Joanna and Lisa have always loved working with children and families. Since 2006, they have been registered Early Childhood Educators and have worked in licensed child care for well over a decade.
Joanna enrolled in a post graduate program in Autism and Behavioural Sciences. This allowed her to work with children who were neurodivergent in a one-on-one setting. From there, Joanna got a job in a Family Resource Centre, serving and helping New Comers to Canada with anything that they and their family might need. During her time at the Centre, Joanna fell in love with working with families, especially New Comer families.
Lisa started her ECE career in a daycare in 2010 and moved on to supporting families at EarlyONs in 2016. This is where she found her true passion. Through her career she has worked with many professionals which helped her get to this point. These include; Child Development Consultants, Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Early Literacy Specialists.
Lisa and Joanna felt that the City of Guelph could benefit from a service that helps remove the barriers to childhood book ownership in the community. This is because the places that people traditionally would get books, like bookstores and libraries have barriers that are impossible to remove. Libraries require patrons to obtain a library card and return the books, while bookstores are just too expensive for some families. With their years of experience in working with children and families, Lisa and Joanna wanted to combine forces to create a barrierless reading experience for their community. On May 4th, 2022, the Children’s Reading Room officially opened their doors.
“Through engagement with families in an inclusive community space and distribution of children’s books free of charge, our mission is to enhance literacy skills, family wellness and promote a lifelong love of reading.”
Both Lisa and Joanna are extremely skilled and experienced in education and helping families meet their children’s literacy needs. However, neither of them had ever run their own business before. So, they went online to find someone to help them learn the business end of their Nor-For-Profit. Following a quick Google search, their answer appeared; the Business Centre of Guelph Wellington.
After being accepted into the Starter Company+ Program, their advisor helped Lisa and Joanna prioritize their business’ needs and complete business tasks in an organized and timely fashion. The program also assisted them in developing a professional sponsorship package that they would be able to share with local businesses, funders, and sponsors to help raise money for their organization.
The grant that Children’s Reading Room received from the Business Centre will be used to help build brand awareness for their program around the City of Guelph. One of their many programs that they are looking to push is Royal City Readers. Royal City Readers is an after school program that provides kids who are struggling with reading acquisition with a safe space to practise their literacy skills.
The growth of Lisa and Joanna as entrepreneurs throughout their time with the Business Centre and since starting Children’s Reading Room is clear. When asked what she would tell herself when she co-founded the business, Joanna exclaimed, “manage your expectations. It’s impossible to do everything all at once. The process is time consuming and lots of work. Know that you’ll need time and support to get where you want to go.”
So, if you or someone you know is looking for a safe space to build their family’s love of reading. Then head on over to Children’s Reading Room, where you will find a barrier free family reading experience.
"The Business Center of Guelph Wellington has been invaluable in helping us establish our not-for-profit business. Going into this venture, both Lisa and I were experienced in our field but complete novices in the business world. Our Mentor helped us tremendously by offering experienced advice and guidance." — Joanna Szulc and Lisa Veber