Monica McDonald’s Footsteps Childcare Inc.

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Foosteps ChildcareWhen Monica McDonald worked as a psychologist at junior high schools, she realized that many of the students were mentally underdeveloped.

“Why didn’t the parents say anything? Why didn’t the teachers say anything to convince the children to get more assistance?” McDonald says, repeating the questions that still trouble her. 

After pondering what could be done to save future students from similar neglect, McDonald decided to open a daycare facility. She tapped every financial resource available to her to get started, including her pension plan, mutual funds and credit cards. She also refinanced a condo, sold property and used a grant awarded from New York State. In 2003, she purchased a building in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Footsteps Childcare Inc. was ready for business.

McDonald applied for two U.S. Small Business Administration loans through Chase Manhattan Bank and HSBC Bank, but her personal funds ran out before those loans came through. She could have viewed this situation as a setback, she says, especially with renovations to the four-story building still under way. Instead, she turned her private home into a family/group daycare facility for the next three years.

“[That was a time of] sweat equity,” she says.

Today, Footsteps Childcare is still in operation, located in the completely renovated building McDonald had purchased. It has a staff of 18 and all four floors are filled. With the economic downturn of the last two years forcing many daycares out of busine  ss, McDonald counts her blessings despite her own challenges to remain open.

“One aspect of the business totally took a hit,” she acknowledges. “But I still have to keep everything going.”

It takes passion, determination, patience and sacrifice to be successful as an entrepreneur, McDonald insists. This she knows only to well. It cost her $800,000 to start and maintain the daycare and she is currently $500,000 in debt, counting on every dollar to keep the operation afloat.

“You’re praying that you get your money on time,” she says. “If not, you’re in the hole.”

That’s why it is imperative to have a reliable external source of funding, McDonald says.  Hers was the SBA, whose loans were helped her to stay in business. McDonald also stresses the importance of having a solid business plan to present to potential financiers, including the SBA. She spent three years developing her plan on her own before turning to the Brooklyn offices of the nonprofit Business Outreach Center Network to help her complete the financial section of the plan.
 
“[Your business plan] is the heartbeat of who you are and where you’re going,” McDonald insists. “You cannot do anything without a plan.”

Because it takes a team to run a successful business, entrepreneurs must hire reliable, savvy and talented staff, McDonald says. “I don’t really look at resumes. I look at their gifts and talents. I want to know what they are bringing to the table,” she says.

And it’s important to treat your staff well, she adds. “I make sure I pay my staff before I get anything. That’s a total sacrifice.”

Treating her staff well means providing them training and professional development opportunities. Recently, for example, she invited a financial expert from Chase Bank to speak to her staff about financial matters. When a business owner invests in her staff, the rate of return is undeniable, McDonald contends.

McDonald says she is often frustrated with her African-American clientele. “They do not value themselves and sometimes they don’t appreciate what we’re doing,” she says. “They don’t value their children. So, [the challenge] is to educate them to be a valuable consumer and to put a higher value on their children and on what their expectations are for them.”

Still, she is prepared to stay her course, keeping the future of children foremost in her mind. She expects to encounter tough moments, however, she says, when you love what you do – as she does – you overcome those moments every time.

Vital resources
In planning, launching and running Footsteps Daycare, McDonald drew lessons, comfort, advice and support from certain books and Web sites. They are: 
  
Maximize the Moment: God’s Action Plan For Your Life, by T.D. Jakes (Berkley Books);

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That The Poor and Middle Class Don’t, by Robert Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter C.P.A (CASHFLOW Technologies Inc.);

Inside the Magic Kingdom: Seven Keys to Disney’s Success, by Tom Connellan (Bard Press);

Who Moved My Cheese: An A-Amazing Way to Deal With Change in Your Work and In Your Life, by Spencer Johnson, M.D. (G.P. Putnam Sons);

The Holy Bible (various versions);

U.S. Small Business Administration: www.sba.gov

SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership: www.onlinewbc.gov
 
Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE): www.score.org

Business Outreach Center: www.bocnet.org

U.S. Census Bureau: www.census.gov