Business Owner: Dana Kearney, CEO & Founder

Employees : 32 F/T ; 2 P/T (Total 34)

Previous Annual Sales: $2.8 million

Location: Valley Street, South Orange, Essex County

Dana Kearney is the, CEO/Founder of Village Babies Development Center, LLC (“VBDC”) as well as a client for the NJSBDC at Rutgers-Newark since July 2013. VBDC was established in March 2005, shortly after her son Jaelen was born. She was unable to find an early childhood center that she felt would meet the expectations that she and her husband needed for Jaelen. As a registered nurse, she decided to work the weekends and care for and educate Jaelen at home. Two of her neighbors had the same challenges as she had and asked her to watch their children when they learned of her plans with Jaelen. From the moment she committed to providing care and education for her neighbor’s children, VBDC evolved. Within 4 years, she developed from a registered in-home daycare with five children to a free-standing early childhood development center that provides up to 165 children with a hierarchy of personal needs, social/emotional skills and an education that is individualized. Their vision at VBDC is not knowing only what to teach, but how to teach.

After meeting Dr. Ndoro at an Introduction to Business Workshop at the Newark Rutgers Business School, she was able to put what she refers to as her “scattered goals and visions” into perspective over time. She says, “I am sincerely humbled and grateful for the guidance by Dr. Ndoro and the many other NJSBDC consultants that have provided me with necessary tools to support my endeavors over the last 7 years.” Dana has been diligent with utilizing the resources of the NJSDBC at Rutgers-Newark. She participated in several training events and workshops and has received 116.5 total contact+prep hours in one-one technical assistance with the Center.

Dana’s sustainability skills as a businesswoman has been tested during the initial mandated closing of all childcare centers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, VBDC had 47 employees. Despite the pandemic, she was able to maintain 17 employees on payroll, then rehired them after re-opening the physical space of VBDC. She received an EIDL and PPP loan to support the business economic losses. The financial assistance allowed her to maintain and re-hire some of her employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a registered nurse, she was able to utilize her medical knowledge to provide an environment that would mitigate the risks of any widespread disease such as COVID-19. During the COVID- 19 pandemic, she has been an anchor for the community providing emotional support and counseling to client families and employees that were devastated by the pandemic, despite having the closure of VBDC. My medical experience as a registered nurse and knowledge of early childhood growth and development created a unique childcare service.

After careful planning and consistent communication with her clients to gain their input on how she would open safely, she was able to reopen VBDC on June 29th and now have a total of 61 children. For those families who opted to keep their children at home, she has created and offers Distance Learning Kits that are customized to each child’s learning style. Necessity is truly the mother of invention. This alternative teaching tool for parents of children who would not be physically returning to the Center, has provided smart, meaningful teaching without having to utilize an inappropriate amount of screen time. Parents also have the option to use Zoom and have their child(ren) join the children that are present at VBDC for a live 10-minute meeting time that starts the morning for all children at VBDC.

The Newark SBDC has introduced VBDC to the RBS/SBDC Student Experiential learning program to assist with digital marketing e-commerce feasibility for launching the Distance Learning Kits product online. In addition, VBDC will be participating in the RBS Student Consulting Supply Chain program to explore mass production options of the Distance Learning Kits as well as sourcing suppliers to manufacture the product. The Center has also referred Dana to an Intellectual Property attorney who will be assisting her with patent/trademarks for the Distance Learning Kits.

Congratulations Dana Kearney, RN, CEO & Founder for being the 2020 NJSBDC at Rutgers-Newark Success Award winner.