Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessie McGrew.
Jessie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have always loved children. I started babysitting when I was 9 years old! I went to a business college for a year after high school in preparation for a secretarial school and hated it. I then went to a two year college enrolling in their first ever early childhood education program.
After teaching pre-school for a couple years, I became the director of a private owned child care center. After a couple years the center was bought out by a corporation and I continued working for them for another 10 years until they were bought out by an even larger corporation. That company was determined to turn around a company on the brink of bankruptcy and decided extreme cut backs were the only option. My center was doing very well, as it always had, but was still included in the cut backs. I became very distraught over not being able to provide the necessities needed for a quality center or even the basics such as an ample supply of food. I soon left the company and decided I would find a way to own my own center so that I could assure the children’s needs were being met in all areas.
I was very fortunate to get into a building that had been a childcare center. It had not been operating for very long and even though they were licensed for over 100 children they never could get the enrollment over 40. I was able to lease the building for first and last month’s rent. The only problem was that the previous owner had taken everything of value out of the center and there were no children.
I started working on the place in February of 1991, finding used furniture, toys, and equipment from various places such as centers going out of business, yard sales, etc. There was so much cleaning that needed to be done as it was left filthy. I had lots to learn as far as getting licensed by the state, getting a food establishment permit, insurance, and many other aspects I had no experience with. My start up budget was about $14,000 and there was so much needed. I couldn’t advertise much because I needed to get everything done and have an inspection before getting licensed and did not have an opening date.
On April 8th, 1991, the center opened with 3 children on the first day. I had an assistant who had also worked as a Director for the same company as myself. She was a big help as was my husband who did most of the maintenance. My initial teachers were in place and they were very dedicated and wonderful with children. By the middle of July, we reached over 100 children enrolled from the age of 6 weeks to 12 years… My background as a Childcare Center Director was so helpful in managing the business and knowing how to keep expenses in line while maintaining quality.
When the economy went downward in 2008, we didn’t immediately feel the effects, but by 2010 it hit us hard and we had a very tough few years that I wasn’t sure we would be able to continue. At the same time, I started dealing with cancer and everything seemed to go downhill at the same time. I had a good staff and we were able to turn things around and continue the business. It wasn’t until 2015 that we really recovered and started making money again.
I have seen so many changes in the childcare industry over the years. The importance of quality early childhood programs is recognized and early childhood educators are deemed much more important than they once were. I have also seen more regulations put on centers by state licensing, DES, and the child care food program. Some of these changes are good and some just cause more needless paperwork that takes away time with the children.
We serve a large population of underprivileged children and it’s very rewarding to serve these families and play a part in their life and the development and education of their children We serve breakfast, lunch, two snacks, and dinner on the federal food program and it’s wonderful to see that these children get their nutritional needs met.
I now have some children of children I had in the early years. I have adults drop in to say hello and remind me that they were students many years ago. I have even had teachers at the center who were once students. I continue to put most of the money back into the center and therefore have not become rich owning my business, but I have made a good living and the rewards of the job have far outweighed any monetary gains I may have obtained. My goal continues to be to provide the best quality care at affordable prices.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There have been many times I was ready to quit. Such as times when I was short staffed and felt like I was being pulled in 100 directions. Child care is not a business you can just hold off on the work until all the staff are present. The children are there whether the staff are or not and need care now, not tomorrow. There were times when our van/bus broke down and we had 25 children to pick up at 5 different local schools. There are always those weeks when everything seems to go wrong. That’s just life, but it always gets better. I always try to ask myself if the current crisis will matter one year from now. If not, I try not to worry too much about it.
More and more regulations over the year made it difficult to cover all of the expenses and the AZ subsidy program to this day does not come near to meeting the costs of running a quality center and they have not raised the amount they pay in years. Most of our parents just cannot afford to make up the difference.
When the economy became a big problem in 2008, and it finally caught up with us, I was not sure we would survive. Centers around the valley were closing their doors in large numbers. People did not have jobs and didn’t need childcare. The AZ subsidy program cut funds drastically and parents who did work started using under qualified people to care for their children or were leaving them home alone.
Discovery Time Childcare – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We care for children from ages 6 weeks to the age of 12. We have learning programs in all of our classrooms. We have a summer camp program for school age children an unlike most centers these days, we continue to take them on field trips at least 3 days a week. We serve meals and unlike most centers we also offer dinner. We open at 5:30 AM and close at 6:30 PM. The average hours at centers are 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
I’m proud of the family atmosphere of our center and the fact that even though we are not a fancy new center, we have a great program and meet the developmental needs of our children. I’m proud of the fact we have stayed in business for over 26 years and have touched the lives of so many children.
Over the years, it seems we got the reputation for working well with challenging children and we are often referred from another center. I think this is because we don’t quickly ask difficult children to leave. We work with them and the parents to try and keep them in our program. It is sad when children are placed from center to center due to behavior problems and it does nothing to solve the problem or help the child.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I would define success in many ways. Success is paying all the bills each month, providing all that’s needed, and still having a profit. Success is completing all the paperwork in a timely fashion and still having time for family and myself. Success is having a center that is clean, well equipped, and well maintained. Success is a happy staff, happy parents, and happy children.
- Our rates range from $90 – $185 based on age and program.
- Address: 1425 W Southern Ave., Ste 7, Tempe, AZ 85282
- Website: disscoverytimetempe.com
- Phone: 480-921-2412
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Discovery Time Childcare