Teacher revives closed, struggling LI preschools

Nadine Boudreau, 36, of Deer Park, has built

Nadine Boudreau, 36, of Deer Park, has built her desire for good preschool services into a company that runs three schools. Here she poses in a wooden engine built by her husband for her preschool, the Story Book Hollow Children's Academy, in Selden. (Dec. 5, 2012) (Credit: Heather Walsh)

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For Nadine Boudreau it was good old-fashioned mother's intuition that drove her into entrepreneurship.

Not satisfied that her children were being challenged at their preschool, she set out to purchase a school where she could create the kind of curriculum she wanted for them.

In 2008, her quest led her to buy a preschool in St. James that had been struggling with enrollment, says Boudreau. She revamped the curriculum and boosted enrollment. That growth led her to acquire a nearby day care in St. James in March 2011, and in April 2012 she purchased a shuttered preschool in Selden that she's since reopened and is trying to grow.

"I like the challenge," says Boudreau, 36, owner of Story Book Hollow Inc., which owns the three facilities.

Buying a struggling or defunct business can be difficult, but it can be a more affordable way into entrepreneurship.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Generally these types of businesses are more reasonably priced, but entrepreneurs need to make sure they do their due diligence, says Roy Ryniker, president of Reorganization Alternatives Group Ltd., a turnaround consultant in Garden City.

"You need to understand what are the success-drivers in the business; not just its bottom-line profitability, but the determinants of that profitability," says Ryniker.

Assess the business' economic model, as well as its human, intellectual and physical capital and the attractiveness of the customer base, he advises. Also assess your own core strengths and competencies and see how you can leverage those to bring value to the business, says Ryniker.

It helped that Boudreau had taught preschool in the past and her first two purchases had an existing customer base, she says, noting the first preschool she bought had about 22 students and now averages about 50.

BUILD A BETTER CURRICULUM

"When Nadine purchased the school she implemented a lot of changes to the program," says Carina Marchello, program director and a teacher at Story Book Hollow Preschool in St. James who also worked there as a teacher before Boudreau's ownership. "She kept the warm caring atmosphere but added an intense accelerated curriculum that has proven successful for our students."

Erin VanDeusen, 35, of Nesconset, a mother of three who's had children attending the preschool both before and after Boudreau bought it, concurs: "It's a stronger academic program" with noticeably more students, she says. The revamped St. James day care center also has grown in enrollment, from about 11 students to 22, says Boudreau. The growth of the two St. James facilities led her to search for a third location.

This time she wanted to purchase the building instead of renting and found a match in the Selden facility, a former long-standing preschool. "It had the history and was already zoned," says Boudreau. But because it had been closed a few months, lenders saw it as a start-up, she notes.

GET EXPERT LOAN HELP

After being turned down by some banks, she reached out to real estate brokers she knew for help. They connected her with a Carle Place-based loan broker, who was able to snag her a $440,000 U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) loan to purchase and renovate the building and a $75,000 SBAExpress line of credit for working capital, both from TD Bank.

"They were able to accomplish the deal by combining the right banking relationship with their entrepreneurial zeal and a bankable business plan," says Walter Oden, Long Island branch manager for the SBA, which spotlighted Boudreau's business on its website under "success stories."

The new location, which reopened in August and has both day care and preschool programs, has 20 children enrolled and openings for 40 more. "We have a way to go, but we're optimistic," says Boudreau.

AT A GLANCE

Company: Story Book Hollow Inc., which operates Story Book Hollow Preschool in St. James, Story Book Hollow Day Care in St. James and Story Book Hollow Children's Academy in Selden

Owner: Nadine Boudreau

Founded: 2008

Employees: About 11

Revenue: $300,000-plus

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