Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Debra Johnson, Founder of Caterpillar Clubhouse Academy, located in Powder Springs, GA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am the founder and CEO of the Caterpillar Clubhouse Academy in Powder Springs, GA, where we "Teach Toddlers to Read." We provide a safe and developmentally appropriate environment for toddlers starting at age 18 months to the age of 3. Our focus is to provide a stimulating early care and educational experience which promotes each child's ability to learn and read as they are developing, as well as shape their social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Getting them kindergarten ready from the very beginning was our initial goal, but now we know that there is no limit for each individual that passes through, and we partner with their parents while they are on their journey to becoming life-long learners.

Tell us about yourself

I started my current business in August of 2009 as an in-home preschool. I was prompted to start the school because the students in my second-grade and kindergarten public school classrooms were not learning due to gaps and deficiencies in their early learning. I jokingly told my husband that I should get them from the womb, and he suggested starting my own school, and BOOM, here we are 14 years later in our brick-and-mortar preschool serving the preschool-aged students in our community. I am motivated to serve my staff and students every day. I find so much joy in letting the staff know how much I appreciate their dedication to the school. They work hard and are very creative in their approaches to teaching. They make learning fun! The students and their parents afford us the opportunity to show the infinite learning capacity of 2-3 yr olds and that they can actually learn to read. To see the "lightbulb" moments when they discover something new is priceless, and we get to make an indelible impression and new deposits into their minds and lives each and every day.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is starting our non-profit, "The Traveling Caterpillar," an entity that partners with the local elementary schools to "catch kids up" in the community. We serve those students whose learning momentum was interrupted by COVID. We also created books/coloring books for the parents to use as learning tools at home for reinforcement.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The hardest thing that comes with being a business owner is waiting on the preliminaries from outside sources to get aligned so that we can actually run the business. Some of the input that is interjected in this business comes from committees whose members have never been inside a classroom. It can be frustrating at times because all we want to do is teach and provide a quality educational experience.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. PRAY PRAY PRAY for guidance and direction.
  2. Count up the cost...not just money, but time and patience as well.
  3. Make sure that you have a PASSION for whatever you want to do.

Where can people find you and your business?

Facebook (Personal):
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If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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