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Portland Child Care Center Owner Named 2020 SBA Oregon Small Business Person of the Year

Owner Sheila Kilpatrick of Discovery Gardens Childcare Takes Top Honors, Finalist for 2020 SBA National Small Business Person of the Year, Shares Business Journey Before and Through Coronavirus Outbreak
Release Date: 
Monday, September 21, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2020 Oregon Small Business Person of the Year is Sheila Kilpatrick, founder/executive director of Discovery Gardens Childcare in Portland, Oregon. 

Founded in 2004, Discovery Gardens Childcare provides affordable child care and early childhood education to low-income families in underserved communities for children six weeks through preschool age. What started in a converted upstairs space in a northeast Portland home has now grown into an award-winning child care business with three child care centers in Portland and has recently expanded into Las Vegas, Nevada with two locations. Today, Discovery Gardens provides child care for more than 450 children and provides full-time employment for 69 teachers and staff.

The small business awards program is part of National Small Business Week, which is typically held during the first week of May every year since 1963. National Small Business Week award announcements and celebrations were postponed this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

National Small Business Week is Sept. 20-26, 2020 during which SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza will highlight it with a three-day national virtual event.

“National Small Business Week is a time to recognize the impact entrepreneurs and small businesses have on our economy and in our local communities,” SBA Pacific Northwest Regional Administrator Jeremy Field said. “Like many things in 2020, the journeys of this year’s award winners took a turn most didn’t anticipate. However, themes of ingenuity and tenacity remain the same as small business owners continue to inspire us in new and meaningful ways.”

The SBA Oregon Small Business Person of the Year award recognizes small business owners who demonstrate staying power and substantiated history as an established business with at least three years of business operation. Winners must also show growth in net worth and business expansion, increase in jobs and sales, innovativeness of products or services, response to adversity and contributions to community-oriented projects.

“National Small Business Week takes on a special meaning this year as we celebrate the resilience small businesses continue to demonstrate as they pivot and recover toward a stronger economy,” said SBA Portland District Director Martin Golden. “Entrepreneurs like Sheila Kirkpatrick represent the thousands of small business owners who dedicate themselves every day to building a better life for their families, employees and are a source of strength for their communities.”

As a mother of four young children, two with special needs, Kilpatrick became keenly aware of the lack of affordable, safe and reliable childcare in her community. She pivoted from her career as a medical coder and opened the child care business from her northeast Portland home. The modest in-home child care service quickly became popular in the community for providing quality affordable child care and Kilpatrick knew she could use some help managing the increasing demand for her services.

That help came in the form of technical assistance she received from Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), an SBA microlender. The dedicated counseling Shelia received allowed her to chart a growth plan to expand the business in a sustainable way. With the help of microloans through MESO, Shelia was able to increase her capacity as well as purchase a building.

When the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic first emerged, Kilpatrick and her team spent long hours to emplace risked mitigation measures to keep children, staff and parents safe. With the help of the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as well as other federal, state and local assistance programs, Discovery Gardens was able to keep its doors open and all its staff employed.

“I have a strong team. In fact, that’s the reason why we’ve been able to make it. It was a Discovery Garden team effort,” said Kilpatrick. “I have a strong support system. My husband is great. My staff is great. My management is great. We really came together when faced with so many unknowns.”

Small Business Person of the Year winners from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam will be honored during a national virtual ceremony Sept. 22 when one of them will be selected as the National Small Business Person of the Year.

Other SBA local awards include Director’s Award for Excellence, Family-Owned Small Business of the Year, Nano Business of the Year and Small Business Champion.

For more information about National Small Business Week, visit www.sba.gov/nsbw.

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About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov. The Portland District serves Oregon and southwest Washington with its office location in Portland.