Learning on the Go
Stephanie Harris began planning the child daycare center she opened in 2014 while still in high school. Profitable its first year of operation, Harris’ Discovery Time Learning Center in Alexandria had revenues exceeding $1 million in 2015 and anticipates an increase to $1.2 million in 2016.
“Having my own daycare center was a dream I’ve had since I was 15 years old,” says Harris. She was part of a comprehensive early childhood program for three years while in high school. Continuing to make plans, Harris went to the Alexandria SBDC in 2011 for advice while pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at George Mason University and working as a middle school teacher. “I needed something to hold me over,” she explains. “My goal was to open a daycare operation for 75 to 100 children in the Del Ray area of Alexandria where there is a large millennial population,” Harris explains. “There continues to be a demand for child daycare facilities there; all of the centers in operation now have waiting lists.”
As Harris continued to make plans, Alexandria SBDC Financial Analyst Jack Parker introduced her to a successful daycare operator in the area who became a mentor. “Most of my research was learning on the go,” she says.
“The SBDC was a one-stop shop for me. They helped me with everything,” Harris says. “I worked with Jack Parker on my business plan, and he connected me with a real estate broker. It took two years to find a location with room for a playground and parking.” Parker also approached Eagle Bank, which eventually approved the SBA 7(a) loan Harris was seeking.
A second property is now on the agenda for Discovery Time. The additional location will make room for more families currently on a waiting list. “We started with 20 kids, and now we’re at 85,” Harris says. “Currently the staff is at 23.”
Harris hasn’t forgotten that the SBDC is the place that helped make it happen. “I recommend the SBDC one hundred percent,” she concludes. “The one-on-one attention the SBDC provides is remarkable.”