The Child Care Business Podcast

Episode 12: Daring to Dream When the Odds Are Against You | LaFarris Risby

August 05, 2021 Procare Solutions Season 1 Episode 12
The Child Care Business Podcast
Episode 12: Daring to Dream When the Odds Are Against You | LaFarris Risby
Show Notes Transcript

Child care is full of inspiring stories, and LaFarris Risby is no exception. A mother at just 15 and married to an abusive husband, LaFarris knew she needed to make a change. In this episode, you’ll hear LaFarris’ amazing story about how, with just $50 to her name and two children, she left her abuser, went back to school and started an in-home child care business – a business that grew to be the largest African American child care center in Junction City, KS. 

Today, LaFarris is the CEO of her own consultancy company and has written a book about her incredible journey called Dare to Dream

Highlights from our conversation with LaFarris include:  

  • The turning point when she decided to completely change the trajectory of her life. 
  • How she purchased her first property and overcame a massive sewage issue the very first day her center opened – with very little money on hand. 
  • The ways her faith has helped her traverse even the toughest circumstances.
  • When she fired her son from the center for not coming to work on time, and the lesson he learned to now become the CEO of her business.
  • How she discovered hidden talents in herself, and how she helps tease those out of the clients she works with. 
  • Her plans to build a safe haven for domestic violence survivors.

About LaFarris:

LaFarris Risby is a CEO, award-winning business strategist, author, international speaker, radio personality, child care & parenting expert, executive coach and community leader. 

She is the founder of the largest African American child care center in Junction City, KS and has more than 25 years of experience in early childhood education and family support. 

Currently, LaFarris is the CEO of LaFarris Inc., a consultancy company where she fills the role of business strategist by helping a growing number of clients overcome their challenges in finding direction, purpose and success in life and business. A testament to her business acumen, she was recently selected as Top Business Strategist of the Year for 2021 by the International Association of Top Professionals.

Before LaFarris embarked on her career path, she earned her Associates of Arts in Early Childhood Education and then her Bachelor of Science in Human Services. As a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) for the National Council of Family Relations, LaFarris provides education, social and emotional, and cognitive support for both her students and parents. 

She’s also the author of Dare to Dream, where she tells the inspirational and transparent account of her personal and professional life. 

You can connect with LaFarris by visiting her website:

Additional Resources:
To get more insights on ways to succeed in your child care business, head over to our Resource Center at

Contact Us:
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Speaker 1 (00:08):

[inaudible] welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by ProCare solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare, afterschool, and other early education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories of transformation and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full and insights you can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in good morning, everyone. Welcome

Speaker 2 (00:55):

To the childcare business podcast. Excited to have everybody with us today. Uh, my name is Ryan Gwaltney. I'm the vice president of sales with ProCare software. And, uh, if you've tuned into our podcast before you know that what we try to do is, um, you know, to the best of our ability, highlight some of the personalities, some of the stories, some of the individuals that, uh, are contributing to our industry to early education. And, uh, you know, obviously today is no exception. Uh, I'm going to actually introduce our guests a little bit differently today. I know a lot of times I'll read a quick bio, but I want to give love Ferris Risby, an opportunity to talk a little bit and share a little bit about her story. And so I just, you know, the fairest, I want to welcome you to the show. First, first off the bat, how are you

Speaker 3 (01:39):

Doing great. I'm still here in the land that we live in and I'm excited about it.

Speaker 2 (01:43):

I love it. I love it. And we'll, we'll get to catch up and take a little trip down memory lane. I know, you know, we were talking before we came on the air that, uh, you know, I guess maybe 15, 16 years ago is when you and I first met each other prior to zoom being a thing. And so this is actually our first opportunity seeing each other face to face. Um, but you know, for our audience love fairs, would you mind, uh, telling us a little bit about your story and I, you know, I may ask you some questions along the way, but I would love to even start at the very beginning and maybe we'll work our way up to what you're doing today. And we'll kind of end up sharing a little bit of a, that bio I referenced a minute ago, but talk about where you live and maybe as a starting point, where did you grow up and what did that look like for you?

