Sara Bullock is no stranger to owning a business. She spent her childhood helping her mother run successful childcare services. “It was inspiring to me that she was able to make her own hours to be there for school functions,” says Bullock. “I saw the kind of freedom that comes from having your own business. And with my dad being in the Air Force, she was able to still work wherever we went.”
Now a mother of four, Bullock took her background in early childhood education to successfully manage her own a childcare facility in Maryland for 13 years. When her husband was transferred to Tennessee, however, it meant leaving her business behind. But the family moved south and fell in love with the Mount Juliet community just outside of Nashville.
After a year of getting the family settled, Bullock was ready to go back to work.
Starting over in a new state, however, is no small endeavor. Not only was Bullock in a new place, she was also changing her business model, going from the familiarity of a traditional daycare center to a “drop-in” center. Unlike traditional daycare models, a drop-in center allows clients to bring their children in for 1 to 7 hours without a monthly time commitment.
“When we got here, I was actually leaning toward a traditional daycare center again, but with projects, games, and after-school activities, I felt like my youngest kids spent their whole day in the car,” says Bullock. “I found a drop-in center by their school, and it planted a seed in me. I knew we could really use something like this in our own community to help families that were in the same boat I was in.”
She’d have to find the perfect location, create a business plan that would fit the niche of service, and of course, she’d need funding to bring her dream to realization. Taking a year off of work made finding a traditional business loan difficult, so Bullock’s CPA put her in touch with Pathway Lending and Pathway Women’s Business Center.
“I was so excited to hear that Pathway Lending has the Women’s Business Center,” says Bullock. “I had come across some situations where I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously. It’s refreshing to work with an organization that recognizes that female business owners face unique obstacles.”
Bullock used her loans and line of credit to help with leasehold improvements and construction, including signage, sinks, cabinets, flooring, paint and a security system. Pathway Lending funds also helped Bullock purchase electronics and supplies, and help with advertising and other startup costs.
“Our relationship with Pathway started with Terry,” says Bullock. “She made me feel so comfortable, making herself available whenever I needed her. Whether it was calling with questions, or meeting to talk about my business, she was ready with advice or to put me in touch with another person at Pathway as we went through the process.”
Now that she had her location and some startup capital, Bullock hired a team of talented staff and cut the ribbon on MeTime Drop-In Childcare in 2017.
“The hardest part of this process so far has been finding that balance with work and family, which can be especially hard when you’re a mom,” says Bullock. “But the payoff is my family watching me build this dream, and inspiring them to follow in my footsteps. Seeing me succeed is giving them that confidence that they, too, can build their own dreams.”
What’s next for this entrepreneur? Bullock and her family already have their sights set on a second location since theirs is the only drop-in childcare available in Wilson County. She’s working one-on-one with her Pathway Lending advisory services member to talk through her options.
“My advice for anyone else that has found their passion and is contemplating opening up their own business would be to ‘go for it!’” says Bullock. “Create that checklist, do your homework, connect with Pathway Lending. They’ll help guide you through what can sometimes be an overwhelming process.”