PUNXSUTAWNEY — Mere days away from Halloween, the youngsters at Creative Garden LLC, Airport Road, Bell Township, donned their costumes Friday for some special guests who helped celebrate a ribbon-cutting for their pre-school/daycare facility.
Owner Erin Cameron was joined by friends, family, staff and the children, of course, as she celebrated the culmination of a dream borne from baby-sitting children in her home in 2006, before earning her facility license in 2007.
About five years, three business plans and a brand- new building later, Creative Garden celebrated its successful harvest.
“It just changed as we had new ideas,” Cameron said about working with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of Clarion University. “We originally thought about doing an addition on the house. But then I thought, we may as well start from scratch.”
Her brand-new building, completed by Dobson Construction, was ready by Sept. 6, and Friday, U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, state House Speaker Sam Smith and Mark Adams, representing state Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, helped cut a ribbon for the occasion.
Smith said businesses such as Creative Garden are the grassroots of the economy.
“Preschools and daycares have to be built to fit in with parents' schedules” so they can do their parts to provide for their families, he said. “I hope all these little ones will see that one day when they fulfill and see their dreams come true as well.”
Adams said the facility speaks volumes about Cameron's hard work, while Thompson said the opening was like the American dream coming true: “Working, planning and worrying, seeking opportunity and taking inventory. It's all paid off.”
Small businesses such as Creative Garden are “the true economic engine in the country,” Thompson said.
Lucy Ames, consultant with the SBDC, said the agency assists small business with strategic and financial planning.
“We work to complete the full business plan and assist with funding agencies,” she said. In Cameron's case, First Commonwealth Bank — represented Friday by Craig Coon, business banking officer, and Dawn Martin, Punxsy branch manager — was the funding agency.
Cameron put her plans in motion in 2007, and then, after attending an SBDC workshop and hanging on to the phone number a period of time — and after looking after a growing number of children and hiring staff — “decided that it was time to have some support,” Ames said.
Today, Cameron employs a staff of eight which cares for children in two settings: Preschool Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, and daycare, from ages six weeks and up, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We have lots of openings,” she noted.
Plans originally called for purchasing a building downtown, but then Cameron decided to start from the ground up with an all-new building next to the home she shares with her husband, Josh, and their children, Dylan, 13; Aiden, five; and Harper, two.
Ames said helping small businesses such as Creative Garden is just as important as helping burgeoning and established businesses such as factories and technical centers.
In the case of Creative Garden, this project may be even more important, she said, “because the commodity is children.”