Speaker 3 (02:30):

Well, I grew up in Warren, Arkansas, and I am the baby of five children. My mother died when I was six and it changed my entire world. Um, because all my siblings were much older than I was. I felt abandoned. And I didn't realize of how much of a role that, that abandonment played in my life until, um, I got into my first relationship, which ended up being an abusive relationship. Um, I've felt, I felt alone. I felt like, um, that if my mother would have loved me, she wouldn't have left me. I had no idea, um, until I was about 18 years old and she died that I could live. Um, they had told her she had another child that it would enlarge her heart even more and that she would die. So, um, six years after she had me, she passed away. But I felt like if I'd have known it a little bit earlier, there may have been some changes that I would have, um, changed some different things in my life.

Speaker 3 (03:28):

Um, and I tell people all the time, be honest with children. That's the first thing. Even, even, even through death, be honest with children, explain to them in such a way that they understand that a person that gone to heaven, they didn't just abandon them and lead them because that left a huge hole in my heart, even though I had a fantastic father and he was there, it was nothing like a mother's love. And I still say that today, but I ended up in a visceral relationship when I was about 14 years old. And I stayed in that relationship for 14 years. I ended up being a teen mom at 15 with a one pound nine ounce baby, and not a clue as what to do, um, with a child that, uh, young with those, with those different type issues. And so that really started me into learning more about children.

Speaker 3 (04:20):

I was 15 and, um, then I ended up marrying her father. He joined the military, we had a second child that was four pounds. So at that point I decided I had a boy and a girl wouldn't have no more children, but as time led on the abuse got worse and worse and worse. And so I'm not going to give away all the pieces of the book because there's a lot of turmoil and things that I think will help other people be survivors, uh, through the book, uh, through some of the things that I went through, but the abuse, it just didn't stop. And so we got orders. We went overseas together. Um, we got orders to Fort Riley and when I got orders to Fort Riley, um, I was like, oh my God, what am I going to do? I knew that I wanted to do something.

Speaker 3 (05:12):

I knew the power of prayers I had prayed. And I said, Lord, what do I do? And I heard a voice. Tell me, go, you will never be in one elect for anything. And I got on a Greyhound bus with two children and $50 and headed to Fort Riley. And I had not a clue what I was going to do. He didn't even know I was there yet. He had brought his girlfriend and her four children and it moved her there. And so he didn't even know I was there. So when he finally did find I was there, I never will forget it was my birthday. And, um, I remember the corner of 18th and Washington and I saw him and I said, pull it over. And I told him, I said, I don't care. I'm done. It was like a light bulb popped out in my head and said, you know, your mother didn't die, that you could live this way.

Speaker 3 (06:01):

And so at that moment, I said, I will have more than you. I will live better than you. And I will always, always, my children would never be in one, a lack and I need to have a job or a place to live. I'm just talking. I'm just speaking things into the atmosphere. And he went on to tell me what I wasn't going to have, what I wasn't going to do, what I wasn't going to be. And I told him if I had to live in a cardboard box and eat peanut butter and jelly, I was done with this relationship. And so I just decided I would step out. And my first apartment, I went to the landlord. I never will forget. I had approximately 30 days, I gave myself 30 days. You would need to have a place to live in a job in 30 days.

Speaker 3 (06:46):

And so the guy said, the landlord said, because you was honest and you look like you will pay your rent. He gave me the keys to the apartment. Amazing. It was amazing. It was, it was just, things started falling into place. And that was in January. I started my in-home daycare in March. I sat down and I tell people, you know, sometimes you gotta go back and you've got to think about where you come from and you got to go back and pull on some of those strings of things that you knew when you were growing up, that you watch. I used to watch my mother pray. I used to, you know, I used to watch my sisters and my father's. I used to, you know, I used to just watch things. And I remember asking myself, what do I do? My children, but we were going through a divorce.

Speaker 3 (07:35):

They were having a very difficult time in school and getting, pulling things together. And my son was having such a, a, a way he would cry when I leave. Please don't leave me. You know, don't and I, I just, I couldn't take it. And so I said, what can I do that? I can provide a secure, loving, safe environment for my children and be able to pay rent, lightwater and gate. So I didn't start my business because I wanted to, I started my business out of a need. I tell people that all the time. And so at the time, I didn't know what a SWOT analysis was. Cause I only had a high school diploma at this time. So I sat down and I got a piece of paper and I put a big X on it. And I said, lights, dislikes good at what you're not good at. And I did common denominators. And I said, okay, this is what I'm going to do. And that's how I started my in-home childcare. I did not have money to start.

