Linda and Gregory Coles founded their preschool, A Child’s Place, in their Queens, NY basement in 1983. Over the years it grew steadily and developed a deeply loyal community. Now they own a large building, employ more than 50 people and serve hundreds of families. Former students bring their own kids to A Child’s Place. The Coles have a similar generational commitment: their children now manage the school. As they looked to retire, they couldn’t imagine selling the business to an outside buyer who would change it or, more likely, tear it down to build condos in a hot housing market. So they asked an unusual question: could they sell the business they had built to the employees who had built it with them?
With support from The Working World, a technical assistance provider and lender in New York City, this is exactly what the Coles are doing. They are preserving community access to affordable and high-quality preschool in a city where preschool, especially for low-income families, is at crisis-level scarcity. They are also creating a new generation of local small business owners: their employees.
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