Kids Konnect Turns 10! A Celebration Interview With Our Owner Makinya Ward
At Kids Konnect we're proud to have been able to provide preschool tuition to Bay Area children for an incredible 10 years.
To celebrate our achievements, in this special anniversary post, our owner Makinya Ward reflects on the past 10 years and shares her memories from working in some of the Bay Area's most loved preschools.
Kids Konnect turns 10 this year – congratulations! What thoughts and emotions come to mind and how do you feel about reaching this milestone?
I feel proud of the work we’ve done over the past decade. We’ve been successful in helping families prepare their children for school success. When I think back to day one, I remember challenges I hadn’t anticipated, but what kept me going were the warm smiles from the children and the trust given to me by their families. It has always and will remain my focus. To be a person of integrity and lead our company in that manner.
Going back to the beginning, how did Kids Konnect start? What was it like in the early days?
Kids Konnect was born out of necessity. Being a new mom, I found it challenging to find a school where the teachers were happy and enjoyed their work, a place I could afford, and feel welcome. The early days were exciting and I remember wanting to do so much more, but not knowing it required more funds. It took a bit to refine our core values and to know that a vision and mission are necessary to guide the company.
What gave you the drive to start Kids Konnect and why do you think you’re still going strong today?
I wanted to provide the best to the families we serve. When I meet parents and their children, it touches my heart and it overflows. When I get tired, all I have to do is go into a classroom. The sounds in the classroom, the learning, the energy and the wonder of children keeps me motivated. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that loves children and their parents more than me. It’s truly an honor to serve the community in this way. I cannot tell you that it’s easy all the time, but there’s nothing more satisfying to me.
Recently a two-year-old began calling me Auntie Kia, and that resonated with me so deeply. It meant to me that I am seen as part of his safety and he trusts me to take care of him just like a family member. It’s times like these when I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. We have never lost sight of why we’re here. It’s not for a paycheck, it’s not for praise. It’s for the love of the work and it’s work that will give for a lifetime, not just to us, but to our communities.
How is preschooling in 2018 different to 10 years ago? Why have these changes come about?
We’ve seen a shift in preschool over the past 10 years. Some years, academics were the focus, other times, research has supported playing as the best way for children to learn. We’ve seen the question of bringing in laptops and large animation touch screens. We were tempted, but we went back to our core values and decided, play is always king. We’re pleased that we have the ability to stay the course when others are following the next new shiny thing. Today, STEM and STEAM are the hot buttons, but quality centers like ours have always provided these learning opportunities.
What are some of the challenges Kids Konnect has faced over the past 10 years and how did you overcome them?
We’ve faced financial and staffing challenges over the years. In the beginning, for many months, I relied on my spouse’s income and my own retirement to get us through. I’m no quitter, so I had to make changes for the survival of the business.
When I started, all I wanted to do was give. Give under market tuition, pay staff more than other schools, and organic everything. Not realizing that was not sustainable. I quickly learned how to strike a balance. We began to tighten budgets and become more diligent on staff selection.
Although the financial and staffing challenges have not disappeared, we have learned how to do more with less. I accept these challenges as part of the business, and continue to look for more ways to stretch the budget and attract the best teachers.
Are there any valuable life lessons you’ve learned from Kids Konnect that you’d like to share? What are Kids Konnect’s biggest accomplishments?
Our differences may be many, from culture to how we dress, but we have a common thread, which is, we want a place where children are safe, welcome, and thrive. There’s beauty in the simplicity of that. Our mission will always be to meet the needs that are common to us all for our children. We’re better together and when we focus on what we want for our youngest learners, it all works.
How do you see the progress of your preschools so far and what are the future plans for Kids Konnect? In what ways do you expect to grow?
Kids Konnect has prepared hundreds of children in the Bay Area for success and we will continue our mission for years to come. With the onset of a new governor who sees the importance and impact of quality early childhood, we’ll be doing our part to help move universal preschool ahead.
I believe parents should be able to allocate their preschool spend towards other expenses that go with parenting and that is something I’ve always believed. I am looking forward to being included in the conversation that can take the financial burden off families.
Here's to the next 10 years of Kids Konnect!
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