“I don’t feel like I’m babysitting kids,” she says. “I feel like I’m an educator.” Today she is certified as an Early Head Start provider and employs an assistant to help care for five infants and toddlers.
AOK opened in reaction to welfare reform, which pushed mothers into low-paying jobs that didn’t cover the cost of child care. Founders Jessica Sager and Janna Wagner began training women to provide outstanding child care in their homes. They expanded AOK’s work when many existing child care providers in Connecticut started going under. They believed that with good training and support these businesses could be sustainable and extend high-quality care to neighborhoods where it was scarce.
Their strategy worked: The number of providers is actually increasing in New Haven.
With the right skills, child care can be a great career, according to Richardson. “If you have the love for the kids, I recommend it,” she says. – C.S.
4. Ignite! Local Business
Training and mutual support go a long way in making small enterprises viable. That’s no secret to the graduates of Urban FIRE (Financial Intelligence, Responsible Entrepreneurship), a nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., that provides an affordable “crash course” for would-be entrepreneurs in the inner city.
The resulting new businesses are launched every year at the Ignite! New Business Expo, a showcase to encourage community support.