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Our Team


Lauren Small, CEO, MBA, has been an entrepreneur educator and business coach for over 30 years. She is the founder of Early Education Business Consultants (EEBC)—a childcare coaching and training firm she conceived after noticing a serious gap in the preschool/childcare industry. Programs struggled to keep their doors open because their leaders often lacked basic business skills, even when they excelled in educating and caring for children. Already a certified business analyst, Lauren decided to focus on helping child care providers improve their business systems, practices, and automation. She believed this was the key to transforming them into profitable, high-quality operations.


To date, Lauren has consulted with several hundred early childhood programs, both nationally and in her community of Hampton Roads, Virginia. In 2010, Lauren launched the Early Education Business Program—an eight-part course that encourages and trains early childhood businesses on best practices. The program has consistently caused businesses to increase enrollment and decrease employee turnover, creating an average 25% increase in annual revenue. More than 400 child care providers have graduated from this award-winning program.


Lauren is Virginia's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) child care state expert. In 2014, the Hampton Roads SBDC won the national Small Business Administration’s “Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Center” Award because of Lauren’s groundbreaking work.


In 2015, Lauren established the Directors Leadership Academy in each of the five cities of Hampton Roads, focused on business and pedagogical leadership development of owners and directors. In 2019, she was the lead consultant in creating the Hampton Roads Shared Services Alliance—helping early childhood businesses streamline their operations and save time and money by outsourcing back-office administration to a shared system.


Lauren is a true visionary who has revolutionized the early childhood industry across the region by shifting the collective mindset—that making their business run properly is not a distraction from the children, but rather the pathway to giving them more time and attention. Long before the pandemic awoke our nation to the plight of child care providers, Lauren was already improving their quality through smart business practices like automation and technology integration. Lauren also brings value to her company and her community through fostering public-private partnerships. Each of these endeavors is rooted in Lauren’s belief that children come first—and that it takes a village to ensure their success in life.


In 2020, Lauren received the Women in Business Achievement Award from Inside Business Magazine Hampton Roads. She continues to be recognized for her work, and is a sought-after speaker and workshop presenter at conferences across the nation. Most notably, she presented her early education business training program at the “Transforming Local Government” national conference in 2013, and at the 2015 and 2016, 2023 SBDC national conferences.

Lauren's LinkedIn Profile


Jerry Stewart, CEcD, Consultant, brings over 30 years of economic development and workforce development to the team of Early Education Business Consultants. He manages special projects for Early Education Business Consultants and has been actively involved in city and regional early education programs and initiatives. Jerry was involved in the initial planning and development for the Early Education Business Program with the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center. He has successfully communicated the importance of early education to economic development and workforce development programs.

Jerry's LinkedIn Profile


Jennifer Voelker is the administrative powerhouse for Early Education Business Consultants.  Jennifer keeps the administrative processes for the shared services clients running efficiently with her friendly disposition, ultra-fast data entry and impeccable attention to detail, processes and procedures.  Jennifer was born in Rhode Island, but being in an Army family allowed her to move around the country. She has lived in many exciting places, such as Florida, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and California. She now resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, with her husband of 18 years, currently serving in the United States Navy, and her three children. While being a Navy wife and mother of three, Jennifer received her Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Services. She has had opportunities to work alongside children and teachers in childcare centers and is thrilled to work in a different capacity within the childcare field. She has a true passion for working with children and helping others.  This passion fuels her work in the administration processes currently being used for the shared services hub.

Melissa James

Melissa James is the marketing guru, with over 20 years working in various areas of the communication field, including copy editing, copywriting, graphic design, website development, fundraising and nonprofit consulting. She spent seven years as the marketing and PR director for Downtown Hampton Child Development Center (now Peake Childhood Center) in Virginia, giving her firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the early childhood field. Additionally, she has spent many years as the marketing consultant for industry organizations that include Smart Beginnings Virginia Peninsula and the Tidewater Association for Early Childhood Education. Through Early Education Business Consultants, Melissa has created logos and/or websites for more than 50 preschools and child care centers across the Southeastern U.S., helping them to improve their brand image and digital presence—with a track record of increasing those programs' waiting lists.

Melissa graduated with distinction from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she double-majored in journalism & mass communication (advertising sequence), and Spanish. She also holds a certificate in nonprofit management from TCC's Academy for Nonprofit Excellence, and was named to Inside Business' "Top Forty Under 40" in 2018 and "Women in Business Achievement" in 2022. Melissa has been a frequent presenter on marketing topics at various seminars and conferences, as well as speaking on early childhood advocacy to community organizations.

Melissa's LinkedIn Profile

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