Client Story - Granite Start Early Learning Center
Client Name: Joyce Goodwin
Business Name: Granite Start Early Learning Center
Location: Nashua, NH
SBDC Advisor's Name: Amy Bard
Have you ever received customer service and support that was so good, it brought tears to your eyes? We’d venture to guess that if any of you are nodding your head “yes”, it’s a small number. For NH SBDC client, Joyce Goodwin, of Granite Start Early Learning Center though, this is the case.
It was through a choked-up and grateful voice that Joyce Goodwin of Granite Start Early Learning Center in Nashua spoke of her NH SBDC Business Advisor, Amy Bard, sharing, “She believes in me. She sees something in me I don’t even see.”
Granite Start Early Learning Center is a Licensed Plus childcare facility that enrolls children ages two months to six years for educational programs and ages six through twelve for before and after school care as well as summer camp.
Since starting her business, Joyce has seen her fair share of setbacks both personal and professional that would derail most people. Not Joyce! She has been hit with partnership changes, location challenges, a pandemic, and a Cancer diagnosis to name a few. All have tested her passion, dedication, and resiliency. But two things remained: Joyce’s unwillingness to quit and the ongoing support of her advisor, Amy.
Joyce’s story begins in 2011, at the age of 55 when she left a director’s position at another facility. “I just knew I could do this better,” says Joyce.
She partnered with a friend, mortgaged her home, and Granite Start Early Learning Center was born in an 8,000 square foot building with just five children. Humble beginnings for an incredible business story that would soon unfold. A business that started with five children and now has over 100.
Thanks to the bank Joyce worked with, she was referred to NH SBDC Business Advisor, Amy Bard who became an integral part of the story. Amy started working with Joyce in May of 2011, three months before Granite Start opened for business.
“My business would not exist without SBDC,” states Joyce.
Through all the ups and downs, Amy has been there for Joyce for guidance, support, and sometimes simply an ear to listen.
Joyce has been thrown curve ball after curve ball and one by one, she, with Amy just a phone call away, has faced each one with the attitude of, “okay…we’ll take this on too.”
When her original partnership did not work out, Amy was there to help Joyce liquidate for a clean break. “Amy was always right there for any questions,” comments Joyce.
Joyce formed a second partnership shortly thereafter and unfortunately, that did not go as planned either. Joyce jokes that she wondered if she was the common denominator here, but really what it comes down to is that she was not going to compromise on the vision and values she holds so dear for Granite Start.
She affirms, “I’m not a business person; I’m a kid person. In this field, it can’t be all business. It has to be about the kids.”
Thankfully, Amy was there to help once again as Joyce worked through the ending of that partnership to become the sole proprietor. “Amy was there for all the advice I needed,” shares Joyce.
It’s a good thing too, as March 2019 rolled around, and Joyce found herself faced with a huge challenge. She was informed that the building she was in was being sold and her lease would be up just four short months later. Panic set in, as it would for anyone, but Amy was right there to calm the situation, telling Joyce, “let’s not throw in the towel yet.” Amy helped Joyce negotiate with the buyers (another childcare center, of all things) to remain in the building for another year.
Knowing this wasn’t a permanent solution, Joyce did not lose focus. She and Amy had spent years trying to find a location where Joyce could build a new building and ultimately landed on a 10,000 square foot facility, which prior to COVID, Joyce intended to purchase.
“Amy worked tirelessly,” comments Joyce. “I just love her. I call her for anything that has to do with my business.”
Unfortunately, COVID was not going to allow Joyce to attain the financing needed to purchase that building.
While Granite Start Early Learning Center was deemed an emergency childcare facility and could remain open, they were only allowed to care for children of parents who were deemed emergency personnel, cutting her enrollment and with that, her revenue in half. This meant there would be no loan approval to purchase, but a lease (and leasehold improvements) was a “Go”.
See…Joyce had two secret weapons to find a way toward that loan for leasehold improvements; her “never give up” attitude and a persistent crusader of a business advisor, Amy. Amy was not about to give up either, calling every banker she knew to share Joyce’s story until a solution could be found.
Granite Start Early Learning Center received bank and REDC funding for improvements and moved into their new space in the midst of the pandemic. She closed for two months from mid-August to mid-October to relocate and renovate the building to accommodate the business.
Even in the middle of construction, Joyce did not stop. As crews worked around her, surrounded by construction mess, Joyce had an office set up, so she could continue to keep her business moving forward. “This place is my life,” notes Joyce.
With the help of the PPP loans, Granite Start Early Learning Center was able to keep all its staff full time throughout COVID, which allowed them to keep group sizes small in order to comply with the guidance they were given. These loans allowed everyone to continue the pay that they were making and maintain a level of comfort through the pandemic.
Joyce reflects, “It was hard enough to go through all of the personal changes that had to be made as a result of the pandemic and it was just one more thing that we didn't have to worry about. Many of my employees have their own children at our center and to be able to keep them where they were comfortable and secure was comforting to the parents.”
Granite Start Early Learning Center was able to get help from the state in the form of Incentive pay for staff and grants based on what their losses were. “I applied for any and all funding that was available to us,” says Joyce.
Granite Start Early Learning Center also cut back on any spending they could and sought cost savings wherever they could, including pairing down their renovation needs and even taking on parts of the project themselves.
Today, Granite Start Early Learning Center has enough children on a waiting list to fill the building. What they don’t have is the staff to accommodate the need. To help entice qualified candidates, Joyce now offers benefits that often, other childcare centers do not, such as insurance, tuition assistance, and free childcare. She hopes to soon be fully staffed again, so she can start calling those families who are anxiously awaiting a spot at Granite Start.
Hearing Joyce’s story, it’s no wonder she earned the 2017 Small Business Administration (SBA) Woman Owned Small Business Award!
Joyce concludes, “SBDC and my advisor have been a lifesaver for me. Everything that was going on around me was so stressful and Amy was my voice of reason with any and all information that I needed to make sound business decisions!”
This client story is part of NH SBDC's ongoing collection of COVID Creativity stories about businesses surviving and thriving during COVID-19.