top of page

Maïlys Cantzler, HOMNIA, France

HOMNIA, unique cohabitants spaces for people living with a handicap. Now developing through out France with the goal to reach 100 homes in 10 years.

Maïlys founded Homnia in 2014.

After finishing the HEC business school, Maïlys created her first business. This one didn’t really work well. But thanks to this experience and the lessons she learned from it, she set up another business to help small entrepreneurs who find it challenging and help them not to make the same mistakes. With her experience, she helped them manage their business and overcome difficulties.

In 2003, Maïlys saw a need to come to the aid of municipal or associative nurseries often in difficulty because they are managed by nurses without management training.

Very quickly, in a favorable political context, she decided to offer to large and small companies to set up and manage crèches within companies so that employees, often women or men living alone with their children and working shift schedules, can better reconcile their professional life and their personal life. In 10 years she created 100 crèches, 50% for private companies, 50% for municipalities. The company is called Crèche Attitude and still exists. It was sold in 2013 then employing more than 1,200 people

In the summer of 1999, her younger sister Sabrina, who was 18 years old and had just obtained her baccalaureate, suffered a serious road accident. Sabrina survived it but with serious consequences. Cerebro-injured, Sabrina joined the Cranial Trauma family that day. After 4 years in a hospital environment, Sabrina returned to live with their parents for 10 years, but this cohabitation was bound to end one day. After having studied all the possible reception alternatives, Maïlys had the idea of ​​creating a place of life where 6 disabled people could share a pleasant and spacious space and above all also share their human aids, the life assistants taking care of them for assistance with acts of al everyday life.

Villa Sabrina at La Croix Valmer was inaugurated in June 2014.

This concept is currently being developed throughout France. 4 villas have already seen the light of day. 5 others are expected to open in 2020.

Lisbeth: Hello Maïlys, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us your fascinating and exceptional story as an entrepreneur.

Everything you have accomplished is both fantastic and impressive. We would like to ask you a few questions to better understand the determination and motivation that helped you to carry out all these projects.

Lisbeth: Where were you were born?

Maïlys: I was born in 1975 and I grew up in St Cloud, in the Paris region.

Lisbeth: Do you have children?

Maïlys: Yes, I have two boys, now 7 and 12 years old

Lisbeth: Tell us a bit about your life and the professional choices you have made.

What was the nature of the first company you created that didn't go well? What lessons have you been able to pass on to other entrepreneurs in the same situation?

Maïlys: I was an employee only 6 months in my life before becoming an entrepreneur. At the time I worked for AOL, it was in 1999 when we experienced the internet boom. I rubbed shoulders with many entrepreneurs who were launching their business at that time and I was immediately seduced by the energy they gave off, the vibrations they felt and communicated. When I was approached by one of my clients who submitted to me his idea of ​​creating a tool to study the purchasing behavior of Internet users, I jumped the course and I started with him. We managed to raise some funds from investors and launched our project. But the industry was not yet mature at that time in 2000, people weren't buying a lot on the Internet yet, so we didn't have enough interesting data to analyze to market. 2 years after its creation and after having created 20 jobs we had to close the business. The main lesson I learned from this is that everyone has the right to make mistakes and that failure in entrepreneurship does not mean that you will never be a good entrepreneur.

Lisbeth: How did you end up in the world of childcare? In 2003, it was very rare for companies to offer this solution to employees.

How did you get the idea?

Maïlys: It was in February 2003, when an important event was preparing: the Family Conference which is held every 4 years to define the government’s family policy strategy. We then talked a lot about crèches in the newspapers because 57% of families wanted this form of childcare for their children but only 10% benefited from a place, often in crèches with hours incompatible with the working hours of parents elsewhere. And then I also read in each article that 95% of the nurseries were in deficit ... I just asked myself the simple question: why in a sector in which there are so many needs almost all the players lose money? The answer was just as simple, their leadership was provided by educators or nurses who certainly had not chosen this profession for the management part, and who had not had training in management. So I decided to create Crèche Attitude to develop a network of business crèches, offering schedules adapted to the working hours of parents (our 1st crèche in Roissy CDG opened from 5h to 22h30and where we provided support in management of nursery directors while leaving them great autonomy in the implementation of their educational project. Quickly, the sector also evolved towards a demand for the outsourcing of municipal crèches to companies, under public service delegation, much like what had happened a few years before with school meals.

We were able to seize the opportunities in the sector and very quickly developed the company with more than € 45 million in turnover, 1,200 employees, 100 nurseries and 5,000 children in our nurseries every day, in 10 years. I am obviously very proud of these figures but I am even more proud of the quality of attention we offered to these young children in our nurseries. As I always said to my nursery directors: when you have the quantity you can invest in the quality.

In just a few years, thanks to the support of government policy which has been in our direction, we have succeeded in convincing many employers to take a close interest and to help their employees to better reconcile their professional life and their personal life in funding crèche places which enabled their employees to find the form of childcare that suited them best.

LIsbeth: Let's talk a bit about your sister and your commitment to find a satisfactory solution so that she can have a correct life and the creation of Villa Sabrina.

