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How I started my own home preschool: Little Nest Learning Space case study

Meet Theresa Marino, Director of Little Nest Learning Space.

Little Nest Learning Space, founded by Theresa Marino, is a Montessori-inspired early childhood program, located in Los Angeles, CA.

A veteran preschool teacher of 12 years and a trained Montessori teacher, Theresa has created a home-based preschool dedicated to fostering the physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and creative growth of young children.

Overcoming the challenges of starting my own school

I started going through the licensing process on my own, but I really wished I had Wonderschool from the start. It was hard to navigate all the different things I had to do. I even took a licensing training twice by mistake!

One of my biggest challenges was how I priced my program. I used to only charge $7-9/hour. I even almost cried at the thought of even raising it to $10/hour because I thought it was too expensive.

I based my pricing on schools with 200 parents. I didn’t realize I’d only have 12 students this time, and yet similar overhead costs as a school with more students.

I realized this pricing wasn’t sustainable for running an in-home preschool, especially if I wanted to attract the best teachers to teach at Little Nest and provide the environment I envisioned for my students.

Working with Wonderschool

I didn’t really understand the business side of things, and Wonderschool helped guide me through these decisions.

They brought in market research, guided me on what my expenses would be versus how I much charge, and showed me all the different pricing options.

They gave me time to reflect on what price I thought was fair.

They helped me realize that if I want my business to be at a level of excellence—hire quality assistant teachers, have a great environment for the kids, and not be overworked and underpaid—that I could price my program in a financially sustainable way, and still stay true to being a valuable addition to the community.

I was also really idealistic and thought I would be able to fill my school just through word of mouth.

I wanted to attract the right families and thought if parents recommended my program to each other, everyone would feel safe and share the same values.

However, this led to very few people knowing about my program, and I only had one student enrolled.

Rebecca and Chris reassured me about Wonderschool’s marketing process, and they were right! All the parents who applied to my school were the ones who really appreciate my teaching philosophy and who like this type of home-based learning environment.

There’s an instant connection with the families who come in and how we feel about education.

The Wonderschool team really understood who I am as a teacher and were able to translate this to the marketing on my website. I feel like families trusted me more because of how I was presented. Parents know how selective Wonderschool is about the teachers they choose to work with and this contributes to a higher level of trust as well.

My home preschool success

Within just a month of working with Wonderschool, they had helped me prepare by guiding me through pricing, putting up my website, and helping me through the process of hosting an open house.

Now I have about 40 families on the wait list and new parents still showing interest. It blows my mind! My program could be completely full in the first two months if I wanted it to be, but I prefer to get to know the children deeper before expanding.

That’s the difference of a home-based program: you get to know each child individually and give them time to adjust to the new space and people.

And that’s the difference of working with Wonderschool: I have the liberty of following a process that feels authentic to me, and they respect and support me in my process.

I wish I had Wonderschool to help me from the very beginning. When I see the Wonderschool app now, I see how new directors have it easy. It’s a guided process, and it would’ve saved me a month just for the licensing!

The future of Little Nest Learning Space

I had some fears about signing a contract with Wonderschool in the beginning. I spoke to friends who are lawyers to make sure I wasn’t signing onto something that I couldn’t get out of.

I realized I could trust Wonderschool and was always given the choice to stop the service if it wasn’t a good fit. But I’m so glad I took a chance because they have helped me so much.

The new pricing has helped me to continue to build my program. We moved into this home and built the space just for the children and the pricing allows us to actually maintain and expand it. This summer we’ll be able to build a new sunroom for the children.

I know that as I continue to expand my program in the future, I want Wonderschool to be my partner.

Start your own family child care

Wonderschool has helped over 140 educators and child care providers start and grow their own programs. Learn more about starting your own child care or preschool here.

Emily Tsay

Emily is a Product and Marketing Consultant at Wonderschool. She has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, with a specialization in Social Innovation and Education Marketing.