Early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity and sets the building blocks to shape a child’s holistic development. When parents search for the perfect pre-school, there are a lot of factors to consider. Keeping the factors in mind, Yellow Brick Road serves as the best choice for children.
Yellow brick Road is an early childhood development center that offers a plethora of unique child care programs to the little ones to help them learn, explore and grow in a stimulating and comforting environment. Led by two influential women leaders, Jessica Johnsen, CEO, and Kylie Schrader, COO, the company has set the core focus on making classrooms the most fun and nurturing place for students.
The CEO Views is pleased to recognize Yellow Brick Road as one of the Most Influential Companies of the Year 2023. Jessica Johnsen, CEO of Yellow Brick Road gave us an account into how they are striving to build the foundation for children.
Story Of Inception
Yellow Brick Road was started in a church in 2006 by the original founder and now COO, Kylie Schrader with an aim to provide the highest quality care at an affordable rate. In 2016, they left the church and expanded its operation in Minnetonka, MN and Plymouth. Within the next couple of years, they further extended to Maple Grove and Eden Praire. Jessica Johnsen, CEO, was brought into the company in 2019 when the company was facing deteriorating financial and cultural issues. While providing high quality of care at an affordable rate is still a goal, the mission has morphed into a much bigger cause Putting good humans into the world, leaving it better than it was found.
“We know that days can be long and challenging, but we want our staff to feel like they are genuinely making a difference”
Journey And Milestones
The journey so far has been a wild roller coaster for Yellow Brick Road. In the wake of the financial struggles in 2019, covid in 2020 and staffing shortages thereafter, the industry witnessed numerous challenges. But Yellow Brick Road is committed to their mission. They prioritize relationships above all else. Because the company was committed to its employees, the employees are committed to quality care for the children they serve.
In the past four years, Yellow Brick Road has grown from four school in Minnesota to 18 schools across Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. They also have added “sister” schools in Minnesota – 2 montessori based and one charming neighbourhood “back to the roots” school. They have worked closely with community organizations to collaborate and partner so that their children have a well–rounded and rich education.
Range Of Childcare Programs
Yellow Brick Road offers extra–curricular activities onsite, local fresh catering, and “homegrown owners“. The leadership team members do not have offices instead they believe in floating around to all schools to support the most important work – the children.
Yellow Brick Road has a strong curriculum and believe in education; however, the staff are trained to always prioritize the children’s social and emotional needs. They believe that a child cannot be expected to learn academics, if they are not able to love and respect their learning environment and those around them.
Teachers Are The Heart
At Yellow Brick Road, the teachers are the heart of the program. They are trained to explore what the children are interested in, and excited about. They use the curriculum framework to create lesson plans that focus around those interests and excitements. The curriculum framework called FunnyDaffer is similar to the website Pinterest-but solely for lesson planning and offers themes, developmental domains, transition activities, and all other lesson planning needs. For instance, if children show interest in Dinosaurs, the teachers can simply put “dinosaur” into the search and activities will pop up for Dinosaur themed lessons in every learning domain.
KangarooTime–‘All in One‘ Parent App
At Yellow Brick Road, they prioritize effective and transparent communication with parents to let them know about their child’s development, what they are learning and how they are doing at the child care center. They use the Kangaroo Time app, a “all in one” parent app that helps parents manage their billing and allows two way and push communication. The parents can message back and forth with teachers or administrators on the app. At the end of the day, the app sends parents a cute little wrap up daily email with all the documentation and pictures from the day.
Yellow Brick Road sets itself apart from the competition by sheer dedication and commitment to their mission and core values. Jessica Johnsen shares, “With the global staffing shortages, we make sure that we are orienting, training, and weaving our purpose into everything we do. We try and get to reach each school at least once a quarter, to make sure their cultures are matching our values and mission.”
To drive innovation, they welcome ideas from all members of the organization and genuinely look into the impact of implementing them. While doing so, the company usually tests the concepts at one or a few schools first before rolling it out to the entire company.
“With the global staffing shortages, we make sure that we are orienting, training, and weaving our purpose into everything we do.
Building A Fun And Productive Environment
Yellow Brick Road is a warm, nurturing environment that is rooted in the belief that every child deserves a safe place to learn, explore and grow. Their culture is focused on having fun and creating joy within the schools. They want the children and staff to be laughing and enjoying. Adding to that, Jessica shares, “We know that days can be long and challenging, but we want our staff to feel like they are genuinely making a difference in the world. Building a great team is hard, it takes consistency, dedication, and resources. We are constantly structuring, and restructuring our training and recruitment processes.”
The biggest challenges for the industry have been the staffing shortages, staffing qualifications and children’s learning impact from covid. Over 300k teachers left the industry in 2022 alone, owing to higher demand. The company has shifted focus to staff retention, training, and professional development. With behavioral challenges increased over 20% in the past year and teacher qualifications decreasing 14% (according to the US Census Bureau), classroom training is the biggest focus at Yellow Brick Road. Even experienced and trained teachers have a harder time with classroom management, and they want to make sure they feel supported with resources.
Yellow Brick Road’s growth focus is on offering the best services to children. Speaking about their growth strategy, Jessica says, “Our growth strategy is primarily based on acquisition of schools with owners who are ready to retire or move on from the industry. It is an opportunity-based growth as opposed to more structured growth plans – if we see a need or opportunity, we can add value to, we take it, but our focus is on running the best schools we possibly can.”