Maïlys: Sabrina’s story is like those that 10,000 people each year. You have a normal, happy life and suddenly an accident that changes your life and that of your family. Sabrina is the

youngest in a family of 5 children, she had just turned 18 and was going to start her studies. My parents had perfectly responded to their role: supporting their children in their autonomy and their flight. And then that day in August 1999 was a revolution for everyone. Sabrina spent 4 years between hospital and rehabilitation and then she returned to live with our parents who started all over again with her, they taught her everything again: to wash, to dress, to speak ... but above all to resume pleasure in life. Sabrina owes them a lot in this second construction of her life. But we all knew it couldn't last, my parents were approaching 80, they too had a right to their lives and Sabrina had to get on wither life. All the establishments that my parents visited for her did not suit us. Even if they were good from a medical point of view, they proposed taking care of Sabrina, but Sabrina did not want to be taken care of, she wanted a life like all of us. So I just said to myself: what doesn't exist, you have to create it. It was at this time that I had just sold my Crèche Attitude business and I decided to devote a part to the realization of the 1st Club of Six. The idea is quite simple, Sabrina wanted an “ordinary” life in a place where she could live like everyone else, but without running the risk of isolating herself and especially where she should not have to pay 24 hours a day of care helpers to support her, it would have been far too expensive, almost 12,000 euros per month. What we have created is a colocation between 6 people living with a severe handicap like Sabrina, so that they are not alone and they can share their spaces and especially share human aid.

Lisbeth: Why the name “Club of Six“?

Maïlys: I read Enid Blyton's Club des 5 books a lot when I was young. It was a group of friends who had lots of adventures. The word club also evokes an exchange, in a club we come to seek something but we also come to give. This is how the name Club des Six was born, six because the less social relationships are not as diverse as six, the more it becomes too big a "community".

Lisbeth: You are already developing the concept of colocation everywhere in France. Do you also see a need outside of France? Is this something that you would consider doing in the long term?

Maïlys: Some countries have already started, even before France. What is certain is that there are needs everywhere but we prefer to focus on France and this for a few more years. We have the project to realize 100 colocations in 10 years, it seems a lot but finally, with 100 colocations we will have met the needs of 600 people ... it's a drop of water ... The time to do a colocation abroad we are creating 10 here in France so we stay focused.

Lisbeth: What inspires you in life to do all these projects?

Maïlys: I only follow my intuition, when I am faced with information or a situation that seems paradoxical, abnormal, then I try to find a solution that responds to the problem. No need to look much further in fact. After that, you still have to add a good dose of work capacity and energy because once you have the idea, we haven't even done 1% of the way ...

Lisbeth: What were the most difficult moments or decisions you had to make during your career? And how did you approach them?

Maïlys: I think I will always remember a terrible moment, it was just after the attacks of September 2001, at that time I co-managed my 1st company. My partner and I decided that we should lay off the majority of our employees for economic reasons and we did the layoff interviews. I saw in an interview with a young father, 2 children, of Maghrebian origin. When I told him we were going to fire him, he started crying and said, "But how do you think I'm going to find a job now, I'm Arab and Muslim." It was a terrible moment to know that this man was losing all of this because of us.

Another very difficult moment was when we lost the renewal of one of our contracts in my nursery business. We had to announce to the whole team that overnight they were going to change employers by leaving with the one who had won our contract. We all cried a lot, I will always remember this emotional moment that still testified to the attachment of these employees to our company.

Lisbeth: What were the happiest or most rewarding moments of your career?

Maïlys: When you have the chance to respond to essential needs such as childcare or support for people living with a disability, you provide an answer to a very personal situation which makes it possible to improve the lives of your interlocutors, it is rewarding every day.

I remember my son, who was 9 years old at the time, often criticized me for not being home enough with him. One day he came with me when I received a family who came to visit one of my Club des Six colocations for his son who had an accident 2 years before and who has since been in hospital for lack of a better solution for him. and his parents. At the end of the meeting, the mother cried with joy at finally finding a solution that could suit them. In the evening my son said to me "Mom, I saw Rémy's mom crying today, I understood why you work so much and you can keep going, that's what you do".

It is for these reasons that I give all my energy every day.

Lisbeth: Who are the women and men who stood behind you?

Maïlys: I have a precept that I pass on to all current or future entrepreneurs: to maximize the chances of a successful adventure, three conditions must be met: having a good idea, find the right

Lisbeth: Who are the women and men who stood behind you?

Maïlys: I have a precept that I pass on to all current or future entrepreneurs: to maximize the chances of a successful adventure, three conditions must be met: having a good idea, having a good meeting with partners - for me 3 is ideal but at least 2, have the availability in time (not to create a business while one is still in post for example) and financially (not to have too strong constraints like personal credits to be reimbursed for example ). Rather than behind me I had and I have with me today committed associates like me with whom I can share the ups and downs, it is essential.

