When you follow your dream, you don’t think about the fact that it might earn you a level of recognition beyond anything you could have imagined. In March of 2019, I was surprised to learn that I had been nominated for Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ by two individuals. While I was honoured to have received the nominations, I never thought I would actually win.
The gala – what a memorable occasion
November 21st was a special day. I was excited to attend the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ gala event and, together with my immediate family, decided to bring all the treasured women in my life who have made an impact on me. This included my two aunts, and my mother. Among my four children, three are girls, which made my experience even more profound.
When they announced my name as one of the winners, I was shocked. Speechless. Humbled. And very emotional. I felt truly blessed to have my family and incredible female support network there with me, and it was extremely rewarding to know that others had recognized me for my dedication and hard work over the years. In that moment, my mind flashed back to my father’s speech at my wedding when he expressed his confidence in my intelligence and drive, and said he couldn’t wait to see what my husband and I would accomplish in the future. Unfortunately, my father passed away 8 years ago and even though he was there to witness the opening of our first two Lullaboo Childcare centers, I wasn’t able to celebrate with him on the night of the gala. Nevertheless, the gala was stunning and a thrill to be part of from start to finish. For me, the most meaningful aspect of it all was having the opportunity to be in the presence of so many profound and inspiring women in Canada.
Paying it forward
Pre and post gala, the overarching theme of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ this year was empowerment and resilience. After attending both the Top 100 Summit and Top 100 Gala, the significance of my award began to sink in. This experience has made me realize I now have an even greater responsibility to my staff members. Given the fact that I have now been recognized as “one of Canada’s most powerful women”, it is up to me to take that acknowledgment and use it to further support and empower my employees. And it just so happens that of our 350 employees at Lullaboo, 98% are women.
In December 2019, I hosted “coffee events” at each Lullaboo location and invited all staff members to join me. Promoting open, candid and honest communication, I posed the question: “If you had a magic wand capable of anything, what would you do at Lullaboo to make an impact on yourself, your coworkers, your students or all three?” I was both amazed and impressed with what people presented. Some ideas were relatively small, others more significant. All had the potential to make an impact. I followed up and addressed each and every idea. In some cases, implementations have already been made. For other concepts, I prompted my employees to expand and explore their thought processes in order to further develop their ideas.
Given the nature of the Lullaboo business, I am in a position to impact very young lives for the betterment of our society, and to work collaboratively with the parents of those young lives. Within our organization, women perform 98% of the roles. As our business expands, we are creating an increasing number of jobs for Canadian women. I feel compelled more than ever before to guide, support and empower the people on my staff and in our local communities: by helping employees obtain a higher level of education and advance their careers in childcare education; by developing integration and inclusion strategies to assimilate ill and troubled children into our classrooms; by listening to the individual needs of families and tailoring each child’s care accordingly; and by offering delayed, reduced or flexible payment plans to single mothers who struggle financially but who also want to give their children the best possible start in life, to name a few.
Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ has both inspired and humbled me as a woman, as a mother and as an entrepreneur. In light of this honour, I have and will continue to put new plans into action so that child by child, parent by parent, employee by employee, I can strive to make a positive impact upon the lives of those around me.
In light of our current situation
Remember over these days, be extra compassionate with your neighbours. Practice patience and tolerance more then ever with your children, your parents, your grandparents. Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious about these uncertain times. Use video conference tools as much as possible and share a smile with as many people as you can.
Lullaboo is a family and we will continue to provide the same great service when this is all over. Without you, our centers are just buildings. The children, the energy, the laughter, the singing, and the artwork that provide life in these buildings is sorely missed. We miss you, the children, our extended family.
When things eventually improve, and they will, we look forward to getting back to doing what we’ve been doing for so many years: Providing enrichment to young growing minds and allowing parents to have the peace of mind when they go to work. Until then, let’s keep learning and enjoy the time with our loved ones. We will see you soon!
Irini Mikhael, Chief Operating Officer for Lullaboo Nursery and Childcare Center Inc., is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a woman who owns and operates a thriving business in Canada.
2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!
Irini Mikhael is Chief Operating Officer for Lullaboo Nursery and Childcare Center Inc.
2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
After having her first daughter and being unsatisfied with the service and quality offered in childcare, Irini Mikhael, a professional engineer, decided to open her own childcare centre in 2008. Irini went back to school to obtain her Early Childhood Education degree to improve the program’s educational content. Today, Lullaboo has nine locations across Ontario, cares for more than 1,300 children and employs 350 educators.