Speaker 2 (08:30):

Can I ask you, I don't want to interrupt you because I want to keep hearing this story, but I'm just curious, going back to that list that you made at the time. So you put a big red X, you listed what your gifts were, what you were good at, what you do you remember what was on that list? Do you remember? I remember things

Speaker 3 (08:44):

Like, um, uh, taking care of children, first aid, CPR, breathing machines, uh, uh, things that I didn't like was, uh, I like marketing, uh, different things that I knew that I wasn't good at. Um, people skills. I was able to talk to people real well. I went back, I had, I had had an accounting in high school. So I put that down as one of the things that I was good at. So I, I that's, that's how I just made my list based off of things that I knew that either I was capable of doing or wasn't capable of doing, or I liked, or I didn't like

Speaker 2 (09:19):

Were those things at that time that people had told you in your life that they saw those abilities or those giftings in you, like they had spoken that into your life or were those things that you just had to step back and say, self-analyze like, these are the things that I'm aware of and make decisions off of that. Do you remember kind of how that, yeah,

Speaker 3 (09:38):

That's exactly what I did. I stepped, analyzed and decided. Okay. What, and some of the things that was on that list, I said, I wasn't good at, I now realized I was good at, but when you're self analyzing yourself and you're stepping back and you're looking at yourself, a lot of the things it's hard for you to think about the things that you're good at, you can think about all the things that you're not good at, and you can have a list I'm now alone, but it's hard to think about things that you're good at. So you really have to sit there and think, and it probably took me a couple of days to sit down and figure out those things. And that's I, and I decided, I said, okay, so how do I do this? Cause it wasn't things out like chamber of commerce, the computer, the internet, none of that stuff was out.

Speaker 3 (10:23):

This was like in 1994. So a lot of this stuff wasn't out. If it was, I wasn't knowledgeable about it. And so I that's, that's how I started. And I said, okay, well, I sat there and I was like, oh my God, okay. So now what do I do? So I sat there and I said, how do I contact? I contact the health department and asked, but I didn't have the criteria to become licensed because I lived in a basement apartment because at the time I couldn't even afford that. But that's what I was living in. So I had to end up doing registered childcare, which is the very first thing you do before you get your licensed childcare, then you get your group home. Um, and then you get your childcare center. So I've went through all four stages of it, um, in order to get to where I am now, but I knew I needed to do something because my and I, and as far as my marketing, I was thinking in my mind, if I need this, I know it's gotta be other parents out there that need this too.

Speaker 3 (11:19):

So I'm going to have to figure out how to find those parents. And those were my avatars. I was my own avatar. I was my own person that I said that I may be my person that I was looking for because I was a single parent. Um, I needed to be able to provide care that I trust and that, um, was affordable and that I knew that was going to be in a loving, safe environment. So I used my, what I needed as to be my own people that are targeted, if that makes sense. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (11:50):

It makes a ton of sense. I mean, I think sometimes when have a product or a service, it's like, if I would be my customer, I at least know that there's one customer, where can I find more people like me that would be attracted to what I'm doing? Do you remember how you found, you know, customers? Cause if I, I was reading a little bit before, you know, we got on the air and I, if I'm not mistaken, uh, around that time in your life, when, when you kind of decided to leave that relationship and, and go out on your own, you, you had like $50 to your name. And so I know that you found somebody who had, um, who had given you a place and trusted you, that you were going to come through for rent, but do you remember how you found customers? And do you remember how you even like set up equipment in the apartment to be able to adapt childcare? Yeah, I

Speaker 3 (12:35):

Do remember I used all my children's toys. We had kept him, but since he had moved, he had moved all our home goods there. I finally, the month of February got my household goods. So I use my children's toys. I used their arts and crafts. I use doll houses. I use trucks and cars. I use the things that was in my hands at the time that I didn't have to pay for, to start my childcare business. And what I did was I went to, um, I went to like laundry mats. Um, I went on post to like the ACS building and put out actual flyers. That's how I found my customers. I found my customers at PTA when my son would be at football practice, I would, you know, kind of talk to people in, um, I've talked to people at my, at the church that I went to and just started giving out information and telling people, okay, here's some flyers. Could you please put these out in areas where you can put them out at, in, in, um, in apartment complexes. And that's actually how I started finding my clients.

Speaker 2 (13:33):

That's amazing. Do you remember, like at the very beginning, when you started to do that, was it just immediately like an amazing overwhelming, positive response? Or do you remember it as it was a grind, like a lot of rejection, a lot of doors be enclosed or, you know, I'm always just so curious about people's mindset as you're navigating through that. Do you remember that season and kind of what your perspective on it is now?

