Ms. Tanglea Stewart and her mother Ms. Barbara “Bobbie” Stewart first had the idea of starting a daycare center in 1999 and began looking for suitable space that same year. The Stewart’s, natives of Newark, had a burning desire to bring a premium daycare center to the City. Tanglea says she was “born, nurtured and educated in Newark” and believed the City needed an alternative to the other daycare provides. She had been introduced to the fine arts as a young girl and had taken violin lessons. The Stewarts believed in the impact this exposure to arts makes in the lives of children. This is what they wanted to offer the parents who live and work in Newark.
In beginning they felt that it would be a straight-forward process and that they would soon be on their way. Little they know the journey they about to embark on. After three years, 32 realtors, 2 architects, major family issues and viewing practically every building in Newark they finally found a location. Then the real work began. The Stewarts found a space in the National Newark Building in Downtown Newark. After going through the process of negotiating the lease, conducting extensive renovations and passing State licensing inspections they opened their doors in September 2001. A few days later the 9/11 attacks occurred. After there the terrorist threats to the Prudential building located across the street. The culmination of these events caused the Stewarts to delay the opening for one year. They used their savings, income from their full-time jobs, shrewd negotiating skills, and an understanding landlord to maintain the lease on the facility.
Undeterred the ladies opened the business again in 2002. The facility had a capacity for 35 children, but they began with only three children who were all attending on a part-time basis. Then one day the business received a visit from officials of the Newark Public Schools who invited the business to participate in the Abbott School Program. Sensing the opportunity the Stewarts applied for and received the Abbott contract which helped the business grow from three to thirty-five children during the 2002-2005 period. In 2005 Bobbie’s Babies decided to withdraw from the Abbott program. Although they appreciated the benefits of the program the Stewarts felt it was restraining in some ways and the requirements could be cumbersome. As a result of not being an “Abbott school” enrollment dropped from thirty-five to ten children. By this time Ms. Stewart had resigned from her job and was working at the daycare on a full-time basis.
Once again the Stewarts had to rebuild the business. Word of mouth and referrals slowly began to bring in more children. The Business also began to be more strategic and aggressive with its marketing efforts. Ms. Stewart received assistance from former colleagues who helped design a logo, brochures, letters, and flyers. She began to embrace the role of being the company’s spokeswoman by attending events and letting others know about the business. At one such meeting she met Ms. Brenda Hopper, State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center; they were impressed with each other and kept in touch. Eventually, Ms. Stewart met Dr. Tendai Ndoro, Regional Director of Rutgers-Newark Small Business Development Center (R-N SBDC). Dr. Ndoro encouraged Ms. Stewart to attend training classes at the R-N SBDC. Ms. Stewart took her up on the offer and has not stopped coming. She frequently attends networking functions and in-class training sessions to broaden her knowledge, keep her skills sharp, and meet new people.
Ms. Stewart says that the business as been able to survive due to the support of family, friends and resources such as the R-N SBDC, SBA, and other organizations. Currently the Business has an enrollment of 43 children during the fall and a staff of nine teachers and aides. The curriculum includes introduction to theater and fine arts, natural health education, and aromatherapy and massage. Ms. Stewart as also been able to bring guests such as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra to the center. Bobbie’s Babies’ plans for the future include working with the Guggenheim Museum on an interactive program, collaborating with the New Jersey Devils on a learn to skate program, working with the Barrett Foundation on an artwork program, and introducing a childcare drop-in service. Asked about her secrets to success Ms. Stewart stated the importance of having a strong support network, continually educating yourself, and having a passion for what you do.