Equipping the next generation: Q&A with Janae Dubose, educator and business owner

You’ve heard the phrase before– children are our future. 

For most children, preschool is their first introduction to academia and the educators running preschools and daycares are at the forefront of shaping the future leaders of the next generation

Janae Dubose is one of those educators. She started working with young children when she was just a teenager herself. Working in different daycare environments inspired her to pursue a degree in education. Post-graduation, she and her husband started their own business, Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep. 

Janae Dubose, educator and owner of Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep. on South Calhoun.Today, she teaches the fundamentals to young minds, at a critical time during their brain development. Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep is located on Calhoun Street in the 07 zip code. Dubose says as an underserved community, having a quality childcare option in the neighborhood can help remove barriers for some families. 

Dubose was the first applicant for the SEED Business Grant, a program that works to assist business owners by promoting reinvestment, strengthening Fort Wayne’s commercial activity, and enhancing economic vitality in the SEED District. 

SEED Community Development Specialist Nikeshia Fomby says Dubose presented her business needs and explained the benefits of every item, including how interactive items would enhance the learning experience at her facility.

“We understand Fort Wayne, has some challenges with quality childcare providers, whatever positive impact SEED and the City of Fort Wayne can have on addressing the problem we are eager to step in and help,” says Fomby. “If that means assisting a provider with a SEED Business grant to create an environment more conducive to learning, then we have one small step in the right direction. We are proud to support Janae and eager to watch her business grow!”

Janae Dubose, owner of Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep, leads Circle Time featuring songs and music with her students.Input Fort Wayne sat down with Janae Dubose to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey, including supportive mentors, overcoming challenges, and measuring success.

IFW: Tell us a little bit about how your business, Little Achievers Childcare Kindergarten Prep, began.   
JD: I began working with young children when I was 14 years old. I started working at a home daycare that was down the street from my high school to make extra money. I worked at Jackson’s Daycare all four years of high school and continued after graduation. I decided to go to Ivy Tech to get a degree in education and I also earned a bachelor’s in general studies and a minor in organizational leadership at IPFW. 

My boss at the time announced that she would be retiring and she asked me to continue running the home daycare. My husband and I bought the building from her and that is when Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep was born. Our mission is to prepare young children for kindergarten. We provide quality early childhood education to our community. My home daycare is located in an underserved community in Fort Wayne, Indiana because we believe all families should have access to quality care options in their neighborhoods. 

Jorja, enjoys a song and dance activity at Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep.IFW: Where does your passion for the field originate from?
JD: My passion originates from being very young and helping my mother care for my younger siblings. My mother was a single mother of four and worked long hours. Being the oldest, I often babysat my younger siblings while my mom worked. 

While I was in college at Ivy Tech, my love for early childhood education began. I learned how the young brain worked, and I began to understand just how important those first years of a child’s life are to their overall development and future. I wanted to be a part of teaching young children fundamentals during this critical part of their development. 

Decor at Little Achievers Childcare Kindergarten Prep on South Calhoun, owned by Janae Dubose.IFW: What went into opening a childcare business in Fort Wayne?
JD: Starting my business and already having 12+ years of experience in childcare was a major help. Earning my associate's degree in education was not a requirement, but it was very helpful in teaching me how to educate young children. Also, taking the Build Institute course educated me on how to structure and run a successful business. 

Next, I had to get licensed through the State of Indiana, and to get licensed, you have to have a home or building with a fenced-in backyard and furnish the daycare with furniture and learning materials for the children. Once you are licensed, you have to put the word out in your community. Facebook is the biggest way I advertise. I post content of children’s daily activities while at daycare and people in my community share it.

Janae Dubose, owner of Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep, leads Circle Time featuring songs and music with her students.IFW: What kinds of local support enabled your dream to become a reality? 
JD: Support from my former boss and mentor, Mrs. Carolyn Jackson, has been a huge help. She has always believed in me. Working beside Mrs. Jackson for over 12 years, I was able to gain inside knowledge on how to run a childcare business and care for children. The love she had for helping people was instilled in me through her. 

Another major support was enrolling myself in the SEED program cohort. Being the first person in my immediate family to start a business, I had no knowledge of what it took to start a business. Taking this course helped me to understand how to actually form and manage a business. I learned about things like business entities, start-up costs, and how to write and explain my business plan. 