Speaker 3 (13:58):

Yeah. And see, it wasn't a lot of doors being closed. I remember I could only have six children and I already had two because two of them were mine. So I only could have four more children, so it wasn't hard to get four additional children.

Speaker 2 (14:11):

Got it. And then, and so you, you filled up that first, you know, in-home childcare center, you had six kids, two of them were yours. How old were your kids at that time? LA Ferris.

Speaker 3 (14:21):

My daughter was, uh, 12 and my son was seven.

Speaker 2 (14:24):

Okay. And then you found four other kids and then walk through, how long did you, did you operate that in-home center for, what was that season of life for that period? It was

Speaker 3 (14:33):

Just the summer. Once the summer was over, I moved into a two bedroom house and became licensed. And at that point I could have 10 children because, um, during the summertime, when I moved, the kids were going to be going back to school. And so I was knowing that I wanted to start one S as I saw and I saw, oh, I'm good at this. I started thinking about how I can envision as being more. So I started thinking about, I wanted to go back to school. I want to go back to school for this. And so what I would do in the summertime is I sent my children to stay with my brother and my sister-in-law because my brother didn't have any children. And that allowed me to go to school in the evening times during the school year. But in Lao allowed me to go then complete summer where I could spend my time getting my education. And I didn't have to worry about all the extra with the kids, because in the summertime you want your kids to be able to have swimming, lessons, golf, you want them to be able to do things. And I know my brother could give them those things while I was in school.

Speaker 2 (15:26):

During the summer. Were you still running childcare at your childcare program during the day, and then at night you would go to classes and kind of continue education, or were you able to dedicate summers completely to just your own education?

Speaker 3 (15:38):

Nope. I went to, I did childcare during the day and I went to school at night.

Speaker 2 (15:44):

And were you doing everything at that point in the center? You know, I know you, you, it sounds like early on, you were like, I love this. I'm good at it. I love being around kids. But were you, were you teaching, were you cooking? Were you doing everything or did you have help at that point? Oh,

Speaker 3 (15:59):

No. I didn't get help until I started my group home. I did everything my day started like about four o'clock in the morning and didn't answer around midnight.

Speaker 2 (16:06):

So, so when you talk to clients now, cause I, you know, we'll talk a little bit about how you spend your time now and energy and what you're doing, you know, vocationally right now. Uh, you know, but you know, obviously one of the reasons I want to talk about your story is, is to set some framework around, uh, there, there's not a lot of room for excuses for many of us, because when, when you look back at your story from the time you woke up in the morning, working all day, doing everything, your childcare center, and then what immediately, um, transitioned into school at night. W what would you say now, as you look back, what were the lessons for you personally, that you learned during that season of life that you like still apply in your craft today?

Speaker 3 (16:52):

I put on my mirror in my bathroom. How bad do you want it? And that will be my motivation because I had to figure out every day it was days where I didn't want to go to school days. I didn't want to get up. You know, everybody has those days, but I had to think about where do I want to be 30 years from now? What kind of life do I want my children to have? You know, what, what do I want to impart in myself? And then I also thought about my mother died, that I could live. So in my world, if I could just touch the life of one child, one family and make a difference, her, her death wouldn't have been in vain. And so for me, those things were very important. So I would always ask myself, how bad do you want it? You, you, you don't make excuses. You can do anything that you put your mind to it because we're phenomenal. I mean, I, I think we are as women. I think we're phenomenal. We have so many different people that we are in one day and so many different roles that we play in one day. And we have to, we have to make the decision early on what we're going to do in life and decide how bad we want it, what we're willing to do to get it, how

Speaker 2 (18:06):

Bad do I want it? And so, yeah, it's a great question. And you actually literally physically had that written on the mirror in your bathroom. So you wake up one morning

Speaker 3 (18:14):

With lipstick. I wrote it in lipstick. I

Speaker 2 (18:18):

Like it. And so at that time, were you studying when you were going back to school, uh, you know, obviously you had spent time being in early education, running your center, your in-home center, by that point, were you studying early education? Were you studying something different or what were you studying at school? At that point?

Speaker 3 (18:36):

I was starting early child education. I went back and got my associate early child education. I went and got a CDA in infant and toddlers. Then I went and got a BS in human services. Then I got, um, I certified them in life education educator, which is equivalent to a master's. So I went back and I got about 25 other certifications because as I opened up my actual childcare center, when I opened my very first one, when I remember when I called you, I remember opening my very first center. And the one thing that I realized was it was too expensive to always try to have people to come in and train my staff. So what I did was I became an instructor and everything that my staff needed. So I would be betraying, which then allowed me to be able to try to start training the CDA, because I had all the tools that I needed to be able to help other people get the training and get their staff trained, to move into their next level.

