Dec. 12, 2018

Haskayne student leverages minor in Women's Studies to create award-winning social enterprise

Sanya Chaudhry featured as Inspired Albertan for her work building Nanny Shack, supporting nannies through flexible childcare
Haskayne student Sanya Chaudhry was featured as an Inspired Albertan.
Haskayne student Sanya Chaudhry was featured as an Inspired Albertan. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“People ask me about my minor in Women’s Studies and they say, ‘Isn’t that just about feminism and stuff?’” says Sanya Chaudhry as she explains how her experiences contributed to the idea behind Nanny Shack, the venture she is planning to pilot in the next couple of months. “It is more than that. It shows the social problems that social enterprises are working to solve.”

Chaudhry may not fit your typical vision of an entrepreneur. She teaches preschool music and science. She works in childcare. Her passion for youth is evident. Her drive for social change is top of mind.

Then came Entrepreneurship and Innovation 317

Entrepreneurship and Innovation 317 is the mandatory entrepreneurship course that all Haskayne students are required to take, whether they are in general business, accounting or any other major. Not all Haskayne graduates will be entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurial thinking is as fundamental as critical thinking to create effective leaders in the workforce and community.

As a part of this course, students are required to create a venture, figuring out a need they are going to address, researching the solution and putting together a plan.

“I didn’t know I wanted to stay in business until I took entrepreneurship,” says Chaudhry.

The problems Nanny Shack looks to resolve are twofold: First is the need to help nannies transition from full-time live-in positions to a situation where they are more independent. Many nannies come to Canada being hired by a particular family with the hope of staying for two years to gain their permanent residency. Being so closely tied to one employer can often put a nanny in a vulnerable position if the family’s needs suddenly change, if the family is not compatible, or in some cases if the situation turns abusive. Nanny Shack, in its full vision, will provide full-time employment, housing and hopefully a larger community for the nannies it will hire.

The second challenge that Nanny Shack is looking to address in its business model is the need for flexible, drop-in and overnight childcare. Chaudhry is currently researching her target market for the service in a directed studies project. She sees Nanny Shack filling a gap for professionals like nurses and doctors who work varied shifts, sometimes at night. Calgary currently has no licensed overnight childcare; Edmonton has two.

A winning idea

Her Entrepreneurship and Innovation 317 group won the wild card spot in their semester for the RBC Fast Pitch Competition hosted by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Held each April, this optional competition has students pitching their venture to a panel of community leaders, vying for prizes that can help make their venture a reality.

Her team did not win. Her teammates went on to other challenges. But the competition showed Chaudhry that the idea held possibility which could go somewhere when combined with her passion.

In May 2018, she began working to make Nanny Shack real through the social enterprise incubator program at Thrive, called Incubator.

September saw Chaudhry continue to work on the venture in a directed studies course with supervisor Houston Peschl. And in October she won a local pitch competition, Community Innovation Challenge  through Ambrose University. Next up? The pilot project.

Continuing to create change

While working tirelessly to bring Nanny Shack to life, Chaudhry continues with Uplyft Youth, the non-profit she started in 2017 with seven other UCalgary students: Ally Grab, Meaza Damte, Tehreem Chughtai, Josh Velasquez, Reuben Christian, Saud Sunba and Steve Khanna. This venture focuses on delivering education about domestic abuse and healthy relationships to youth through a peer-to-peer exchange. They have already delivered some programming, connecting with a group of Grade 7 girls on Nov. 14 and two groups of 10 to 18 year olds at Vivo later in November.

“Sanya is passionate about community development, and it is evidenced by her initiative to start Uplyft Youth in light of an issue she found in her community,” says Meaza Damte, who continues to work with Uplyft Youth. “Sanya is not one to sit around and wait for a solution to present itself. After witnessing how ill-informed youth are regarding the available resources for domestic abuse situations in Calgary, she sprang in to action.”

Chaudhry is gaining attention, recently being featured on the CTV News weekly segment Inspired Albertans with Darrell Janz.