Nine Businesses and 14 Participants Graduate from the Early Education Business Program in Virginia Beach

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Recently, 14 participants from nine businesses graduated from the Early Education Business Program administered by Virginia Beach GrowSmart and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Small Business Development Center. The program is a small business training and mentoring program for owners and directors of early childhood businesses.  GrowSmart, an initiative of Virginia Beach's Economic Development Department, oversees this award-winning program that has served 138 small businesses and touched more than 3,000 Virginia Beach children since its inception in 2010.

Centers that participate in the year-long program receive training on best business practices. The primary goal is to create sustainable small businesses that have the infrastructure to fully engage and pursue industry certification through the Virginia Quality Initiative or national accreditation.

The 2016 Early Education Business Program graduates include:

  • Jenifer Barefoot, Barefoot Kids
  • Ericka Campfield, Amberley Child Care
  • Pastor Clyde and Lela Deloach, Sandbridge Community Chapel
  • Caryl Felty and Dianne Islev-Peterson, All Saints Day School
  • Dawn Finguerra and Betsy Leonard, Beach Day School
  • Jeanie Leaverton, Parish Day School
  • Alicia Mangels, Prince of Peace Preschool
  • Dawn Reader and Christi Stephens, Bayside Baptist Weekday Preschool
  • Lekeshia Whitley and Katrina Williams, the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads

Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr. delivered the keynote address acknowledging the strong business outcomes that were generated through the 2016 graduates. With nine participating businesses, 477 children and 77 employees were positively impacted.

Additionally, eight jobs were created, average enrollment increased by 25% and average revenue increased by 37%.

The program was designed in 2010 by Lauren Small with Early Education Business Consultants to ensure early education small businesses have a strong foundation of management practices to assist with their day-to-day operations. This foundation allows owners/directors to focus more time and knowledge on quality best practices for the children. 

"Early childhood education is not only an important social and educational issue but also an economic development issue," said Virginia Beach Economic Development Director Warren D. Harris. "By ensuring that children have their best possible start in their early years, we take a critical first step in the development of a highly skilled and educated future workforce."

Managed by Barbara Lito, Virginia Beach GrowSmart exists to promote and improve the healthy development, school readiness, and reading proficiency of young children, ages 0-8. In addition to providing resources for parents and families, GrowSmart offers programming to ensure the availability of high quality early education and to promote reading proficiency by third grade. Visit Or watch the video at

The mission of the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development is to attract and retain national and international businesses to stimulate capital investment and create jobs. Virginia Beach is the most populous city in Virginia with a population of 450,000, and it is the 37th largest in the United States. It is recognized as one of the Best Run Cities in America by 24/7 Wall St. The Department of Economic Development received re-accreditation through the International Economic Development Council in 2012 and is one of only 50 economic development organizations in the world to have this recognition. It is listed among the Top Five Overall Mid-sized American Cities of the Future, Top 10 for Economic Potential and Top Five for Infrastructure by fDi magazine. ranked Virginia Beach as the Easiest Place to Start a Business and the 2nd Most Business-Friendly City in the country. For more information, visit


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