Speaker 3 (19:32):

Because I tell people I trained teachers, but my goal is for you not to stay a teacher, I trained directors. That's the ultimate goal is for you to own your own or for you to be working in a director's position. Yes, I love teaching, but as you start getting older and you start getting your forties and your fifties, you want to be doing something else you want to be doing more than up and up and down off the floor. Some knees started getting bad and hurting and you need to, you know, you need to start thinking about what else is it that I want to do, especially if you're going to stay in this field.

Speaker 2 (20:04):

Yeah. I mean, we hear that a lot. It's interesting. I mean, you were, you were doing that all the way back when you started your center, but it's a huge theme right now, especially for whatever reason coming out of, you know, everything that happened last year, we're talking with lots of centers around, you know, challenges around staffing, their schools. And that seems to be one of the themes is that, you know, look in recruiting, great talent to a school is more than just what you pay them. It's growth opportunities. It's feeling part of a community. So you've, you've always done that. Do you, when you opened your first center, I want to talk a little bit about that. Cause you just referenced it. I think it was the early two thousands. So you went from your home center, started getting some education, your, your career on this industry, then you moved into that group environment. Walk me through what you remember about opening your first center. How did that, how did that take place? How did it open up for you? And do you remember like how long it took you from the time you started looking for a building to the time you actually,

Speaker 3 (21:07):

Yes. I opened my very first center in 1999 and rented. That was the first time that I had opened my first childcare center and I had 37 children. And the first thing I remember was when I got my director's license, I had a very clear desk and I had me a little name tag and I said, oh, I'm a director now, what am I do? Uh, I had no handbooks, no staff handbooks, no parent handbooks, no anything. I created everything from scratch. So now I help other people create their, you know, their tools from scratch. But as I started going into this center, I was like, okay, my rent kept going up. And I'm like, man. And then I can't do what I want to do in the building. I was like, okay, guess what? I'm going to start looking for my own building. And so about 2003, I started looking for my own building and that's where we're located. Now we sit on 4.5 acres of land, almost nine score of 9,000 square feet. And when I met you, that's when I was in the process of opening up that location.

Speaker 2 (22:07):

Remember how, how you pulled that off. Like, I'm always curious. Cause we, as we talk with schools all the time and talk with new people, come in the industry, you know, there's all sorts of different ways to be able to, you know, buy a property, lease a property, find financing for a property, find partners. Do, how did you, you know, the mechanics of that for you? What did that look like? Moving from renting to actually purchasing your own property? Um,

Speaker 3 (22:32):

When I first thought about purchasing the property, I went and I looked at it and my son and daughter went with me to look at it. And my son was like, oh, this is much bigger than what we are now. I have to still clean up. It's too big for me to clean up. So he was worried about janitorial. And my daughter was like, how are we going to turn this into a childcare center? But I saw all the potential, all the potential. I looked at it and I looked at everything that I wanted to exercise room though. The, uh, the warm spirit nurturing room and lactation room, all the things that I wanted, I was like, oh, I got this. And so I walked around the building and I prayed cause I'm afraid. And I remember hearing, do you want the us, I guess I heard God telling me, go get nice.

Speaker 3 (23:14):

Ooh, the money. He said, pretend it's the same $50. You've got the junction city Kansas with. And at that point it was 50 bucks. Didn't matter how much it costs. It was $50. But what I did do, I did my homework, the per the, when I purchased it, it was a residential piece of property. So what I did was I took it and I went before the council, our council, city Councilman, and it used to be a commercial piece of property. So I changed it back to commercial property, took the meat, equity out it. And I redid the entire building using that because I did not want to have partners. I didn't know. I didn't know anything about doing partners. I needed a business plan. My business plan. I know nothing about a business plan. And my business plan was crazy. It had like five pieces of paper, one paper had my name and address on it. The second piece of paper had like what I wanted to do, which was like a short paragraph. And then the third piece had like my, uh, financials from my personal taxes. And the fifth piece had like my consultant I was working with now, you know, that, you know, that we know now a business plan. That was a hot mess. So this plan, okay. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (24:27):

I just do what I had in my hand. I mean, I was like, okay, I'm going to figure it out. And I was just figuring it out along the way. And the place that I've located locations, everybody was like, well, that's not going to be a good location. I was like, I didn't know, marketing. I know nothing about location, location, location, location. Well, the fatal, at least three years later. Now it's a huge area. They have a complex over there for like a thousand people, a school housing. When I moved there, it was nothing there. And so I got it because it was a, I saw the potential, but I also saw the fact that I could build affordability up. And so when I did that, I was able to utilize that money. But when I opened the, my very first day in the building, my sewage collapsed, lovely.

