Originally from Jamaica, Cheryl Brown, Owner and Founder of Brian's Technology Daycare, got her start in the childcare industry while living in New York City. After the tragic loss of a child at only 19 months of age, she was inspired to launch a daycare in a building her aunt owned in Brooklyn. Brown shared the story behind her entrepreneurial journey and how, 32 years later, her passion for teaching and caring for children remains stronger than ever.
"The first floor of the four-story building my aunt owned was fully prepared to operate as a daycare," Brown said. "She even had equipment in the basement that she collected from public schools. I was only 23 years old at the time and I had no experience running a daycare, but I had everything in place to start the business. I even had a Director, who I met in a laundromat, who agreed to volunteer her time to help run the facility. That's how I got started. From there, I was able to expand and grow the school. I eventually purchased the building from my aunt."
Following a divorce in 2005, Brown moved to the Sunshine State and, with the help of her daughter, Arianne, who still lived in New York at the time, she was able to operate the business remotely. Brown had a vacation home in Davenport, where she lived while searching for a permanent home. Thanks to her Realtor, she discovered Leesburg and an opportunity to start a second daycare business in Florida.
"That business was called Leesburg Kids Academy," Brown said. "Business was good, unfortunately raising two kids and trying to operate two daycare facilities in two different states was too difficult. I ended up selling the business and took some time off to focus on raising my kids."
By late 2014, with her kids grown and out of the house, Brown was ready to get back into the childcare business. "It was time to get back to my passion," she said. Named after her grandson, Brian, and his love of technology, Brian's Technology Daycare made its debut in October of that year. The private school, for children ages 0-12, provides an educational atmosphere that enables all students to identify and fully develop their unique potential in both classroom and non-classroom pursuits. As Brown shared, the school is unique in more ways than one.
"We develop the whole child," she said. "We not only teach the basic academic skills, we also give them valuable experiences. We have a 'kidprenuer' class, which teaches business; an etiquette class, which teaches basic table manners; a garden, where the children are able to plant seeds and watch them grow; and a travel class, which introduces them to the world of travel."
Brown continued, "We've also brought in employees with TrustCo Bank to speak with our kids about money and personal finances. Through our partnership with TrustCo, we had the kids create 'pop-up shops' where they sold various things. The money that the kids raised through that event was matched by TrustCo for those children interested in starting a savings account."
Despite dealing with your typical small business challenges, and those brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Brown has grown her business by focusing on building relationships with the parents, establishing trust and providing a rich learning experience for the children. The experience has so far proved to be rewarding in more ways than one.
"Honestly, I enjoy everything about my business, job and career," she said. "I get a chance to hire, in my opinion, the best teachers in the community - and as a team we get to care for families' precious cargo. We also get a chance to counsel many parents and encourage them to shoot for the stars. A few of our parents went back to school and are now Licensed Practical Nurses aiming to become Registered Nurses. I also encourage my teachers to go back to school so that they can achieve the highest childcare certifications by using the TEACH program, which is free."
Looking ahead, Brown is focused on three primary goals: Growing her business and expanding to include multiple locations in Central Florida, developing a unique curriculum that focuses on the "whole child" and STEM topics, and introducing more families to a book she co-authored, 'Basic Table Manners for Children' - a book designed to teach kids manners and proper etiquette.
What advice does Brown have for aspiring entrepreneurs considering a career in childcare? "The first thing is, this is not a career to get rich from," she said. "This is a career which requires many hours and it's a career from your heart. You must have thick skin and be a true leader. You will never get paid what you are worth therefore you must love children, communicating with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds and you must have money saved to start. Also, do your research and make sure you have a great location. Call around to different centers and ask if they have any openings. Those with wait-lists are the ones located in ideal areas."