Owners Jayme Williams (back row, 3rd from right) and Darris Williams (front row, 1st on right) with their team.
Jayme Williams and her husband Darris have come a long way to their growing childcare center in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. While their business — Successful Start Child Development Center — is now in high demand, reaching this point has taken a lot of perseverance, dedication, and a willingness to take chances.
Employed as a childcare professional for 20 years, Jayme started “at the bottom of the totem pole — I went to school and worked my way up to director.” Dealing with consistently low pay, underappreciation, and hostile work environments through her early career made the need for a change clear.
Jayme hadn’t always planned to become a business owner herself. “It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I felt like I was capable of it. It took a lot of courage.” While the idea of starting a business from scratch was daunting, Jayme knew she had not only the necessary knowledge and skills from her decades of childcare experience, but also a supportive partner in her husband Darris. “When we saw an opportunity, we went for it,” she says.
“Lots of people fail when they start a childcare center because they don't know the rules and regulations, and my husband is great at business management. This combination makes us a good team.”
With these advantages on her side, Jayme worked with Self-Help commercial lending officer Jennifer Sherwin to close a loan for a location in early 2020.
Despite the challenges that many childcare centers have faced through the COVID-19 pandemic, Jayme was able to launch her own childcare center and not only stay afloat but garnered so much success that Darris was able to quit his job and manage the center. Jayme and Darris are now co-owners of the childcare center, and Darris puts his years of management experience into practice in their day-to-day operations.
Jayme and Darris now derive daily fulfillment in providing a safe and supportive space for the children of working families of all backgrounds and income levels in their community. “You get to see kids come in, you get to show them love and change their day. Our staff come in and are able to assist with their needs. This environment makes a world of difference,” Darris says.
Now, with the difficult experiences of Jayme’s early career behind them, Jayme and Darris note that their efforts to create a better environment for their staff have paid off for everyone. “One of the best things for me and my husband isn’t just working with the children but the staff as well. It’s like a little family, and we're all very close.”
Jayme notes that her work has also made her aware of just how foundational high-quality childcare is to the strength of communities. “The most challenging part currently is not being able to help more families. There are so many in need of childcare in this community. When parents can't get childcare, they can't get to work, and it hurts other businesses.”
When asked how they’d advise other aspiring entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color, Darris emphasized the importance of being open to taking risks. “Basically, just don't be afraid to go for it. I was working for the state for several years, had a high rank and managed a lot of staff, and was the manager of a youth football league. It got to the point where I was moving up, but my wife was dissatisfied with her job. We sold one of our properties and set up the childcare center.”
Now that their business and demand for their services have grown, Jayme and Darris plan to expand their offerings and open another location in the future. “We’re looking to add a pre-K program and hoping to open a second center. Now, we’re just looking for qualified staff,” Darris notes.
If you’re thinking about becoming a business owner but aren't sure where to start, check out our resources for entrepreneurs. Interested in expanding your childcare business? We understand the vital role of childcare in the communities we serve, and we offer loans specifically geared toward a range of childcare businesses.