Asir, left, mimics Janae Dubose, owner of Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep, during a toddler yoga activity.IFW: Are there any mentors or professionals whom you look up to, and seek out business advice from still? 
JD: My former boss, Mrs. Jackson, is still my biggest inspiration. Working beside her for over 12 years we formed a lifelong friendship. She always inspires me to dream big and tells me how proud she is to see what I am doing in the community. Also, collaborating with other women in the childcare field like Mrs. Nikisha Jones, we lean on each other for support, or to just answer a question we may be confused about. Home daycare can be a very isolating field, it’s nice to be able to talk to like-minded individuals in the same field of work as you. 

IFW: Can you describe where you see your business fits within the larger small business community?
JD: My business is extremely important because parents need reliable childcare to be able to go to work, and when people are working, the economy is thriving. Early childhood experiences from birth to age five are critical times of development for children. When young children are enrolled in my home daycare, we help to develop the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. 

Amora, enjoys reading during an activity at Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep.IFW: Choosing a daycare or preschool for your child can be very overwhelming for parents and families. What kind of advice can you give to new parents who are at this stage in life, and what things they should look for? 
JD: Ask questions! Learn all you can about the facility before sending your child. Ask yourself “What goals do I have for my child?” and make sure they align with the facility you choose. Choose a place with an environment that your child can be comfortable in while they are away from you. Look for facilities that are licensed through the State of Indiana. I recommend that you choose a facility with a curriculum and a daily schedule. 

IFW: What challenges have you faced while operating your business?
JD: Funding is the biggest challenge. As a home daycare, I do not make as much money per child as a center would make, but I provide the same quality care and a learning curriculum. I strive to be a resource in my community. To help more families, I provide a scholarship for cash-paying families at Little Achievers Home Daycare. This scholarship helps families who don’t qualify for a childcare voucher to get quality childcare at a discounted rate. 

Decor at Little Achievers Childcare Kindergarten Prep on South Calhoun, owned by Janae Dubose.IFW: What sets you apart from your competition? 
JD: Being a home daycare we pride ourselves on our intimate settings. We care for a small number of children at a time and children are cared for by one to two staff with low turnover rates of teachers. Children are with adults who know how to care for them and know what their individual needs are. Our daily schedule and curriculum takes into account the individuality and uniqueness of each child.

IFW: Childcare and education is a hot topic right now. What positive changes have you seen lately that lead you to believe we’re taking a step in the right direction? 
JD: I have seen a slight increase in our pay-per-child. I have also seen more opportunities to get grant funding. Many organizations are providing help and support with mental health services for childcare providers, free of charge or at a discounted rate. 

Asir, center, drums during Circle Time featuring songs and music with Janae Dubose, owner of Little Achievers Home Daycare Kindergarten Prep.IFW: What other barriers is the childcare industry still faced with, and what sort of solutions are needed to help resolve those concerns?
JD: As a home daycare we are often viewed as just babysitters, but we are so much more. At Little Achievers Home Daycare, we strive to provide quality care that prepares young children for kindergarten. Funding is still a major concern for home daycares. We work hard to provide the same quality care as early learning centers, but for some reason, we are not taken as seriously. I have been running my childcare business for almost six years and I received my first-ever raise this past August. Home daycares are tired of being overlooked and underpaid. We give our all to this business. We just want to feel appreciated and seen. 

IFW: What does success look like for you and your business?
JD: Success in my business is when a child that I have cared for starts kindergarten and is confident and successful in school. I love hearing from parents that the child is doing well and the teacher was impressed with all that the child already knew. I tell all the families I work with that we are a team! Our goal from day one is to equip the child with the tools they will need for kindergarten and life. 

Decor at Little Achievers Childcare Kindergarten Prep on South Calhoun, owned by Janae Dubose.IFW: What goals would you like to accomplish in the next chapter of your business? 
JD: Expanding! I recently bought a new home to start Little Achievers 2. I am excited to help more families in my community as we work as a team to prepare their children for kindergarten.

This story was made possible by support from SEED Fort Wayne.
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Michigan native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over the Midwest. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, nonprofits, and community.