Little People Big Learning Center, LLC was already a big idea in the mind of Belinda Clarke when she attended the Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) REAL Road to Business Success in 2009. Her determination mixed with assistance from the SBDC & a $150,000 loan helped her join the ranks of only a few centers that offer care for infants as young as four weeks.
Since then, she hired four full-time employees and partnered with the Early Learning Coalition of the Florida’s Heartland. Little People Big Learning Center is now undergoing building expansions, offering morning and noon voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) sessions and providing a Child Care Food Program were students no longer have to bring their lunch.
The course prepared me for the many ‘what ifs’ in relation to overhead costs, insurance regulations and the changing economy.
Clarke began her journey through the SBDC’s 12-week REAL program focused on researching and formulating components needed to make a viable endeavor. The course, which stands for Rural Entrepreneurship through Action and Active Learning, was developed and presented by SBDC Certified Business Analysts (CBAs) to assist aspiring business entrepreneurs like Clarke from 2007- 2009. It was supported through grant funding from Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board and a partnership between Heartland Workforce and South Florida Community College.
“The course prepared me for the many ‘what ifs’ in relation to overhead costs, insurance regulations and the changing economy,” said Clarke.
Even after the program concluded, she continued to work on the objectives she set in class while working with SBDC CBAs Bill McKown and David Noel. She studied site locations, determined cost and pricing factors, completed a business plan and received approval for a $150,000 commercial loan to purchase property and outfit her center in Avon Park, Fla. “The SBDC is like having a lifeguard,” said Clarke. “The information I learned from its business analysts helped me prepare for the bank. I always tell friends they should visit the SBDC to help sort out their business needs.”
To cement the center’s formation, Clarke continued to see McKown and Noel to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the legal entities available for her business. After determining she should focus on a S-Corp or LLC, they recommended that she see an attorney to make the final selection and set the foundation of the new company.
The SBDC is like having a lifeguard,” said Clarke. “The information I learned from its business analysts helped me prepare for the bank. I always tell friends they should visit the SBDC to help sort out their business needs.
Clarke told the SBDC that talking it through with its consultants helped her make an informed final decision. The center is still bustling, maintains its four employees and continues its programs despite the region’s double digit unemployment.
Little People Big Learning Center, LLC
199 N. Anoka Ave., Avon Park
Office Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
Owners: Michael and Belinda Clarke