In honor of Women’s History Month, Doing More Today is focusing on women-owned small businesses that make an impact in their community.
When she started out, Shannon Hege started “taking care of a few kiddoes” at a local daycare, Kelley’s Exclusive Child Care had been around since 1989. But after Hege and her husband purchased it, word of mouth quickly spread, demand increased, and good fortune followed.
“The neighbors next door moved out and asked if the business would be interested in purchasing their home,” Hege said. “The rest is history.”
And that’s how Kelley’s Exclusive Child Care grew and grew in Indianapolis. The focus was on providing love, education and nurturing in an environment that felt like home.
And, for more than 20 years, Hege, her husband and staff focused on building a small business and helping new generations. But when the pandemic came, they realized they were needed more than ever. Parents were losing childcare opportunities and competitors were closing. And calls began pouring in to Kelley’s for help.
“There’s really a lack of childcare in the area they operate,” said Matt Matthews, a Regions banker. “I have three children all in daycare, and just finding a spot is very competitive. Then, with COVID, finding the right day care became even more difficult.”
Making things worse, as other daycares closed two childcare centers in Hege’s northeast Indianapolis community were shut down by the state of Indiana. Already packed to capacity, Kelley’s had a two-year waiting list.
A void became a crisis. That’s where Matthews and Regions Relationship Manager Matthew Stoops stepped up.
“I was introduced to Shannon and Mr. Hege three years ago,” Stoops said. “They had purchased the daycare they were operating and were looking to buyout their contract with SBA financing.”
Matthews and Stoops arranged the financing, and Kelley’s Exclusive Child Care took another step forward. But the next move would be overwhelming.
Hege knew there was a need for childcare in Geist, an Indianapolis suburb. But with everything else exploding during the pandemic, new construction would cost a minimum of $4 million – a daunting figure for any entrepreneur.
Stoops suggested they look at existing properties instead, and a broker found a former Montessori School in Geist that would triple Kelley’s capacity. Having already established a relationship with Regions, Hege looked to Matthews and Stoops for funding for $1.5 million to buy and renovate.
And that’s how Shannon’s Exclusive Child Care at Geist came to be, opening recently.
Hege, who has a degree in early childhood education, quickly found out that the reaction to the new location was overwhelming.
“When COVID first started, there was a lot of hesitancy about bringing children in,” she said. “But with parents having to get back to work, it became a great advantage that they could return and know their children were getting quality care. The business remains steady. And, as a mom myself, I know how difficult it is for a parent to leave their child with a stranger.”
Matthews said the business grew because of Hege’s passion and hard work.
“They expanded because they saw a need in the community,” he said. “And when COVID hit, the need was bigger than ever.”
As a parent, Hege wants a clean, nurturing environment, one that helps create a personalized relationship.
“I try to connect with the parents and make sure the kiddoes are in a safe environment,” she said. “That’s what keeps my passion alive.”
For now, Hege is content with two locations. But if need continues to grow, she knows who to call for help.
“Matt Stoops is a ray of life,” Hege said. “He’s our banker, but I know him as a real person – a father and husband. I’ve met his wife. And he’s gone above and beyond helping us get here. Having his help and hearing the confidence in his answers let us know we were making the right move.”