Speaker 2 (25:15):

That's a great way to start. So

Speaker 3 (25:17):

$8,000, oh,

Speaker 2 (25:20):

Day, one

Speaker 3 (25:21):

Day one. I never will forget it. And I was like, oh my God, what am I going to do? I have no more money.

Speaker 2 (25:28):

So that's an amazing story. Like, look, it would be easy to just talk about, you know, retrospectively, this is what happened. And we got through it and look at us today. But like in the moment it would have been extremely easy to just say, I give up, like, this is just too much. So sewage breaks, that means you're not able to operate. Or were you able to figure out a way to keep kids in the center? And while

Speaker 3 (25:56):

You can going to figure out a way to keep kids into the center, I was able to figure out a way, because we're at 252 feet from the manhole.

Speaker 2 (26:04):

Got it. You still remember the exact number two 50.

Speaker 3 (26:07):

Yeah. I mean, this was a nightmare. And so I was sitting there thinking, I said, I am not going back to the bank. I am not getting a second mortgage. I just started this. And so I said, how can I do this? Well, the people I were working with, they had the order, the pieces in parts. So it took like six months to get it completely done in a timeframe that was happening. I had got a credit card with 0% interest and I was paying it as it was as I was going along. So by the time that they got finished, I only still owed about six more months on it, but I had an 18 month credit card with 0% interest. So by the time 18 months was finished, I had paid the whole $50,000 off.

Speaker 2 (26:49):

Wow. So you literally were like, got a problem solve. I have a $50,000 unexpected expense. I've got to figure out how to handle it. Zero interest credit card was what gave you the runway to be able to do that.

Speaker 3 (27:03):

I'm super good. When it comes to strategic planning, when it comes to thinking things through that, that that's one of my skillsets that I didn't realize I had until I really started working with other businesses to help because I'd be like, oh yeah, we can figure this out. You got to step back. You you're, you're in it too much in, in the moment. Step back, step back and look over into it because you're looking at it head on. And because you're the person that's actually happening too. You've got to step back and manage your expectations and manage your fears and manage you. You've got to manage you as a person because you would just lose it when you start thinking about, oh my God, I can't do, I can't do what I can't do. As long as you're thinking you can't do it. You're never be,

Speaker 2 (27:44):

That's really insightful. Do you remember in that season thinking that way or is that a lesson you learned by not operating that way during that season? And now looking back, you've kind of grown and learned from it? Or do you remember like in all of that challenge, all that adversity, actually having that mindset, like, I've just got to navigate this.

Speaker 3 (28:05):

I did have that mindset, but the first thing I did was I said, oh my God, what am I going to do? My church is less than a half a mile from where my office is at. I walked down to my church and I told him, I said, Hey, I need to see my pastor right now. I need to see my Bishop right now. And so he came and he said, are you okay? I said, oh, I need somebody to, with me. I need, I need some help. I, I got to pull myself together. That was the first thing I thought of doing was pray. Okay. Because I knew that had always worked for me and faith. It always worked for me. And so we pray. He said, so what do you do? You need money? What is it? I said, no, I need guidance.

Speaker 3 (28:40):

I just need to, I need to sit here and I need to talk to somebody that I trust. And I can just say what I need to say while I'm thinking a plan through. Cause sometimes it's not so much that you can't. Sometimes you need those people that are in your corner, in your circle, that you can be very honest, but blunt and be who you are, if that means crying and screaming and whatever it means to get to your next thing. So you can say what you're feeling and how you're feeling, because that will help you process what you need to do. And that's what I need because by the time I left his office, I was straight mentally when I left his office. Um, I'm getting them, I'm getting on the phone, up in the, find your credit card. I'm finna use my credit and my credit score. And I'm going to find me a credit card. That's going to help me be able to do this because I'm not, I refuse to get a second mortgage.

