This Fort Wayne business provides quality, affordable daycare for families 24-7—and it’s growing

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, one ongoing question for many families is: Where can you find quality, affordable childcare—particularly for “essential” and third shift employees who work odd hours?

If you live on the South side of Fort Wayne, you might know Cassie’s Little Angels Daycare as a service offering just that.

Started by lifelong South side resident, Cassandra Hill, and her partner about 10 years ago, the daycare service has grown to include three South side locations, one of which opened during the pandemic. It’s also working to become a Level Four (4) of Paths to QUALITY™ kindergarten readiness center by the end of this year.

Cassie's Little Angels provides 24-hour daycare service seven days a week.

Hill’s progress with her business is happening, in part, thanks to business training, connections, and support she received in 2018 as a part of SEED Fort Wayne’s Build Institute program, a nine-week business education program for entrepreneurs.

But for Hill, growing her 24-hour daycare service is about more than becoming a profitable, successful entrepreneur. It’s about better meeting the needs of local parents, like herself, who have been trapped in unreasonable systems, trying to raise their children while also working around the clock to support them.

Cassandra Hill owns Cassie's Little Angels Daycare with three locations on the South side of Fort Wayne.

After raising her own six children with her partner Monty Smith for the past 17 years while they were each working long hours and odd shifts, Hill remembers the stress of that lifestyle.

“I’ve had jobs where I was just working to pay for childcare because it’s so expensive that it’s taking 75 percent of my paycheck,” Hill says.

When she opened her own daycare center, she wanted to create the service she never had: A quality, affordable center close to home on the South side that’s open 24 hours, seven days a week—even on weekends.

“There are a lot of daycares that offer 24-hour care, but not a lot do weekends,” Hill says. “I just knew from experience that there was a need for that.”

Cassie's Little Angels provides 24-hour daycare service seven days a week.

In many ways, Cassie’s Little Angels began—and has grown—out of a desire to serve Fort Wayne families. While starting a daycare was originally Smith’s idea, Hill decided to take charge of the project after seeing the urgent needs local families had—even before the pandemic began.

About 11 years ago, Hill and Smith purchased the first location for their childcare center on McKinnie Ave., but they were taking their time to open it. Then, one day Hill was working at her desk job and talking with the woman who sat behind her who had recently received custody of her infant grandson. She needed a daycare service for him.

“She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?’” Hill says. “I turned around, and I’m like, ‘Well, I have a daycare center; we just haven’t opened yet.”

About two days later, Cassie’s Little Angels opened to provide for this coworker’s family, and to this day, the woman’s grandson, who is now 11-years-old, still attends Cassie’s Little Angels.

Cassie's Little Angels provides 24-hour daycare service seven days a week.

Hill says her team of six employees serves about 40 children with a waiting list. Many families have been with them from the time their children were 8-weeks-old to the time they reach kindergarten.

Watching their progress is part of what inspired Hill to turn her daycare programs into certified kindergarten readiness centers. In 2016, she briefly put her business on hold to earn her child development associate certification and become a teacher’s assistant in Brightpoint’s Headstart Program, where she has gained about four years of experience as a local preschool teacher. Now, she’s bringing that training to her daycare service.

“I thought: What I did at Brightpoint, I can do at my daycare,” Hill says. “We don’t just sit and watch kids here. If you can’t spell your name, or tie your shoes, we’re going to teach you to do that because some families need childcare providers to help raise their kids. I get it, and I want to be a resource for those families with everything from behavioral problems to health questions.”

Cassandra Hill owns Cassie's Little Angels Daycare with three locations on the South side of Fort Wayne.

Hill says that Cassie’s Little Angels Daycare is currently considered a basic, licensed Level 1 center by the Indiana Paths to QUALITY™ (PTQ) rating system, but she’s already implementing many Level 3-4 tactics. She plans to apply for certification later this year.

“The only thing holding me back is the number of hours you have to have been offering education at your center,” Hill says. “I’m still building up my hours.”

Cassie's Little Angels provides 24-hour daycare service seven days a week.

Along with providing kindergarten readiness and culturally competent care, Cassie’s Little Angels works with children of multiple ability levels, including children who have special needs, speech delays, impulse control disorders, or developmental disorders. Hill is able to keep her programs affordable to families due to the number of children she works with, as well as the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) vouchers she accepts from families with lower incomes.

While her original location at McKinney Ave. has closed, she’s opened three new locations over the years, first at 1516 Elmrow Dr. and at 1030 E. Wayne St. In 2018, she enrolled in Build Institute Fort Wayne, which helped her open her third location at 1929 E. Pontiac St. during the pandemic. This will be her first kindergarten readiness center.

Cassie's Little Angels is working to become a Level Four (4) of Paths to QUALITY™ kindergarten readiness center.

Although Hill is a seasoned entrepreneur, she has been surprised how much the Build Institute’s courses and ongoing collaboration have helped her find tangible, practical ways to grow her business.

“Where was this course when I started my business?” Hill says. “The resources I gained and the people I met at Build have made it an awesome experience.”

Through attending the Build Institute in 2018, Hill connected with the director of SEED Fort Wayne, Trois Hart, who hired Cassie’s Little Angels to provide childcare for its entrepreneurs during the course. Hart says the Build Institute likes to hire its graduates for services, as often they are able.

Build also connected Hill to a South side property owner to help her open her Pontiac location. They’re excited to see her putting the skills she’s acquired as an entrepreneur into action.

“At Build, we can help all day long, but it doesn’t mean a business moves forward,” Hart says. “We applaud Cassie’s Little Angels for her tenacity. She saw the need in her community and is able to help meet that need.”

Cassie's Little Angels provides 24-hour daycare service seven days a week.

For Hill, it’s important to her to keep growing her business on the South side of Fort Wayne, specifically. Her new Pontiac location is five houses away from the home she grew up in on North Anthony Blvd.

“I’m not just doing this for the money, and that’s what sets me apart: You can tell that I care deeply about the kids I work with,” Hill says. “I put myself in these families’ shoes, and I’m understanding because I know that life happens, things happen…. There’s opportunity to start businesses out North, or West in Fort Wayne, but there’s a lot of opportunity here, too.”

This story is part of an Entrepreneurship series made possible by funding from SEED Fort Wayne. To learn more about SEED, visit its website at fwuea.org.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.