Child care staff in the babies’ room at Stoughton’s Mariposa Learning Center document about 120 events each day.
That includes diaper changes, feedings and any other events they deem significant, and that parents often want to know what time they happened.
About a year and a half ago, that process got easier. Mariposa owner Patricia Wooldridge, along with her husband and another business partner, created GrowthChart, a voice-activated software that allows the staff to keep their eyes on the children and avoid pen and paper for each documentation and share that information through an email to parents.
A simple command to a Google Home unit covers that task.
“Whether that takes five seconds or 10 seconds, it’s still turning your back around, and things can happen in the blink of an eye,” Wooldridge said.
This month, GrowthChart was recognized as the grand prize winner in the technology category in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. That means the company’s share of $160,000 in funds dispersed to a group of winners could bring additional staffing and growth to many more child care operations.
“It was a very exciting moment,” Wooldridge said. “We were not expecting it; it came as a shock. We were competing against some other wonderful, innovative companies.”
Wisconsin Technology Council president Tom Still told the Hub the $160,000 includes some “in-kind” donations like accounting services or free rent, as well as cash prizes for some. The exact total was still being determined, he said Tuesday.
This was GrowthChart’s second year in the contest, and Wooldridge said she and her partners learned from their finish last year in the second phase of the contest. The contest, which had about 200 initial entries, had its 25 finalists submit a full business plan for review by a panel of more than 100 judges, according to a news release.
GrowthChart was one of the “Diligent Dozen,” or top 12, to emerge from the field, and presented in front of a panel of judges and conference attendees at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference on June 4.
Mostly, she credits the win to their identification of a need and a simple solution.
“People are really wanting to see something happen in the education field that helps teachers, because we do have a lot of work and we don’t have a lot of help,” she said. “This is something that’s going to make a difference for sure in the community, families and the teachers.”
With the grand prize comes funding that Wooldridge said will allow them to hire salespeople and a full-time CEO and chief technology officer. She hopes to get the service, which costs $2 per month per student, to more daycares, whether that’s in-home providers, large scale centers or something in between.
“We’ve been doing it all on our own without hardly any help, so we’re very proud of ourselves getting it to this point,” she said. “Now we need a scale, we need employees, we need to get this product out more.”
She expects the company to add up to 34 new features to what is now a “base product” to make it applicable at the different levels of childcare. She’s confident it can work for anyone because of her own experience using it in the classroom, when she said she was “having a blast with it,” as were the kids.
She even recalled logging a student’s completion of a puzzle, and other students soon told her they were working on a puzzle, too.
“They wanted me to log for them,” she said. “They felt accomplished, too. They felt like, ‘Oh, I’m doing something wonderful, and I’m proud.’”
While she contends it could save money – less paper, ink and time spent writing or filing for staff – the most important part of the product is how it makes the job easier and keeps parents informed with what their child is experiencing all day, Wooldridge said.
“It really does affect how the day was to how the evening’s going to go,” she said. “They do absolutely love to feel connected to what their child is learning.”