New-Gen Filipino Entrepreneurs - April Aliermo 101: How to Make Business Out of Play

New-Gen Filipino Entrepreneurs is a feature series that will spotlight young Filipino-Canadian entrepreneurs, and their respective businesses in Toronto. Explore and be inspired by these Filipino go-getters in our community! Get to know April Aliermo and her experience on  how she made business out of play through co-directing Bellwoods Playschool.


April Aliermo, photo by Jennai BundockApril Aliermo at the first Daps Revue Show in Toronto. Photo by Jennai Bundock

As the bass player for Toronto indie music darlings Hooded Fang, April is also a member of punk outfit tonkapuma and the electro-pop trio Phèdre (who are all under Daps Records, the music label she co-founded with Daniel Lee). When she’s not being a rock star, she co-directs a creative-based playschool and an all-ages series. Get to know April Aliermo and you’ll come to see that play is the highest form of research.

Please describe the service you provide.

Leah Gold is my business partner. We are entering our third year! We incorporated as a non-profit in the Fall of 2010 and have an amazing board of directors. The staff is made up of working artists and musicians. They all work part-time with the kids and still have time for their artistic endeavours. This amazing team of people really makes the program by immersing the kids in arts and culture all around the city. The kids are pretty rad too.

What inspired you to pursue a career in child care?

I was always into seeing the world how kids do. They’re so honest and enthusiastic, fun and real.

I have a Masters of Teaching from U of T but just couldn't bring myself to work full time in a school. An inspiring woman who I used to babysit for asked me to run a small day care from her home. The playschool just exponentially exploded from there. I realized that regardless of the state of the economy, there will always be a demand for child care. Plus, my “bosses” and I don't really mix so I had to set things up so that I'd be my own boss. That can be tricky too because then I'M the one who has to tell me to get to work!

Who else is involved? How did you build your team?

Leah Gold! She’s fun, exciting, loving, creative artist and child care extraordinaire! She started teaching from year one, and by the end of year two, I asked her to be my business partner. It’s much better to run a business when you are able to collaborate with a person who sees the world like you and who you can have open communication with.

Our all-star team of teachers include: singer/songwriter Maylee Todd; singer/Songwriter Hooded Fang, tonkapuma, Hut + Phèdre Daniel Lee; Illustrator, community project animator Angel Chen; Maria Bui, Owner of Fuzzy Logic Recordings; and Adrian DiLena, Co-Director/Curator of Whipper Snapper Gallery.

Our team is built based on personality, artistic practice, as well as experience with kids and involvement in community. Basically, they have to be inspiring folk.


Aphrodite by Phèdre

Does music fit into your program criteria? How?

We immerse the kids in music all the time. Some of our teachers record with them. I think that being a Filipina who is also a female bass player in a touring band is inspiring for the kids too.

How have the kids and parents responded to your program?

The kids LOVE it but don't even realize how boring their lives would be because they have only been living for 5 years and think that this is usual business. The parents all have secret crushes on us. They've also been spreading the word like mad.

Has Kapisanan been an available or active resource for you and your organization?

Kapisanan has inspired me to engage artists and the community with each other. I have also been able to take my experiences from Kapisanan and put them into my own practice! Seeing how a non-profit arts-based organization runs has definitely helped the playschool. When we're in the hood, we take the kids over for a visit. They've done some art there, had snack and used the toilets!