Success stories

Evart Daycare and Learning Center

Evart, Michigan

Brittany Magnusson knows how vital day care is. If Evart Daycare and Learning Center closes for just one day, there’s a domino effect: parents miss work and school, employers scramble, schedules get very messed up.

Evart Day Care and Learning Center got a small business loan from Northern Initiatives.
Tiffany Magnusson juggles multiple roles – and multiple kiddos

So when some parents messaged her one weekend that their child had a fever and blisters, Brittany – a mother of two and caregiver to multitudes – got a sinking feeling. By the next night, five more kids had symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a treatable illness but very contagious, especially in children under 5.

She made the decision to close the school for two days, messaged all the parents, then broke into tears.

“I felt terrible. Parents don’t have any other options,” she said.

It was the only time she’d had to close in her first year as owner, a role she pretty much stumbled in to.

“I had an easy life, I wasn’t even looking,” she said of that time, just a few years ago. Then the owner of six local businesses, one of which was Evart Daycare and Learning Center, asked her to be their accountant. She mastered the software involved in running the day care and taught the director – who abruptly left, along with all the staff.

“The owner was freaking,” Brittany remembers. She also remembers walking into the center and finding stacks of paperwork, no filing system, and no records on any of the children. She got to work.

“I had no idea of the rules and regulations of childcare,” she remembers. “I was flying by the seat of my pants.”

Evart Day Care and Learning Center got a small business loan from Northern Initiatives.
Brittany Magnusson gets in some snuggle time.

While the owners struggled to find a new director, Brittany began to get ideas. She told her husband Steve, “I think I’m going to go to school to learn what I have to do to be a director.” Steve said, “If you’re going to direct it, you might as well own it.”

Using funds from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, Northern Initiatives was able to help Magnusson purchase the building and keep the day care open.

“We are proud to support local businesses through our partnership with Northern Initiatives,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, President and CEO of Fremont Area Community Foundation. “Affordable, quality childcare is so important but also very difficult to find for many families in our region. We’re glad that our small business loan program can help expand childcare access in Osceola County.”

Northern Initiatives Commercial Lender Lucy McCraven also worked with Commercial Bank of Hastings, who utilized the Capital Access Program from the MEDC, to partner on the loan.

Evart Daycare and Learning Center employs 10 people and cares for 48 “kiddos,” up from 23 when Brittany took over.

Evart Day Care and Learning Center got a small business loan from Northern Initiatives.
Lincoln and Michell Kamptner, who is working on becoming a lead teacher

But she’s frustrated. Parents are traveling more than a half-hour to Evart Daycare because there are no other options. She raised her rates once and took out another loan. There are no federal programs to help caregivers or parents. There’s a state food program that reimburses her on a per-portion basis – and kids don’t often eat the regulated portion. She knows of local manufacturers that offer grants, but isn’t well-versed on how to write a proposal. And there are still so many children who need care. “This is a low-income area,” she says of Osceola County. “I can’t charge much more because parents can’t afford it. Most make $18 an hour and it costs $210 a week for an infant in day care.” She’s talking with school officials about opening a before-and-after care program, but even that would require $3,000-$5,000 in licensing fees.

Brittany finished her childcare courses in May and is still working full time as an accountant. She also is a Realtor, helps with her husband’s construction company, and has two very active teenagers. “I’ve never missed a sports game,” she smiles.

If the low point of her first year was the Hand, Foot, and Mouth outbreak, the high point, well, there are 48 of them and she gets to hang out with them daily. She also considers herself both an employer and an employee. “I’ve always had a version of how I would be as an employer, and I’m getting a chance to live that out,” she said.

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