Victoria Makarova and Ardak Mukhamadiyeva, founders of Kazakhstan's kids' clubs, brand El Kiddo, sat down with QazMonitor to discuss the company's mission related to kids, learning, and nature - and their plans for expansion in London and Europe.
Since its foundation, El Kiddo has been working to build a genuinely global brand, building kids' leisure and education areas in landmark cities worldwide and has opened a significant private investment round to finance it. El Kiddo's team of highly qualified caregivers and instructors has delivered on their promises, and entertaining and teaching thousands of children while also incorporating nature-based experiences to help kids connect with the natural world.
In this interview, Ardak and Victoria share more about the importance of providing a safe, nurturing, and fun environment for children to learn and grow and how they incorporate learning and nature into their programs and activities.
Can you tell us about some of the successes El Kiddo has achieved in 2022?
Ardak: In 2022, we have had a number of successes that we are very proud of. One of the most significant achievements has been expanding our showcase facility in Shymbulak, with a whole architectural redesign and a brand done by a famous European studio. We have added a new, state-of-the-art playground and several new classrooms to accommodate more children and offer more activities. Our summer and winter camps have hosted hundreds of children from the Almaty region but also from other countries. We have also seen a significant increase in enrollment this year, which is a testament to the quality of our program and the positive impact it has on families in our community.
We have had more than 3,000 clients in 2022, just imagine.
How did El Kiddo get started?
Victoria: El Kiddo started as a ski resort kids club and ski school in Shymbulak, Kazakhstan. It boomed from there. We have seen a clear demand in major global cities like London, Dubai, or Madrid for kids' spaces that are as good as any 5-star hotel but that allow parents at the same time to work and relax. The feedback we received on a recent trip to the United Kingdom was very positive in that regard.
Can you tell us about El Kiddo's plans for global expansion?
Victoria: Yes, recently we were excited to announce that we have recently begun the process of expanding El Kiddo internationally. We have identified several markets worldwide that have a strong demand for high-quality child care and recreational services, and we are actively exploring opportunities to open new locations in these regions. We are currently conducting market research and identifying potential partners and investors to help us establish a strong foothold in these new markets.
We believe that El Kiddo's proven business model and commitment to excellence make us well-suited for success in these new regions.
What are your long-term goals for El Kiddo's global expansion?
Ardak: Our long-term goal is to establish El Kiddo as a leading provider of child care and recreational services on a global scale. We believe that our proven business model and commitment to excellence can help us achieve this goal, and we are excited to bring the benefits of El Kiddo to families around the world.
Victoria: We also hope to use our global expansion as an opportunity to give back to the communities we serve. We are committed to being good corporate citizens and making a positive impact on the families and communities we serve, no matter where we operate.
What are the main challenges you anticipate as you expand El Kiddo globally?
Ardak: One of the main challenges we anticipate is navigating each new market's regulatory and cultural differences. Every country has its own unique laws and customs, and it is essential for us to understand and respect these differences as we enter new markets. Another challenge will be finding and training the right team of caregivers and instructors in each new location. We want to ensure that we have a highly qualified and compassionate team in place to provide the best possible experience for children and families. In places like London or Madrid, regulations and culture are different, but we have been traveling significantly to meet new potential partners.
How is El Kiddo financing this expansion?
Ardak: We have recently launched a $1.5-million financing round to help fund our global expansion efforts. We have received a great deal of interest from potential investors, and we are confident that we will be able to secure the necessary funding to support our expansion plans.
Victoria: In addition to the financing round, we are also looking at other funding sources, such as grants and partnerships with local organizations. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has already supported us, and we are incredibly thankful for it. EBRD has provided us with financing and technical assistance to help us improve our facilities and expand our services. They have also connected us with valuable resources and expertise to help us navigate the challenges of running a business in Kazakhstan. We are very grateful for the support that we have received from the EBRD. They have been an invaluable partner as we have grown and expanded our business.
We will soon contact the Ministry of Culture and Sports and other government entities to explain about our project.
What does it mean for El Kiddo to be a Kazakhstan company with a global outlook?
Ardak: As a Kazakhstan company with a global outlook, we are committed to using our success and expertise to positively impact the world. Our proven business model and commitment to excellence can be successful in other countries and regions, and we are excited to bring the benefits of El Kiddo to families around the world.
Victoria: Being a Kazakhstan company with a global outlook also means that we are open to new ideas and ways of doing things. We always look for opportunities to learn and grow, and diversity and inclusion are key to our success.
We are proud of our heritage and want our country's name to be heard globally. Many will help us make this a reality.