After twenty plus years each as teachers at a Dallas area private Christian school, Netty Hewett age 62 and Susan Stephens 56, were handed their walking papers so to speak, just as many education employees have in Texas recently. They stuck together and both went to work with a nearby daycare, where they were asked to restructure their classroom program. Netty and Susan re-wrote the handbook, updated the curriculum and recommended more stringent sanitary policies. Change didn’t come easy, and they were met with resistance until it became apparent that a daycare wasn’t the right fit for what they were trying to accomplish.
With little means, other than faith and motivation, they decided to start their own business, Grace Preschool. They knew there were a lot of legalities for a business startup, so they applied with the SMU Small Business Clinic, where they provide free legal services to new and existing small businesses and non-profit organizations that cannot afford to pay legal fees. They were initially denied, but 6 weeks later were accepted into the program and their school has since been set up as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.
With excitement, enthusiasm, and a busy telephone they passed back and forth, Netty and Susan took turns sharing their many other blessings since. Once word got out about Grace Preschool, five teachers from the school in which they were let go of came to join Netty and Susan, a testament to their loyalty, abilities and vision. In addition, one area church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, donated desks and supplies. They also found a location, on the premises of North Dallas Fellowship Church, in Carrollton, where they were able to lease a convenient, large enough facility much more affordably than they had expected.
“ Every time we worry about something, God fulfills our need. Not only has the church been flexible, but they are also big on community outreach which is very important to us as well,” stated Susan.
To extend a helping hand to the area families, they are also creating a foundation “Abuelos for the children”, named in reference to their grandmother status. Through the foundation they would like to raise money for scholarships to children of parents unable to afford tuition.
“We named our school Grace because we are saved by grace, not by works, and we want to pass that grace on to children and parents in need,” according to Netty.
Seniors starting up businesses is becoming more common these days in the current economic times. Research suggests that those 55 and over are more likely than younger people to be starting businesses. A 2008 study, by the U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, reported that the activity level of business start-ups among senior citizens is increasing while the rate among the younger population is declining.
There are a couple of big reasons why this trend is continuing. First, some seniors may be in a better position financially, with more savings for start up capital. With banks and credit lenders being tighter, having means for self-financing is more essential and many seniors are able to tap into savings from pensions and retirement. This is a risk that could pay off, but also with seniors having fewer years to recoup losses, it could mean a less secure retirement if the business is not successful.
Another big reason seniors are starting businesses is a lack of other options. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and in a harsh business climate, seniors hit by lay offs have a bleak outlook in the current job market. There’s less hiring going on and more competition for available jobs.
Netty and Susan didn’t seem to have any complaints. In fact they glowed with hope and enthusiasm with the opportunity of running their own preschool and teaching children in the creative and nurturing environment they’ve built.
“Now we only answer to one boss,” says Netty as she glances up to the ceiling.
Grace Preschool is enrolling now for fall classes starting August 22, for children 6 weeks through 5 years old. They can be reached at 972-242-7040, 2550 N. Kelly Blvd., Carrollton, TX 75006, email firstname.lastname@example.org.