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Springfield, MO

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

Parents wishing to place their children at the Tiny Tots Preschool and Childcare Center often ask to meet the owner. Many are surprised to find they've walked right past her.

Owner Tyra Bryan said she has gotten use to being perceived as a member of the staff. After all, how many 24-year-olds own their own business?

Before striking out on her own, Bryan worked at two other day-care centers in the area.

Determined to "do it better than the rest," Bryan used $5,000 of her own money to start Tiny Tots in 1994. A lot of people predicted the 20-year-old entrepreneur would go out of business within a matter of months. Four years later, success has all but silenced her naysayers.

"It's taken a long time for people to realize I know what I'm doing, and I've had to work very hard to prove myself," said Bryan, who is a Springfield native. "This is more than just a business to me. I want to provide the highest quality child care possible."

When Tiny Tots opened, Bryan and one other employee provided care to six children. Today, she has seven employees caring for 41 children.

Bryan said the demand for quality child care is rising and so is the demand for her services. Currently, she is building a new, 5,000-square-foot facility that will provide child care to as many as 92 children.

Although the facility won't open until January, there's already of a waiting list for parents who want to place their children at Tiny Tots, Bryan said.

To make Tiny Tots stand out from other day-care centers in the area, Bryan is working to get her facility accredited by the state.

State accreditation is voluntary, and the standards go far beyond the mandatory requirements for state-licensed day-care centers, Bryan said.

Indeed, keeping up with child-care regulations established by the Missouri Department of Health is a big part of Bryan's job. These regulations range from having the proper staff-to-child ratio, to the number of meals that are served each day. There's even a regulation about the number of toys the center should have.

Bryan also must run background checks on applicants before they're hired to make sure they've never been charged with child abuse or neglect.

"Most of my staff are students at SMSU," Bryan said. "The majority of them are majoring in education or in child development. They all really love kids, and we have very low employee turnover, which is unusual for a child-care center."

Many of the activities at Tiny Tots are designed to stimulate the children's minds and help prepare them for kindergarten, Bryan said.

Every day the kids gather for circle time where they sing songs about things like the weather and read books. Later, they spend time writing letters of the alphabet, learning colors and numbers, and doing craft projects. Each activity is geared toward the child's age level. Nap time and play time also are part of the daily routine.

"We have a very structured environment here," Bryan said. "The kids seem to like having a routine because they know what to expect."

A hands-on owner, Bryan does many jobs at the center herself rather than hiring additional staff. As a result, Tiny Tots is able to offer more services and still charge rates that are competitive when compared to other day-care centers in the area, Bryan said.

Providing good security also is a concern. A buzzer sounds in the center when a visitor enters through a door. When someone other than a parent arrives to take a child home, a staff member will ask to see their driver's license. The person's name is then cross-referenced with the list of individuals who are authorized to pick up the child.

According to Bryan, the new Tiny Tots facility will contain a state-of-the-art security system.

The center also incorporates many of Bryan's ideas on how to make a child-care center more kid-friendly. For example, a bathroom and water fountain will be located in the courtyard where the children will play.

In the future, Bryan said, she will continue to look for ways to raise the standard of child-care services she provides. Currently, Tiny Tots is a member of Springfield's Best. The center also is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

TINY TOTS:

Business Philosophy: "I want to provide the highest quality child care possible."

Year founded: August 1994

Owner's name: Tiny Tots Preschool and Childcare Center LLC

Address: 3221 S. Scenic Ave.

Springfield, Mo. 65807

Phone number: 889-8687

PHOTO CAPTION:

Tiny Tots owner Tyra Bryan reads a story to children at the day-care center. At the age of 24, she takes an active role in caring for the children.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Tyra Bryan stands outside Tiny Tots on South Scenic.[[In-content Ad]]

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