From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
We had an insightful conversation with Dr. Deborah L. Tillman, founder of Happy Home Christian Leadership Academy for Early Learners, who left her job as a successful accountant to make sure that other mothers like her could better access quality, reliable childcare.
AEDP: To get started, please tell us a little bit about you and your background.
Dr. Tillman: I need to start with the story to give you context of how it all began. I majored in business administration and accounting with a minor in political science. When I moved to Washington, DC, I started at an accounting firm and made good money.
I got married and had a son, and everything changed. I had my son in seven different childcare providers over the course of three months. I was so frustrated and lost as to what to do; I literally dropped to my knees and asked God what he wanted me to do. I heard seven small words: “I want you to do it better.” I quit my six-figure job that same day.
Fast forward to today — we are a center with vast visions, with a mission to create a strong and vibrant purpose-driven team that can lead the next generation. We understand that each child has the ability to reach their full potential.
AEDP: How did you get started with Happy Home Christian Leadership Academy for Early Learners?
Dr. Tillman: I had to spend a lot of time researching how to become a childcare provider and what I would need to do. I started in my home, and after 10 months I started to create handbooks and policy manuals to operate my business.
I had gotten a call one day from general manager of a building who said he heard about me and my work and offered me a childcare center space that was about to become vacant. That is how I got started with the first Happy Home center.
AEDP: How have you pivoted during the Covid-19 pandemic, to keep your business afloat?
Dr. Tillman: We all have trials and tribulations. It is all in how flexible we are and how we pivot to sustain us.
We had to hold all of our parents’ groups and meetings by Facebook or Zoom, and I also had to make sure I was more communicative with my teachers. I really wanted to make sure I communicated every step with them. I wanted to make sure I was transparent and vulnerable with them. So I discussed everything down to finances with my teaching staff.
We had to work together as a team to figure out every step and what things would look like if parents decided to pull their kids out of school. All of these things meant us talking and communicating every three days. We also did group prayer for the kids, virtually, every day at 9 am. We hired a cleaning company to clean daily and moved the kids to all-natural food products. We even upped our meditation for the kids to help them keep calm during this crazy time.
AEDP: Finally, can you tell us why you chose Alexandria for your business?
Dr. Tillman: Alexandria is just a great place! I live here and it was an easy decision to start and operate my business here.
To learn more about Happy Home Christian Leadership Academy for Early Learners, visit their website.