Janet Sowell felt drawn to work with small children since she was 16 years old, and in August of 2004 she started making plans for her own pre-school. She began Giggles and Wiggles with just six employees, a small child learning center, and a background in Elementary Education. Janet had the idea that pre-school age children should be given an education, and not just a safe place to play. She also believed that a full-day pre-school Monday through Friday was not just something to make money, but a way to help children make learning connections. Janet explained, “The more connections a child can make before the age of five, the better, as we lose them each day thereafter.” Janet’s child learning center provides many options for parents of pre-school and school age children. For example, Giggles and Wiggles offers a full day pre-school that runs from 8:30am – 3:30pm, summer programs, and before/after school programs for school age children.
Starting the business did not come without its challenges. One of Janet’s first challenges was obtaining an education in Elementary and Early Childhood. It continues to be a process, but she meets this challenge by remaining committed to meeting her goals and the needs of the community. Giggles and Wiggles soon needed more space, and with the help of two SBA 7(a) loans, she was able to move to a larger facility. She also added four additional workers, employing a total of ten people. Another challenge she experienced was maintaining an adequate staff level, because all new staff must undergo a background check and a TB test which can take up to two to three weeks. Janet met this problem by asking a few of her parents to get the background check and TB test, and serve as substitute staff during transition times. Several parents were willing to do so, and this idea allowed her to have an adequate staff level in the event of staff illness or vacation days. She now is teaching 60 pre-school children and 40 school age children throughout the day.
Starting Giggles and Wiggles was not easy, but Janet said that when new business owners are willing to do their homework they are more likely to succeed. She emphasized that a well thought out business plan is one part of successful business planning. Janet also advised entrepreneurs to thoroughly examine the business that they want to start, and ask themselves if there really is a need for the products or services they plan to offer.
Janet is grateful to the SBA and First Interstate Bank for providing her with access to capital and helping her realize a childhood dream of opening a child learning center. A special thank you also goes out to all the fantastic parents of her Giggles and Wiggles children. Giggles and Wiggles is located in the Sunrise Shopping Center and can be reached at 307-266-1379.