Speaker 2 (29:34):

And so you figured it out, got a credit card, got through the initial season of, you know, the sewer breaking and to deal with all the unexpected expense. And then, you know, has your school since the very beginning, uh, in terms of like enrollment, in terms of, you know, what we might define as a successful school, it's been financially strong staffing. Has it been an easy road for you or has it always been, you know, kind of a growing process for you in terms of getting to a spot where it feels like it's, um, self-sufficient,

Speaker 3 (30:09):

Um, we're more self-sufficient now, but it's always been a growing process for me. I've always been learning and learning and more learning. And now I'm at the stage where I'm not there every day because I'm now working on other opportunities. So it's more stable as I have a CEO. Well, my son is my CEO and he was one of the very first people I had to fire from the beginning of the business, but

Speaker 2 (30:35):

Fired him or hired him.

Speaker 3 (30:37):

I fired him because he couldn't come to work on time. And I have a problem with that.

Speaker 2 (30:42):

Yeah. That's not a great thing. So yeah. So one of the very first people you hired was your son. He did janitorial. If I remember the story, right? Like he was having to clean and then he got fired.

Speaker 3 (30:53):

He got fired when he was about 19. I fired him. He went into the air force 80 and nine years came out remarkably well where markably with great instinct with great business strategies, with great business sense. Um, but he needed that. He needed that in order to take us to our next level,

Speaker 2 (31:11):

Love it. So he comes out, he gets rehired. So he was in the rehire pool now rehired as a CEO. And then at what point for you, the Ferris, did you start thinking about for yourself? What's next in terms of the, you know, I know that you've written a book, so I want to give you a chance to talk about what, what inspired that maybe who encouraged you or how that came about. Um, but at what point did you start thinking like, Hey, where else can I go and give back? Was it recent? Or was it always something that, you know, you had kind of had on your heart to do as you proceeded through your career?

Speaker 3 (31:48):

It was always important to me because one thing I want to do is leave a lasting legacy. And so I really started focusing in about 2009 with all the different board of directors in the different things, in the community, in a different things outside of my community, outside of my state that I started working with and doing different things with, I've just kind of continued to do so, because it's always been important to

Speaker 2 (32:10):

Me always. And then, and then at what point did you write your book? So I know it's, it's, um, you know, we're sitting in 2021, the name of your book is, is what I'm going to let you, I want you to talk about the name of your book, maybe when you started writing it. And can you give don't, don't no spoiler alerts, but maybe just an idea for those listening of, of, you know, what they would get from the book if they read it.

Speaker 3 (32:35):

Um, it's called dare to dream. And it's talking about a young girl who lost her mother early age, have a lot of trying, a lot of different things. Went on teen pregnancy, abusive relationships, all the way up into starting the business to becoming the largest African-American business in the community. And it goes all through all the different stages and tell you different ways to enhance you to be, but to not lose your dream, even though you're going through trying times, even though you did, you're going through death, are you going through a divorce or you're going through a marital situations, whatever it may be, that dream that's burning inside of you don't give up on don't ever give up on. And so that's part of what the book really, really talks about. Um, it talks about how I got out of the domestic abuse, um, relationship, how I started helping others, um, live their dream and get out of, um, uh, situations and use what they have in their hands.

Speaker 3 (33:35):

Because a lot of times we have things in our hands and talents that we don't even know that we have, and we don't know how to use them. So one of my goals is to make sure that whether you're a man or a woman, to make sure that you use what's in your hands and what the, the gifts that God has given you to propel yourself to your next level, whether that's just, I want to be a great mom. I want to be a great-grandmother. I want to own my own business. I want to be a multimillionaire. I want to just have a vacation every single year. How do I do those things? And how do I keep my family together? COVID-19 taught us so many things. And the one thing I've always known is am I my brother's keeper? Yes, I am. I started writing this book in 2015 and it took me all the way through 2019 to get completely done with it because some other things had to transpire the death of my ex-husband had to take place.

