The ABCs of Business
The greatest lesson I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey is this: Keep moving forward. Sometimes this lesson comes at a great cost, and with daunting consequences.
I started my entrepreneurial journey at the age of 22. I had known I wanted to teach and inspire others since I could walk and talk, so it was no surprise that I decided to open my own junior kindergarten school. The model of my school was new to most North American parents, and disruptive to the existing early education model. Unlike most parts of Europe and Asia, North American culture embraces playtime for infants and toddlers, while curriculum is something that’s implemented later in life when a child is deemed old enough to start learning.
When I was a junior kindergarten teacher in France, I saw firsthand the benefits of teaching infants and toddlers math, reading, art, science and even yoga. In fact, studies have discovered that the brain is in its most formative years before the age of six. There are windows of critical learning opportunities during this time, and these years shape how a child’s brain functions as he or she gets older. I knew all of this when I started my business … but who was going to listen to a 22-year-old who wanted to teach 3-year-olds how to read, experiment and contribute to the world?
When I was starting out, I applied for 25 bank loans and approached countless investors to no avail. I decided this was a minor setback. With some help, I wrote my first business plan, and when everything was in place, I managed to find an investor to co-sign a loan in exchange for a monthly cheque. But just when I thought everything was coming together, I encountered more setbacks. For example, a corrupt construction company delayed my project and my loan was recalled from the bank. Had my vision not been so clear or my passion so strong, I might have given up completely. Instead, I kept finding a way to move forward.
By the time my first school opened, I had one student enrolled. We were so delayed with the opening that we had lost all of our prospective students. I spent hours calling every family who had ever toured the school, and offered them to try it out for free. I praised the benefits of early childhood education to any parent who would listen. I remember parents saying, “Every other school is open for only two hours a day. How can everyone be wrong and you be right?” But I was, and still am.
New ideas have to be proven right before they’re adopted by others, especially when it comes to children. Today, my business has 11 locations across Canada. Every school has a waiting list, and the families who enroll their children truly understand the importance of early learning. All in all, it has been a very long road, and at times it seems like an even longer road ahead. But when this seems the case, I always fall back on the first lesson I learned in business: Keep moving forward.
Natacha Beim is the CEO and founder of Core Education & Fine Arts junior kindergarten schools. Fun fact: Natacha had her first book published when she was only 16! E-mail Natacha at [email protected].