Early Ed Leadership & Innovation

We train frontline early educators and child care business owners in entrepreneurial leadership, and research ways to support them at scale

March 11, 2021
by IEELI
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StrongStart Professional Development Centers Are There To Help

Graphic of Keira Durrett with quote It’s safe to say that Keira Durrett has earned the title of “expert.” She’s worked in early care and education for over 30 years, 21 of them as director of the Williston North Hampton Children’s Center in Easthampton. Even so, she credits the Western Mass StrongStart Professional Development Center (PDC) with providing her with much needed resources this past year.

Shortly before early care and education programs in Massachusetts were suspended from operating in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Durrett had joined a professional learning community (PLC) run by the Western Mass StrongStart PDC. Comprised of other directors of ECE programs in her region, the PLC was set up to provide structured support for directors working through typical problems of practice: improving curricula, supporting staff, strengthening relationships with families, and streamlining back-end operations.

But as programs prepared to reopen, directors had numerous questions about maintaining health and safety, understanding the reopening guidance issued by the state, and managing finances with dramatically reduced enrollment. (For example, at the start of the year, there were 53 children enrolled in Durrett’s center. Now there are just 35.) Continue Reading →

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October 13, 2020
by IEELI
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Small business moves that add up

“Every day, I look forward to starting my day with the children—teaching them new skills, social interaction, celebrating milestones like their first step or their first word; watching them try new foods and making new friends, and all that stuff,” said Joycelyn Browne, owner of Little Ones Child Care in Dorchester.

But Joyce also knows there’s more to operating a successful ECE program than the joy of helping children learn, grow, and thrive. That’s why she enrolled in our Small Business Innovation Center program, which Browne credits with teaching her “different ways of improving my business, marketing my business, different ways of teaching the kids, and creating curriculum.” Continue Reading →

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September 10, 2020
by IEELI
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Creating a culture of learning

Portrait photo of Alicia Jno-Baptiste

Wee Care JP owner Alicia Jno-Baptiste: “I feel more confident running my business and I think people look at me differently, too, because I have more expertise.”

You can’t be successful directing a small early child care program unless you’re an expert in early childhood development and the science of early brain development. But it also helps to understand accounting, marketing, human resources, facilities management, and bulk purchasing. Many owners of early care and education businesses pick up enough business skills to get by. But there’s a big difference between getting by and maximizing profits.

When Alicia Jno-Baptiste signed up for our Small Business Innovation Center program she relied on a bookkeeper to keep track of her business accounts. By her own admission, she “didn’t have a clue” about how to analyze the monthly reports. After going through the Small Business Innovation Center program with other entrepreneurs, Jno-Baptiste learned about cash flow and how to analyze the costs of care to ensure a profit along with other business needs like marketing, facilities management, and automating tasks.

Jno-Baptiste, who owns Wee Care JP, still employs a bookkeeper, but now when she gets the monthly reports, she can read the numbers. “I can see if we’ve reached our income goal, how much we’ve spent, where we’re down, and where we need to be,” Jno-Baptiste said. “I can head off financial trouble much sooner because I can see it coming and be proactive in dealing with it.” Continue Reading →

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July 8, 2020
by IEELI
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Building community

Dottie Williams

Dottie Williams: “You’re not just taking care of someone’s child. You’re taking care of your community.”

“My families and my community needed me to stay open. I never thought about shutting down,” says Dorothy (Dottie) Williams, of her decision to remain open through the COVID-19 crisis as one of the state’s 500 emergency early education and child care providers.

“You’re not just taking care of someone’s child. You’re taking care of your community,” says Williams of her decision to remain open throughout the pandemic. Williams’ emphasis on community is evinced by the fact that older neighborhood children whose younger siblings are now in Williams’ care still gave hugs (pre-COVID-19) when they came through her door.

“They have fond memories [of being in my program]. I have fond memories of them,” says Williams, who is a Leadership Fellow in our Post-Master’s Certificate Program and a graduate of our Small Business Innovation Center. “It’s a community.” Continue Reading →

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