We had very few supporters, aside from God and each other. Not many people thought it was a good idea to open a childcare center. The economy was headed for ruins, banks were starting to tighten up on lending money and on top of that we had no one to learn from.
We looked at dozens of sites. We thought about starting with something small and manageable. But we knew that if we ran the center with the quality and expectations we had place on centers our children attended, we would out grow the building very soon. We figured if we out grew it we would have to open a second location, which would take more money, time and a business structure that could handle multiple locations. Even if the growth gave us the money, we would never have the time or the money to open a second location so quickly. We weight the risk reward factor and it looked favorable for us to swing for the fences. We wanted a building so badly that we almost made several bad purchases. We look back on those buildings now and ask ourselves what where we thinking. We almost put a contract on a 1,800 building that use to be a doctor’s office; counting all the restrooms, closet space, offices, and dead space, we could have gotten about 30 kids in there. We must have been swinging for the fence behind home plate.
We finally found a site. We found a building but almost walked away because it was under contract. Mrs. Cooper, fresh off her real estate exam, was excited when we first saw the building, but thought we had hit another dead end when she found that it was under contract. Mr. Cooper reminded her that contracts fall through all the time and we should put in a back up offer. Low and behold the first contract fell through and we were in first place.
We put the building under contract but the seller was a pain. After weeks of back and forth negotiating we finally agreed on terms and price. Even once the building was under contract we had to amend the terms. The process was like an emotional roller coaster, it was terribly draining. The seller didn’t take very good care of the building; the structure was good but it needed a lot of TLC.
We made a true step of faith. We had to put money into a property before we even owned it. The level of TLC was so high that we had to pay $11,000 of our own money to get the parking lot resurfaced before the banks would even think of approving us for a loan. Yes, that’s right we invest money in to a property that was not legally ours and we had not even been approved for a loan. Many individual without our testicular fortitude may have decided to postpone their vision, but we refuse to let our dream die. With the favor of God resting around us, and the stamina to endure, we stepped out on faith.
Closing time. It was Friday May 25, 2007 at 3:40pm and the closing was at 4:00pm. We were headed to the closing when we received a call informing us that we needed an additional $30,000 atop of the $80,000 that was agreed upon initially. If we didn’t close today we could lose the $11,000 we put into the parking lot and the $5,000 earnest money. We were already spent 80% of our start-up budget and we had not done any of the needed repairs nor bought any supplies or equipment. Through the grace of God we were able to get our hands on that kind of money in that short amount of time. We could have taken that as a sign not to move forward; but we took it as God seeing just how deeply our passion ran.
We closed on the building but the fun had just begun. When we left the closing, all the excitement quickly turned to, “O My God what have we gotten ourselves into”? The uncertainty was so paralyzing that we were supposed to be in the wedding that Saturday, but we couldn’t shake the sense of “O My God what have we gotten ourselves into”? Within two weeks of starting our remodeling project we had 2 contractors rip us off, another had to be fired for flirting with Mrs. Cooper, and 2 break-ins.
My God what have we gotten ourselves into? Little did we know that the hardest part was just around the corner. Dealing with crooked contractors, the City of Atlanta, and Bright from the Start, proved to be just as every bit as challenging as we were never told. We had contractors steal our deposit money. We had an electrician charge us for commercial building wire and then put in residential wire; we had to redo the electrical throughout entire building. We gave one contractor a $5,000 deposit to do a job. We then fired him before the work was even started because he sexually harassed Mrs. Cooper. He took our money and the courts ruled in his favor because he said we terminated the contract; go figure. The city of Atlanta took us through the ringer. It took us 7 months to get a certificate of occupancy. It seemed like not matter what steps we completed in the process; they would put another one in front of us. We had to put in a $2,700 sidewalk easement, $3,500 worth of tree in the parking lot, in which all the trees died, a $4,500 dumpster pad that we didn’t need, not to mention there were fees that had to be paid for every job. To top it all off, 2 weeks before our grand opening they told us we had to sprinkler the whole building; a $25,000 job! It’s doesn’t stop there, we were broken into 5 times before we opened and 3 more times within the first 2 months. We had many struggles when starting Future Leaders Christian Academy, but our name says it all; true Leaders take the path less traveled and leave footprints.