Wilson Initiative helps early educators earn business stripes

Mayor Martin Walsh joined the celebration with participants in the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children program last Saturday at Madison Park High School. 	Brianne Garrett photosMayor Martin Walsh joined the celebration with participants in the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children program last Saturday at Madison Park High School. Brianne Garrett photos

The Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children held a celebration last Saturday at Madison Park High School to honor its first cohort of early educators to go through their training program. The group of 17 women were presented with certificates for completing the 10-week training within the organization’s Early Education and Care Small Business Innovation Center.

Inspiration to create this center came from the initiative’s wishes to enhance the business skills of early childcare business owners, according to Marie St. Fleur, the president and CEO of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children. St. Fleur, a former Dorchester legislator, emphasized that the goal of the center was to combat the insufficient support that these educators often receive in the work force through providing free services to teach the critical tools of owning a business.

“We’ve learned that one of the challenges for much of the field, whether they are family based programs or center based programs, is really understanding the business side of early education and care,” said St. Fleur.

Mayor Martin Walsh paid a visit to the celebration, commending the program for helping improve what he believes is a much-needed service for the community.

“What’s happening here is a little bit of everything, and that’s what’s exciting about it,” said Walsh. “These are all business owners here and I think having people understand how to put a budget together and how to build a business plan, which ultimately provides a better service to the kids, is real important for early education in the city.”

St. Fleur said that the success of the first cohort is proof that the training is beneficial to the Greater Roxbury community and a good indicator for the 23 new women looking to participate in the next training that will kickoff in April.

“We’ll check back with them in 6 months to see how [the first cohort] is doing,” St. Fleur said. “Even in this short period you can hear how some of them have grown their businesses…so to us that’s a short term success that we’re excited about.”

St. Fleur believes the program will further benefit the 60 percent of kids who are currently in informal, non-licensed childcare.

“Now we’ll know we’re bringing more kids into licensed care where they have an opportunity to be able to be served by someone who we know will have a set of skills,” she said.

The organization partnered with Tech Goes Home and UMass Boston, which St. Fleur indicated were instrumental in shaping both the business and technology features of the program and leaving the women with future contacts.

“The class is great, but it’s really about what happens after the class that really matters so that they have someone to continue to connect with,” she said.

Stacy-Ann Taylor, owner of Taylor’s Tots Home Daycare in Roxbury, was among the 17 women to complete the first training program. She said the program helped her learn how to manage her business more efficiently long-term.

“The people that I’ve met – I’m able to network as far as helping with budgeting and that will be definitely helpful in the long run,” Taylor said.

Eulah Rodgers, Director of Twelfth Baptist Christian pre-school in Roxbury, also completed the first training program. She expressed her gratitude for a free program to help improve the service she has been a part of for over 20 years.

“This program will help, and I see it more helpful for the home day care women, who didn’t know, but now they know,” Rodgers said. “And it’s a wonderful thing - I love childcare, and I love what I do.”
Bridget Akinc, board member of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, said their work has had a far-reaching impact across the city.

“It enables families to go to work and to be productive members of their companies and organizations, in knowing that their kids are well cared for,” Akinc said.