Another key actor is also your spouse, he or she absorbs your unavailability, your lack of income at the start (because it is illusory to think that one earns a living at the launch of his business, I never paid myself the wages 3 first years in my companies), your mood swings, he/she brings you the necessary comfort in moments of doubt ... if your spouse is not 100% involved it is very complicated to get started. partners - for me 3 is ideal but at least 2, have the availability in time (not to create a business while one is still in post for example) and financially (not to have too strong constraints like personal credits to be reimbursed for example ). Rather than behind me I had and I have with me today committed associates like me with whom I can share the ups and downs, it is essential.

Lisbeth: To what do you attribute your success?

Maïlys: 4 things: the confidence I have in my sense of intuition (a typically feminine quality), the ability to work, the absence of fear of losing, and a great desire to change the game, to bring my stone in building our society.

Lisbeth: What did you discover about yourself during the process?

Maïlys: Professional success brings everyone around you to get a lot of ideas about you, you are strong, invincible even ... at first you get caught up, it's attractive ... and then I started trying to make people understand that I am like them, with my doubts like everyone else. The image returned by your close entourage, the sincere one, teaches you humility, this is what I discovered most precious during this entrepreneurial journey.

Lisbeth: How has your project affected your family life?

Maïlys: Being a full-time engaged entrepreneur has serious consequences for your family availability for sure and at the same time it gives you a lot more freedom because nobody makes the appointments for you if you don't want them. I sincerely believe that I have been more present for my children than many employed moms and dependent on the imperatives that they do not master. In the end, I think that my family balance fared rather well, even if my partner still put in a lot more effort than the partner of a stay-at-home mom.

Lisbeth: What is the next step?

Maïlys: Homnia and the colocation The Club des Six is ​​my last big personal project. I started a few years ago - and I want to go even further in the future - to support entrepreneurs who are starting their adventure to get started, by giving them the benefit of my few feedback. I created my (small) investment fund and I give them, beyond financial support, moral support, and my expertise. I only go on projects that make sense to society, this is my essential criterion, improving what we have today so that tomorrow is better. And from a more personal point of view, it will also allow me to free myself (finally) from my professional constraints to enjoy life, my family, and friends.

Lisbeth: Looking back, would you be ready to start all over again?

Maïlys: Sabrina, my little sister, lost everything in seconds. It’s the worst but also the best lesson of my life. Since August 4, 1999, I live my life to the full: whatever my last day I could at least say to myself "you did everything you wanted to do". I am often asked what are my dreams that I would like to realize, I do not have any, my dreams, my desires I realize them day by day because tomorrow it may be too late.

So necessarily my answer to your question is YES I do it all the same because everything was the fruit of my passions, my intuitions, my desires - it’s also my favorite song, Johnny Halliday’s L’Envie ( Desire in English).

And if the question were today would I be ready to start all over again then I say yes a thousand times too. Losing everything to realize even better the value of things, I'm up for it. No one believes me when I say that, but I do, and this Covid-19 period of health crisis confirms my position, nothing is ever 100% certain and you have to be ready.

And then 12 quick questions:

Lisbeth: How are you preparing for the day?

Maïlys: I must be the only one still to have a paper diary that I consult on Sunday for the coming week 😊 In the morning I get up early to have my day before that of my children begins.

Lisbeth: What are your favorite activities to do on a day off?

Maïlys: A day off??? Even the days I gave birth to my children I worked. You are never on vacation when you are an entrepreneur, but it is also because passion is not the same as work.

Lisbeth: As a child, what was your dream job?

Maïlys: Inventor! Since childhood, I was looking for ideas

Lisbeth: What brings you the most joy at the moment?

Maïlys: My freedom

Lisbeth: What is your favorite book?

Maïlys: No favorite book but my favorite movie is Midnight Express

Lisbeth: Is there a woman who particularly inspires you?

Maïlys: My mother, for her courage to have raised 5 children, to have been able to take care of my sister as well during the 10 years which followed her accident and for 3 years of my sick father ...

Lisbeth: Do you have a motto that guides you?

Maïlys: carpe diem

Lisbeth: How do you think your friends describe you ... in 3 words?

Maïlys: generous, party girl, present

Lisbeth: What is your best advice for those who want to fulfill their desires?

Maïlys: Follow your intuitions

Lisbeth: If you were to describe your life with one word, it would be:

Maïlys: Desire

Lisbeth: Is there anything you would like to share before ending this interview which we haven't discussed?

Maïlys: Yes, never be satisfied with certainties - whatever their origin - life is full of surprises, let yourself be surprised, I have experienced it ...

Lisbeth: You do an incredible job for others. Is there anything we can do for you?

Maïlys: continue to transmit this positive energy, the world needs it, you are yourself Femmes Formidables !!!!

Thank you so much Maïlys for taking the time to share your incredible journey with us. Your work is very inspiring for all of us and we have learned from you, that with a lot of determination, self-confidence, and belief in your intuition .... everything is possible! Furthermore, the visit of Mrs. Sophie Cluzel, the Secretary of State in charge of handicapped people, in 2018 in Villa Sabrina, shows the importance of your work and engagement.

We wish you much success in your current and future projects.

Club des Six:


LinkedIn: maïlys-cantzler


bottom of page