“I love Ascendus. They answered my questions right away, and they helped me so much when so many doors had closed for me.”
Evelyn Catalina Sanchez came to the USA as an au pair in 2009. She came alone not knowing a word of English. She had previously worked as a teacher in her come country, Colombia, for eight years where her mother was a principal at a school. “To me, working with children runs in my blood. I love kids and can’t imagine working with anyone else. They are amazing, unique, and honest. Teaching them and seeing them grow is what motivates my work.” When her daughter was born three months early, she required a lot of extra care. Evelyn had to take a year off work to care for her and she had to reevaluate her wants in life. Although she loved working as a nanny, she wanted to ensure that she was able to stay home with her daughter and care for her full time. She didn’t want to give up something she loved and was good at, so she started a family daycare. “I always saw myself working as a teacher, but having a daughter made me realize that I can open a daycare and work for myself.”
TURNING HER DREAM INTO A REALITY
Since she was still new to America, she didn’t have a lot of credit. She wanted to show that she could work for herself and make something for her family, but she found constant rejection looking for capital. Then, she found Ascendus through a direct mail campaign. It was the first place that didn’t close the door for her immediately. Evelyn had secured a daycare license for six kids, but her apartment was small. She wanted the kids to have the best experience, and therefore needed a bigger space for them. She also wanted to expand her license to 10 kids. She used her first Ascendus loan of $21K to find a bigger space that required three months of rent upfront. Because of the larger space, she was able to extend her license to 10 kids.
Evelyn’s business is a staple in her community, where over half of the population is of Hispanic background. She has been living and working there for 10 years, and the people there know her and know that they can depend on her. When the kids are sick, she makes soup for them and drops it at their homes. “When one of my clients, who is a nurse, needs to drop off her kid early to get to the hospital I make sure that I am available before the doors open so that she doesn’t have to worry.” She teaches the children Spanish and ensures that they are prepared with all the knowledge and independence they need to transition to school. The community trusts her, and her daycare is driven by their support. “I am thankful to the parents that have been working with me, without their recommendations I couldn’t keep doing my job.”
RECOVERING FROM THE PANDEMIC
When the pandemic hit, Evelyn was forced to close for four months. She still tried to teach the children and would buy packets of art supplies and learning materials. She would deliver the materials to every child’s house in the morning and then conduct her lessons through the computer. But she still had to keep up with bills, rent, insurance, and keep her two employees on payroll. Evelyn eventually had to let her two employees go, and when she did end up opening again, she had a hard time finding workers. She ended up doing all the work completely on her own for five months. Evelyn was at a point where she owed a lot of money that she needed to pay back and needed help.
She reached out to Ascendus and was able to receive a $23K loan thanks to funding provided by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation to help with all the expenses she incurred. The loan had a low interest rate and was designed to be flexible and supportive to her business needs so she could focus on recovery from the pandemic. She was able to keep up with her bills, pay her rent, and hire four new workers to help her. Today, Evelyn and her husband have been able to open a second daycare with a license for 6 kids that her husband runs. “My husband is always my professional and emotional support; I am so thankful for him and for my family.” Together, they want to give the best to the kids they care for. They have a goal of expanding to even more locations, and eventually opening a daycare center that can house up to 35 children with a large backyard where they can play.
Although the pandemic was hard, it helped her community realize that her daycare is more than just a place to drop off kids. “Before the pandemic, people used to think we were only there to look after their children, but in reality, we are so much more.” In her daycare she is a nurse, a teacher, a mom, a hairdresser, and more. Her daycare is an essential point in a child’s development. She wants to continue contributing to her community in a way that she loves and continue to help shape the way the kids in her community grow, develop, and enter the world.
To learn more about Evelyn, visit thelittlesteps.net