Born entrepreneur

. October 29, 2012.
Julie-MacKinnon

Business owner and entrepreneur Julie Anne MacKinnon was enterprising even as a kid. She remembers one childhood business: she and her brother would gather golf balls that landed in their family's yard, clean them, and sell them back to golfers at the nearby course. “We were always trying to make money,” she says. A hard worker throughout college, she took up many odd jobs — some of them very odd, like pulling a rickshaw in downtown Toronto! That same enterprising nature lead her to start locally-based daycare company Kidz Watch.

To feel more at-home, the Canadian-born businesswoman explains that the original Kidz Watch location on Central Avenue was chosen “because Tim Hortons [a Canadian coffee-shop staple] was out front.” Ten years ago, Julie started the business with a modest loan from her mother. The business has bloomed in the past decade — Julie's independence and drive has turned a small loan into a million-dollar company. “We really bootstrapped it,” she says. Two Kidz Watch locations are now up and running in the Northwest Ohio area with a franchise in Cincinnati. The business is innovative in the daycare industry because it has “drop in” availability for parents in a last-minute squeeze, as well as traditional preschool options. The business also includes DropInChildCare.com, an online consulting wing through which Julie has helped start daycare centers around the country. She sees daycare as an industry which has gone through an evolution in recent years and has room for innovative businesswomen like herself.

Julie's passion for helping people, especially kids, is at the heart of her business. She has always been interested in early childhood education, as she worked at camps, taught, and served on school boards. Even with her busy schedule as a business owner and consultant, Julie makes sure to keep connected to her daycare center. “Even though I'm not in the center every day, the kids all know who I am — they all come running up and give me big hugs,” she says.  

Although rooted in Sylvania, the MacKinnons are constantly on the move. “We are not normal,” Julie jokes. Her husband is a travelling hockey scout and is back and forth from the Detroit airport. Her son is a hockey player, and her daughter is a figure skater. Her kids have taken a cue from their mom. “They've been asking me for a job!” she says.

Julie admits that being a mother and an entrepreneur can be challenging, but she wouldn't have it any other way. “I don't think that I could ever work for anybody,” she says. She has advice for other businesswomen who are just starting out: “Be persistent and do what you believe. A lot of places, especially now with the way the economy is, say 'no' and won't give you loans. You have to look to alternative sources. Don't give up on it at all, because there are different ways to get things done.”