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==Social Entrepreneur 2007 in France ==... and the first prize goes to the founder of an EQUAL childcare project!!! February 2008

Optimômes is a care company. Her project Gepetto had joined the first round of EQUAL, followed by Alice in the second round. Optimômes now has eight members of staff and the whole Gepetto network employs 45 people. All are concerned to provide quality care services at home for children whose parents work on so-called "atypical" schedules and such parents represent 30% of the workforce, in France. The costs of this service are borne primarily by the parents' employers but are also partially met by a means-tested contribution from the family. Since 2003, the two EQUAL projects have delivered 60,000 hours of childcare to 1,800 children from 1,200 families. The projects' evaluation has shown that this form of home support has provided stability for the children and contributed to their development, whilst removing one of the major obstacles to the employment of their parents, 60% of whom were single parents. For the employers of the parents, it has also reduced absenteeism amongst these employees and increased their productivity.

"Never give up, you might just be two seconds away from a miracle happening!" says Anne-Karine Stocchetti. Her strategic vision for the future includes a franchise network of 70 crèches and mini-crèches, auditing services, a series of mapping tools on childcare as a contribution to local development, a reinforcement of the partnership with the family benefits services and, last but not least, promoting the place and role of men in the field of childcare.

Her success has brought her wider public interest and acclaim in France. In March 2006, she was awarded the Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit) for her services to the community. Then, in 2007, the Schwab Foundation prize resulted in her work being featured in the financial magazine, L'Expansion, which has a wide circulation within the economic and business sectors in France.

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