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By Haley Chi-Sing
Like all other business owners, Susan Asay hadn’t the slightest idea how the coronavirus pandemic would steer her company away from its original trajectory. The founder of Apex PROaupair, a San Clemente-based international child care business for families with special-needs children, had to quickly adjust to the changing times in March of this year.
“In February and March, we had hundreds of people lined up to start interviewing with American host families … we were like, ‘Oh, my God, what are we going to do?’ ” Asay said.
Despite this major jolt in Asay’s business plan, it seems Apex PROaupair was already one step ahead when the coronavirus hit.
After moving to the U.S. from Germany in 2002, Asay began working at a money management company in Newport Beach, serving as the German-American liaison. This is when Asay realized there was a shortage of German-speaking child care professionals in the Southern California area.
“When I had my first child, I recognized that I wanted to have German-speaking child care, because I was working so many hours. And I couldn’t find German-speaking, educated child care here. So, I’ve turned back into my German market and found amazing pediatric nurses and preschool teachers who would love to spend a year or two here in the United States and help me with my kids here, especially in Southern California,” Asay said.
As a traveler herself, Asay recognized the allure of exploring the world while also gaining work experience. This personal enjoyment and her own need for professional child care sparked the creation of Apex PROaupair.
“I’ve recognized that there’s so many young people that would love to travel and help a family with children—that there’s very few organizations that help, especially people with a degree in child care or a therapy-related profession,” said Asay.
Thirteen years later, Apex PROaupair is now an established international child care company, with more than 40 locations in the U.S. and six locations now in Australia. Over the past 10 years, Apex has been able to place more than 2,000 child care professionals in homes, and the number continues to grow.
However, Apex’s usual business routine was pushed off course following the border restrictions in March. After just having given birth to her own baby girl, Asay recalled having to meet with Apex employees to ensure placements and positions.
“We spoke with all of our care professionals in Germany, and we decided that, as long as the borders are closed, that they stay in Germany, take a job in Germany after graduation, and then we hope that once the pandemic passes in one or two years, things will open up or maybe the borders open up. We didn’t know at the time,” Asay said.
With nearly all in her operational team working remotely already due to the international nature of the business, Asay and Apex were able to move forward much more easily. All child care professionals already placed in homes remained with the families until further notice. Asay noted that because of a majority of families having immunocompromised children, it was much easier and safer to keep nannies, therapists, etc., placed within the homes.
Asay also noted that Apex also had to shift some of their attention to the working professionals’ parents and families in lockdown back in Germany. With more than 300 child care professionals placed in the U.S. at the time, Apex hosted virtual townhalls as a means of bringing together these families.
“All the natural parents now got to know each other and get to meet, and so that was great. And then we also have spoken to every single host family and to every single one of our care professionals to make sure that they’re feeling supported,” said Asay.
The weekend of Nov. 14 would have marked Apex’s annual surf weekend. As a yearly tradition, Apex flies out its German employees to Southern California to engage in an activity-filled weekend, bringing the company closer together.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 regulations, the annual event has been substituted with a virtual surf lesson from professional surfer Rocky McKinnon.
Seven months into the pandemic and Apex has continued moving forward in placing child care professionals in homes across the U.S. and abroad, all while ensuring the safety and health of their employees and the host families.
“It’s been a lifelong passion for me to travel myself, and creating that opportunity for young people is really what’s driving me,” Asay said.