Good Shepherd Preschool and Infant/Toddler Center
“They say if your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough. I see me in a lot of people in this community — especially the single moms. I grew up in poverty, and I know how my life has changed as a result of not living in poverty anymore.”
Cortaiga Collins never intended to open her own business, let alone her own early childhood education center. Instead, Cortaiga received her bachelor’s degree and was on track to become a CPA. However, when she had her second child in 2000, everything changed. After having her first child as a senior in high school, Cortaiga felt like she got a second chance at parenting. The St. Louis, Missouri-native wanted to do everything perfectly, but when her three months of maternity leave finished and it was time to find a daycare center for her son, Cortaiga discovered that it was difficult to find a place that she trusted with her baby. After a series of bad experiences at both commercial daycare centers and home-based operations, Cortaiga decided to quit her job at a city government agency to create a childcare solution that offered quality services to families.
Before Cortaiga could open her own center, she had to immerse herself in early childhood care. She enrolled in classes at community college and took an administrative job at her church’s elementary school. Soon after, she became the director of the school, where she gained valuable experience. Finally, in 2009, the then-single mother of two found herself on the brink of being licensed and opening her own center, Good Shepherd Preschool and Infant/Toddler Center, with the social mission to raise the standard of childcare and to create a quality early childhood program that equips children for school and the world. “Getting open was the most cumbersome part of it all,” Cortaiga said, “I had no experience with permits and licenses and inspectors and building requirements. I didn’t have thousands of dollars saved or a mentor. I got a $35,000 grant, but that wasn’t enough.”
Fortunately, Cortaiga was able to get the capital she needed from our Small Business Support Circle partner Justine PETERSEN. Now she and her team are preparing to move into a new expanded center. To help get the word out, Cortaiga has been getting digital marketing assistance from a marketing and social impact consultant introduced to her through Pacific Community Ventures (PCV). After tackling her business’s website and social media presence, Cortaiga said that she plans to work with a PCV-provided business mentor to help her with more Human Resources-related elements of her small business. According to her, recruiting and retaining qualified employees are her biggest challenges. Despite those headaches, Cortaiga says it’s the children that keep her motivated to run her business. “No matter what’s going on, kids just love so freely,” she said. “They’re so forgiving and resilient, and seeing their emotional and academic development and progress makes it all worth it.”