Updated: Mar 7
Theresa Cox-Ford, owner and director of Toddler Time Child Development Center in Portsmouth, VA, has always been determined to make sure that children come to her for a nurturing, loving, learning environment where parents can expect them to get an education. She believes that starting little ones with a foundation for learning is what children need for their futures.
Toddler Time began in 1994 as a licensed in-home daycare center caring for up to 12 children at a time. Describing herself as a leader, not a follower, Theresa acquired clearance to transition to a commercial property for the center with a larger capacity.
Today, Toddler Time Child serves 34 children, and most of the parents/guardians are on DDS subsidies for childcare. Though she started her small business with older children, her focus now is on the critical education and care of younger ages. Once they come, they stay… all the 2-year-olds are now 3-year-olds, and they are bursting with confidence and engaged in learning.
Retention of children is amazing when you consider how the pandemic impacted families.
“At one point we were only serving 16 children,” said Theresa. “We continued to stay connected with all our families. Our teachers created packets for parents to use at home with their children each week, and parents continued to pay. Then, they paid half the fee to keep their spots. When their children started coming back, we distanced them in smaller areas, cleaning constantly, washing everything at night, often staying until 7:00 p.m. to be ready for the next morning.”
A place for leaders to learn
Of course, it takes a leader like Theresa to assess what is missing in developing a sustainable small business and maintaining it for the long run. Since she did not have an education in business management—and had just enough credits in early education to run a program—Theresa decided to check out the Early Education Business Program. She received information about it through talking to her day care owner group, where a couple of the women had gone through the program.
“I was a little nervous at first,” said Theresa. “With my experience primarily with in-home day care, it was a bit intimidating. Then I spoke to Lauren Small, owner of Early Education Business Consultants, the managing company of the EEBP program. I entered the program about a year ago, and I feel Lauren and her team have helped me create a sustainable business model.”
In the program, Theresa benefitted from networking with other child care center owners. Theresa said she believes the program has helped her with time management and placing her staff in the roles where they need to be.
Before EEBP, she admits, she had no idea how Toddler Time was doing financially. She was not preparing for the future. Now she has a handle on these areas, and also has found new ways to serve her staff and to delegate.
“With the budgeting and forecasting I now have metric to know where we are as a business!” said Theresa. “I have found that I can delegate a lot of what I was doing, from my administrative assistant to my husband! Just as useful has been the wide range of technology which I can do myself, from running reports to setting up Zoom meetings.”
Business training already has resulted in many changes. The first Saturday of each month is a time for the staff to meet and receive training, one topic at a time. She now has a Teacher of the Quarter, which is determined by using a “catcha board” where staff members are recognized for doing something good. In addition to employee care, like sick leave, paid holidays, and a week of vacation after a year’s employment, she is also building stronger relationships with the families and having a better presence in the community.
“We have a new logo and an updated website to share position openings, curriculum for the different age groups, and more,” said Theresa. “I didn’t expect all that!”
Theresa sees the leaders of EEBC, like Lauren and Virginia, as her go-to people. She said she calls them even at night and always appreciates their advice. She is also finding resources in the community to help with hiring staff. She recently hired an ODU graduate and is looking to hire more interns.
Just as important, Theresa’s experiences and expertise are now helping others in the EEBP program. Lasting relationships within the child care industry are often difficult to forge, as so many owners find themselves isolated within their own centers.
Now boasting a teaching staff of nine, and measurable results in her program, Theresa is an inspiration to other child care program owners and directors!
To learn more about Toddler Time CDC, visit the center’s website: www. toddlertimecdc.com. To learn more about the EEBP, please visit https://www.earlyeducationbusiness.com or contact Lauren Small at 757.618.9218.