This week’s DREAM JOB Interview is with Portia Moore, and she owns two businesses: her most recent venture, STEM Preschool, and her five-year-old babysitting service, P&E Babysitting. That’s right…she’s done this twice! I know Portia from my time living in D.C., and I always knew she was a nice girl, but I was blown away after reading her interview and getting to know how focused and determined she is. I mean, this woman is one in a million! But don’t take my word for it…read on to find out more about Ms. Moore.
Dream Job Interview //
Portia Moore of STEM Preschool
Portia Moore // Founder // Years Launched: 2010 and 2015
How did you get started in children’s education? How did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I majored in pre-med at Virginia Tech in hopes of getting into Physical Therapy (PT) school. While in college, I worked at Blacksburg Daycare during the school year and substituted in Arlington County Public Schools when I was home on breaks. After graduation, I became a long-term substitute teacher for Arlington County Public Schools. In the meantime, I applied to several PT schools, but was accepted to not one program! At the time I was disappointed, but after receiving my rejection letters, I began to realize that teaching may actually be my passion. So I applied to two schools for my Masters in Education and received acceptance letters from both! I started graduate school at Marymount University for Education in High-school Biology. Mid-way through finishing my Masters, I had an itch to open a STEM preschool (for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I loved science and math, and I knew that younger children could learn and appreciate STEM at an early age. I switched my focus to Early Childhood Education (ECE) and STEM. The hands-on STEM lessons I learned during my time at Marymount are exactly what we implement in STEM Preschool’s integrated lessons.
What were you doing before you launched STEM Preschool?
I worked for myself full-time referring families to babysitters and nannies via my company P&E Babysitting.
How did you make the transition to entrepreneur?
I was an assistant teacher for two years. During this time, I was also running P&E Babysitting. However, it was extremely unprofessional to respond to client emails while teaching. I had to make a decision and focus on one thing: teaching or entrepreneurship. I chose the latter!
How did you fund your business in the beginning? How long was it before you started seeing a profit?
I applied for an SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) loan twice. The first time I was denied. It was extremely hard for me to pick myself back up and apply again, but I did, and I got the loan the second time! ! I have just started seeing small profit gains from STEM Preschool. The school opened mid-year so we will not be at capacity until Fall 2015. Growing slowly is teaching me humility and to appreciate the struggle.
What do you enjoy the most about owning your own business?
That I can have a positive impact on children’s lives on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy the least about owning your own business?
Letting go of employees or contractors. It sucks, but sometimes it has to be done.
Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
YES! Plenty of times. Having my SBA loan application denied the first time made me re-think opening a school, so I became a nanny for my company, P&E Babysitting. I told the mother I was working for at the time my dreams of opening a preschool. She told her husband, and I found out he wanted to invest in my idea. He motivated me to reapply for the SBA loan, and worked with him on my financial projections. Two weeks later I was approved for the loan. If I hadn’t been a nanny for this family, who knows if STEM Preschool would even exist.
How have you gotten the word out about STEM Preschool? How have you established your social media presence?
It’s crazy, but I haven’t spent a dime on advertising! Once I received the use permit for STEM Preschool, I was contacted by ARLnow, a popular online news source in Arlington (Virginia) for an interview, and they posted the article on their website. The concept of STEM education is very political, so some people made it seem like we were planning to drill two-year-olds on the periodic table, but that isn’t what we do at all. STEM education is fun, and we share all that fun on our Facebook page: we post the STEM-based activities that the kids are engaged in each day.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I wake up at 6:00 AM and I’m at the school by 7:15. During the day I work as the executive director of STEM Preschool and run P&E Babysitting. I get home around 6:30 PM, eat dinner, walk my dog and then SLEEP (it’s my favorite part of the day). Of course I fit in time for friends and family; I’ve never been the “all work and no play” type of gal. Working a 12+ hour day is tedious, but I’m working on my own businesses, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.
How do you use creativity in your business?
STEM Preschool is the definition of creativity. My teachers and I are always thinking of new and engaging lesson plans.
What’s been the most amazing moment for STEM Preschool thus far?
That moment when parents arrive in the morning and tell me how their child could not stop talking about robots, the different parts of the plants, or whatever we taught them that day.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to own a business in education?
Whether you want to own a school or a hardware store, you never want to be that CEO of Blockbuster riding past a Redbox for the first time. Ensuring you are never complacent and always proactive is key. Make a list, get it done, and continue to grow.
Ummm, that was pretty amazing advice from a pretty amazing woman!