Success Story: Creative Kids Connection
Driving to work each day is the time when Carrie Milstead, owner of “Creative Kids Connections,” a child’s daycare and preschool center, gets the opportunity to reflect. Today, as she pulls into the parking lot of the center, she is both happy and sad. Happy, because the center has performed well, even since moving it out of her home into its own facility; sad because the family of one of her long-time students is moving away from the area. This is to be three-year-old Emma’s last day. She is one of 44 children enrolled at the center. As she gets out of the car; heading toward the entrance of the center which is tucked neatly into a shopping plaza in the rapidly growing Four Corners area of Polk, Osceola, Orange and Lake Counties, she already feels the beginning of the tightness in her chest and the moisture in her eyes. “It is always a hard day for me seeing the children for the last time,” said “Miss Carrie,” as she is affectionately known to her small charges. “I do not think I can look toward the door and watch her go out.”
Making longtime personal connections with children in her care is just one of the numerous positive aspects which drew the single mother of three children to own a modern daycare center. For 14 years, Miss Carrie operated Creative Kids Connection from her home in Davenport. When her enrollment swelled from seven kids to 30 and there was a waiting list, she knew she needed more space. One of her first moves was to contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the Central Florida Development Council in Bartow.
“I felt very comfortable dealing with the Small Business Development Center because one its previous directors had been to my home several times over the years offering me advice,” said the blue-eyed brunette. “The staff was very easy to work with, as well as being very patient and detail-oriented. They helped me a lot. The SBDC has been my safety net.”
Most recently, Miss Carrie worked with Certified Business Analyst Adrienne Darby, who assisted her with cash flow projections for new business anticipated at her licensed child care facility and her business plan, even to the point of helping her with daily menus for food served at the daycare center!
Miss Carrie realized in the second grade she wanted to be a teacher of elementary school-aged children. She was determined to make her vision a reality as she attended Nova Southeastern University and earned her Child Development Associate’s Degree and Florida Director’s Credentials while rearing three young children and running her home daycare center.
Creative Kids Connection employs seven teachers who tend to and instruct children ranging from six-month- old infants to 12-year-old pre-teens at the daycare center. Housed in a facility adjoining a non-denominational church, the center has a backyard play area and its 4,600 square feet of leased space inside is clean and brightly festooned with the colorful art and happy handiwork of creative little ones. The young instructors teach voluntary pre-kindergarten and the daycare offers a food program subsidized by the state of Florida.
“The challenges of operating a daycare center include keeping up with rapidly changing government regulations,” the owner said, “and the rewards center around watching familiar families mature.”
“Some families have been with me for nine years,” she said. “It’s wonderful watching child after child from the same family come here. It is a special blessing to see the different personalities evolve.”
Miss Carrie, who has an infectious smile that charms children and adults alike, would eventually like to purchase her own building to house her daycare facility.
“My business has grown one step at a time,” she said. “I have plans to open another daycare. When the time is right, I am comforted knowing the SBDC is just a phone call away.”