A Day with a Daycare Owner

I am very different from my classmates at Rowan University. Not just because of my age, race or weight or height but because unlike my classmates, I am not interested in pursuing a “career” after graduating from the university.  My goal: open a childcare center that provides children with quality care while introducing them to the world of  music, art, dance and reading. A place that will be a home away from home.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with Chesna Mitchell, the owner of Smart Start Academy in Philadelphia, PA.  It was actually Mitchell’s husband Detrick’s idea to open a daycare.

“He was tired of working  for the man.” “And when he came home with the plan of opening a daycare I thought he was crazy.”

Mitchell was already working in marketing for a fortune 500 company earning six figures. Once she saw that her husband was serious she finally got on board with his mission to open a day care.

After doing all the research and securing a spot, Chesna and Detrick used money from their savings and took out a small business loan and began the adventure into becoming child care providers and daycare owner.

“At first it was hard because I was doing most of the work alone.” Mitchell said. “I wrote the parents handbook, employee hand book and was outside handing outside handing out flyers.”

Smart Start Academy has gone through a few staff and employee changes but has been able to maintain a steady roster of children. After successfully opening the first location on Market Street in Philadelphia, the Mitchells opened a second location in Mt. Airy, PA and another within ten blocks of the Market Street location.

To help with the day to day activities the Mitchells had to hire an Executive Director to supervise the directors at each location. This allows Chesna the opportunity to work from home when needed. She visits each site as often as twice a week.

Originally from Philadelphia, Chesna now lives in South Jersey. She wanted to open a childcare center close to home. However, the rules and red tape for childcare providers/daycare owners in New Jersey are very difficult to get through. The rules and regulations are a lot stricter than Pennsylvania so it only made since for the Mitchells to go Philly to open their businesses.

I had the opportunity to not just talk with Chesna but to also visit one of the sites. I was greeted by her very friendly staff. I also got a chance to speak with the director, teachers and a few parents.

“Owning a childcare business comes with it’s challenges but it is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done.” Mitchell said.

I’m ready to get my business open. I just have to finish school.