Atoya Wilson and Andy Dinkin were strangers not long ago, but circumstances brought them together to open Tender Love & Care Child Development Center in West Charlotte.

After Wilson, 36, earned her early childhood education, she decided to expand and move her 5-star home daycare business. Wilson’s real estate broker connected her to Dinkin, 47, who had purchased a property that would work well for a child development center.

Wilson instantly connected with Dinkin at their first meeting. She said, “I shared my goals and mission with Andy. He seemed to really like my idea to make a change in the community, which was my ultimate goal.”

The partnership works because of mutual trust.

“I trust that [Wilson] will do a great job managing the staff, caring for the children, marketing the business, and handling all compliance-related matters with the various government entities we deal with,” Dinkin said. “She, in turn, trusts that I will handle all facility related matters, financing and accounting.”

Tender Love & Care has secured its permanent state license to operate and has receive a four-star status. This first and second shift program is approved for children six weeks old to 12-years-old and is at full capacity now with 29 children. They also coordinate a before and after-school program.

Wilson answers C5’s questions for the Small Business Series:

How has having a business partner helped you?

“Having a business partner has helped me in so many ways: financially, moral support, just having another person that can help me with things that I am not able to do.

“There are a lot of layers to running a business and sometimes you need that additional help to do things that I may not be able to do or have the time to do.”

What approach to customer service do you take with your families?

“Making sure that I am there to greet them in the mornings, sometimes in the evenings, asking them questions about any concerns. If I haven’t seen them in a day or two, I ask them if everything is okay. Just try to keep them involved.”

What have you learned in these first few months at the daycare?

“I’ve learned that it would be impossible to do this all by myself and not have a business partner.

“I’ve learned that it’s sometimes not what you know, but who you know.

“And it’s okay to have a business partner. In the beginning, for me, my first thought was I didn’t want to get burnt. Andy and I play two completely different roles in the business. It will never get to the point where it is tug of war.”

What advice would you give someone pursuing their dream of owning a business?

“Being patient, not always wanting to go into business for the money. Making sure that you have a plan, a goal, a mission.

“If you want to become an owner, you have to invest your time, your energy and put a lot into it. Of course, you want to have financial benefit, but don’t allow that to be your main priority.”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard a child say?

“In the beginning it was cold, so I’d wear my hair a certain way, it was straight. Later, I came in with curly, textured hair. A child looked at me and said, ‘What’s wrong with your hair?’ because she was so used to seeing my hair straight. She honestly thought something was wrong with me.”

Tender Love & Care Child Development Center: 2701 Ashley Road, (980) 298-6677

Photos: Tender Love & Care Child Development Center

Family history and my own fascination with people and their motivations prompted me to begin this series about Charlotte’s small business owners. Industry, situation and questions will vary. Have a suggestion for a small business owner or entrepreneur to interview? Email it to vanessainfanzon@gmail.com with the subject line “Small Business Series.”

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