parent. Surely the mayor’s office could point Marcus in the right direction.
Frustrated and at the end of the road in her search for a worker-friendly childcare solution, Marcus was sent to Charles Bonello and Ben Newton, entrepreneurs who also saw the problem. Their checklist included a more affordable and accessible option that includes flexible hours, a robust early education curriculum, and back-up care options for those whose existing childcare is unavailable on short notice, writes Vogue US.
Vivvi, which is now open, partners with local employers to subsidize up to 100 percent of the cost of regular full-time care and backup care for working parents of infants, toddlers, and pre-school-age children. Thanks to Camilla, Vivvi's backup childcare is equipped to meet the needs of hospitality workers, with hours ranging from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and weekends.
"There are just not that many industries left where you don't need to have a certain degree," says Marcus. "You don't need to have a certain background and you can rise to a six-figure salary. We need to keep those pathways open and this [lack of accessible childcare] is a big barrier to that being possible."
For Camilla Marcus, she's leveraging her new partnership with Vivvi, now offering backup care to all of her employees at no cost. It's the beginning of a much-needed equalizing force in an industry that has long undervalued its workers.
"It isn't just a banker or a lawyer who is able to have access to this world class program," said Bonello. "It's also hospitality workers whose entire livelihood is tied up with being able to get to work and being able to get there during the times when it makes the most sense and it's most valuable. So it's empowering for us because our entire mission is honor the potential of work and families."