Photo credit: Koko Hunt Photography

 

Rhonda Barnett was working as a freelance journalist when she met a stressed-out mother who was struggling with child-care.

“This mother worked odd hours and was worried that her son was not safe, and my heart just went out to her,” Barnett recalls. “I stepped up and offered to take care of her child. I found that I really enjoyed nurturing him. It became my passion.”

That was in 2008. Barnett took in more children and turned her Mableton basement into Building Foundations Learning Academy, a private, inner-city child-care center serving infants, toddlers, and preschool kids with the goal of helping them become leaders, innovators, and community servants.

Barnett wanted to remodel her facility and found ACE on the Small Business Administration’s website. “It was meant to be,” she says. “Everything moved so quickly!”

Not only did she get the capital she needed, she also took advantage of every ancillary service ACE offers to boot. She was featured at the opening of the ACE Women’s Business Center, and she went to Boston to network at the Inner City Capital Connections conference. “I have learned QuickBooks, which has made me so much more efficient,” she says, “and I got a business coach – the amazing Kathryn Sabol — who I still use to this day, and I have the pleasure of working with Albert Assad, owner of Atlantic Business Solutions, and the list goes on.”

All of this hard work and visionary thinking have paid off. Barnett has opened a second location in Austell, and her staff of 10 employees now serves 53 children with expanded services that include transportation. “I try to make my services as holistic in scope as possible,” she says, “to help families, not just the children.”

And she’s not finished yet. Barnett is acquiring another loan from ACE to buy a larger facility so she will own, rather than lease, her child-care centers. “I’m super-excited to get the down payment!” she says. “I see the number of clients I serve doubling and the number of my employees doubling, and that’s because of ACE. I don’t even think of ACE as some faceless business partner; I think of ACE as a friend. Just continue to believe in me, and I will continue to make you proud.”

 

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