123 Petits Pas - Amy
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
First and foremost I am the proud maman of my beautiful boy Jude. I am a French teacher, new business owner of 123 Petits Pas, and am soon to be married to Jude’s Dada (this summer). I have lived in Ottawa for 8+ years and absolutely adore this city. You are most likely to run into me in the French kids section of a bookstore (true story- I was spotted as “123 Petits Pas” there last week) or at a coffee shop or bakery with Jude.
What inspired you to open 123 Petits Pas?
My idea for 123 Petits Pas came from the two things I’m most passionate about: Motherhood & French as a Second Language teaching. I had been participating in all things Mommy & Me while on maternity leave (from my job as a French Immersion teacher) and wondered if Moms would be interested in taking a Mommy & Me French class. I threw it out to the parenting community online and the feedback I received was overwhelming! I realized there was this lack of resources/tools for parents hoping to raise bilingual children- whether or not they were actually bilingual themselves. I was over-the-moon excited to take on this new challenge of creating French programs for Parents & infants/toddlers.
When did you first know you had a passion for bilingualism?
It was during my own learning of French that I fell in love with the process of language learning. I had studied French throughout my entire education, but when I moved here for University, I realized my confidence to speak the language in real situations was lacking. I made it my goal to become fully bilingual and so I had a few years where I only allowed myself to watch French TV, I lived in France for a little while, I arranged coffee dates with French native speakers etc. and I got to the point where I started thinking and even dreaming in French. I was so proud of what I’d accomplished that I wanted to help others learn the language as well. This was when I realized my passion for French teaching.
My passion for bilingualism stems from my love of the French language, but also from the research I did while pregnant with my son. The cognitive benefits of bilingualism/multilingualism at the earliest ages are absolutely fascinating. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of parents who hoped to provide their little ones with these benefits but who might not have had the ability/confidence/support to do it alone.
How many children have you worked with through 123 Petits Pas?
With only 2 rounds under our belt, so far we have worked with just over 200 infants, toddlers, and pre-k age children. I’ve never done that math before- that’s very cool to think about!
How many people aside from yourself does 123 Petits Pas employ?
123 Petits Pas currently has 3 other educators, aside from myself. Two are teaching the Orleans location classes and one is set to start this summer in Carleton Place. Employment is very new for 123 Petits Pas, as I teach the majority of the classes myself; however, I am working towards building a team of educators to be able to share my Parent & infant/toddler programs with other parts of the city.
Where do you dream to see your business in the future?
Due to the great need for French as a Second Language learning resources, I have so many dreams for 123 Petits Pas’s future. I’ll limit myself to 3 for now:
I have some ideas for a French children’s book series that I would like to make a reality one day to accompany my curriculum. I would love to eventually have our own location as a base instead of lugging around my equipment to each class!
Canada has a lot of room for improvement in terms of English/French bilingual education so I do hope to eventually provide other cities with our services. I’ll be starting an online class in the near future in order to: a) help those who live too far to attend our weekly classes and b) provide additional practice at home for our participants.
You have mentioned that children develop language patterns at a very young age. At what age is it most beneficial to develop language patterns?
ASAP. More and more research is being done around language learning in infants and there’s strong evidence to suggest that unborn children begin picking up on language patterns even in the womb! The first 3 years of life are considered especially pivotal for language development because our brains hold language learning as a predominant goal vs. later in life where language acquisition is a skill we need to learn. This is also why I wanted to start 123 Petits Pas: monolingual parents might not have the ability to introduce a second language during this crucial period of time.
When you aren’t working with families and children what do you do for fun?
Being a new Mom and entrepreneur doesn’t leave me with much free time, but I’m very blessed to have fun anyway since I adore my job! I have met many families through 123 Petits Pas and often go for coffee or schedule playdates after class. I also love exploring the city, meeting other local business owners, and going for dinner as a family.
How has Ottawa supported the launch of your business 123 Petits Pas?
Ottawa’s families have been so supportive in the launch of 123 Petits Pas. Our participants are so enthusiastic and have added a whole new level of fun to our classes. Their interest in raising bilingual children and being a part of our community is what has allowed 123 Petits Pas to become what it is currently. They continue to provide great feedback and ideas that have encouraged me to add new content and fun activities to our programs.
There’s also an amazing community of local businesses that cater to parents and new families. This community has been extremely supportive in sharing information about our programs with their clients. I’ve really enjoyed meeting all the local business owners and learning about the services they offer as well.
When you left teaching for the school board to pursue 123 Petits Pas as a full-time venture how did it feel? Was it a nerve racking experience?
It was certainly nerve-racking! Mostly because teaching is seniority and experience-based and I had been through quite a few rigorous interviews to get to where I was in the school board. Originally I’d planned on 123 Petits Pas being a side job while I continued working as a teacher part-time; however, once I realized the amount of interest, and number of classes that needed to be created in order to meet the demand, I knew that I needed to put all of my effort and energy into it. Once I’d made my decision it felt very freeing- I was so ready to put my whole heart into making this important service for Ottawa’s families a reality.
As an entrepreneur and a business owner what keeps you up at night?
My son keeps me up at night (haha) but I am constantly thinking of new ideas in the middle of the night. My idea for a French Mommy/Daddy & Me class came to me at midnight one night and I rushed downstairs to write it down before I forgot it (my fiancé can attest to this). The name “123 Petits Pas” and the little song we sing each class also came to me during a late night nursing session. I find my brain likes to wander at night and it’s usually where my best ideas come from. I’m always thinking about new activities to add to class, new lyrics for French songs, new directions to take 123 Petits Pas, new ways to collaborate with others…the list is endless!
Are there any Ottawa businesses or people who have helped you on your journey?
Oh so many. I’ll have to make a list:
My little family: Jude- my inspiration and Matt - my partner in parenthood and biggest supporter
Tiffany and Erin of ProCare Family Centre (my main location for Parent & Toddler French classes) are inspirational and have been incredibly supportive.
Erica of Mom Break and Bytown Academy (Lana as well) have been so helpful in starting up a new business as a mom in Ottawa.
Kids Kingdom (both Kanata and Orleans) have been very easy to work with and provide fun locations to hold my programs.
Jess Laurel Photography’s documentary photo shoots have helped show Ottawa what 123 Petits Pas’s classes are all about.
Kallababy was one of my first contacts with the community. Ivan and Marnie have continued to be great supports for me.
Mommy Connections have helped spread the word of 123 Petits Pas by checking out our workshops and allowing me to provide demos during their programs.
Dylan Black of Rogers TV Ottawa has been so lovely to both Jude and me as well
Kathleen Parisien of Knowledge First Financial is our first sponsor and is providing us with our first class set of books!
I’ll stop there- but there are SO many more businesses and people that have helped in some way or another. Starting 123 Petits Pas has made me realize that Ottawa’s local business community is full of passionate people who strive to provide us with only the best services and products. I’m sure Ottawa Neighbours knows this as you’ve met so many of our awesome citizens recently!
Is there anything new and exciting coming up for 123 Petits Pas?
We have a Mommy/Daddy & Me Summer Camp for 0-2.5 year olds where we’ll be participating in all kinds of activities (swimming, arts & crafts, gymnastics etc.) while learning French.
We have a Prep for School program for 3-4 year olds.
We have 2 new locations being added (1 in Carleton Place this summer and 1 in the Glebe this fall)
We have an online course coming soon.
We are looking for educators to join our team! :)