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Bozeman company innovates childcare option for employees

Zoot Adventure Learning Academy, or "ZALA,” helps employees find affordable childcare
Posted at 6:53 AM, Sep 07, 2022

BOZEMAN — Childcare can be tricky for working parents, forcing them to make sacrifices that compromise their incomes and job security. To solve this problem, local businesses are getting creative with their employee benefits. Zoot Enterprises is a software company with workplace childcare built in.

Mike Kummer works 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Zoot. While he is at work, his 2-year-old son is one floor below him at Zoot Adventure Learning Academy.

“The ability to see him during the day is so huge,” said Kummer. “From an employee standpoint, it’s a relief for sure.”

Mike says he is grateful because some aren’t as fortunate when it comes to finding convenient childcare.

“I’ve had friends tell me how hard it is to get your kid into a quality facility around town,” said Kummer. “Trying to find an open spot, the application processes, and getting on waitlists.”

According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, there are more Montanans working right now than ever before. The current state of childcare is leaving working Montanans with children in a pickle.

Rebekah Nelson is the vice president of employee benefits outreach at Zoot. She said this is why they began Zoot Adventure Learning Academy.

“It’s to help out other businesses and create a solution to a childcare issue that is out there,” said Nelson. “It’s not just a family issue, it’s not just the parents' issue, it’s a business issue.”

The business membership program at Zoot allows other businesses to use its childcare center.

“That doesn’t mean it’s free childcare,” said Nelson. “If a business wants to provide a scholarship for part of the tuition they can, or if they want to cover the full tuition, they can do that.”

The scholarship covers about 30 percent of the expense to have your child at Zoot Adventure Learning Academy. Nelson currently has 15 contracted businesses in Bozeman that use Zoot for workplace childcare.

Her vision is to see the Zoot Adventure Learning Academy grow and expand.

“I would love to see this go nationwide because it’s not just about one company having on-site childcare,” said Nelson. “It’s one company helping carry the cost and other companies joining in.”