Speaker 3 (34:29):

And I went through the, the, the, the, the, having to bury him and having to help my children through that happened, happened to be the one, to do a lot of things with that. And people say, how could you have done? You know, that when you got, we had children together, just because we could make a marriage work, we still had two beautiful children together. And he launched me into my destiny. If it had not been for the things I went through with him, he'd launch me into my destiny. I'm not mad at him. And so at the end of his life, we always stayed friends. We just couldn't make a marriage work,

Speaker 2 (35:03):

But yeah, you had two beautiful kids together and now they're both. Yeah. And so that happened between 2015, 2019, while you were writing the book slowly over time, um, book got completed in 2019, you said, well, it got

Speaker 3 (35:17):

Completed in 2019 and we released it in 2019. And it just, it goes through all the different steps in, in, in the marriage, I'll do the divorce, I'll do the five stages of death. It goes through all the different things. Um, it goes, every person can find themselves in that book at some point or some situation in life

Speaker 2 (35:38):

Yeah. That they can grab onto and take something out of to, you know, be able to help them with whatever they're going through. It seems like now that, that, you know, kind of the emphasis of the book and sharing your story and encouraging, you know, other people, like you said, men, women, people who want to be entrepreneurs is a big part of your, your mission now and kind of your, your purpose. Cause it sounds like you spend, I know you still operate your childcare program. Your son is the CEO. It's still in existence and doing well, but a lot of your time, um, talk to me about what you're doing with LA Ferris Frisbee, Inc. I know you you've, you've written the book, but you do consulting. You do speaking, talk a little bit about what all you want.

Speaker 3 (36:18):

Um, I do speaking, um, I speak whether it's through for, uh, for childcare, whether it's through for personal, um, for personal things, uh, such as budgeting, such as, um, how to make things work, shift and move your life. Um, so it's a lot of different things that I do, uh, with the speaking engagements. Um, the book is available on Um, currently just, uh, received, will be receiving an award in D uh, December, 2021 for, um, strategic business of the strategic person business of the year. I'm pretty excited about that because I am always working with other organizations, trying to make sure that they're strategically planning for the next stage, especially now COVID is not over. So I'm encouraging childcare facilities to start planning for it, not to be over. Don't put your dependency on the government funding and government grants start thinking about where you can put your time and your energy. I started putting things together in 2019, um, before, and I believe it was in November, 2019, I, I started doing a risk management assessment on my organization, so I could see where we were and where the holes in the gaps were for risk management. And that really did save us a lot doing covert 19, because I already knew where some of the gaps in the holes were.

Speaker 2 (37:44):

Yeah, you were prepared for that,

Speaker 3 (37:45):

Which allowed us to be able to be staying open. Um, we've had to open, we had to close a couple of times because of, of COVID, but we we're, all of us are vaccinated, but still, if somebody comes into our facility that has COVID, we still have to shut down. So staffing still has to be paid, you know, so bills still have to get paid. So you need to consider some of those things and look at your insurance policies, because now there is no coverage for COVID in your insurance policies. So you got to think about all those things when you're looking at risk management, think about all those different things. Home-based and center-based, you need to start putting a plan together. So you're more prepared for the, this next season that we're getting ready to go into.

Speaker 2 (38:27):

Yeah, that's good. That's good advice to be a, instead of reacting to what happens, being proactive and being prepared for what's coming up. Were you guys during the last, you know, I know you referenced this, but during 2020 with COVID w how, how much of 2020 did you guys have to shut down? Did you have some, some periods where the school was completely closed, or were you able to maintain care for some essential staff or, and things like that?

Speaker 3 (38:51):

We were closed for about three months. Wow. And during the timeframe we were closed, all our staff that paid all of our bills got paid, but as I said, I had already started making provisions in 2019 to start putting away and start thinking about savings and different things that I needed to do in case of emergency, because I knew I still had a mortgage I had to meet.

Speaker 2 (39:13):

Yep. It was still going to be there, even if you're not open and all the unexpected things happen, there's still going to be some responsibilities that you have in being a business owner,

Speaker 3 (39:20):

Even now, you know, even now, if COVID wouldn't have never happened, something else could have happened. And you still need to think about the TJ, those things. If you have a mortgage, how can I get my mortgage paid? If something happens and this Anthony, um, you know, how do I do that? How do I keep my account on, on, on, on standby? How do I keep my attorney? You know, how do I keep these core people they're going to help you move your organization?

Speaker 2 (39:48):

Yeah, that's great. That's great insight. What, what about, um, you know, for you personally, L'Affaire so, you know, what's the dream now for LA Ferris Risby, you you've obviously already have an amazing story from, you know, what you've come from and how you've worked through that. You you're sharing it with not just, you know, your staff and your family. You've written a book and, and you're, you're putting yourself out there to share your story, which, you know, I know our audience will be, you know, encouraged and inspired by it as well. But like, if, if we talk to you five years from now and, and you know, you're able to kind of write the story for yourself, like the dream between now and five years and what you're focused on. Is there something that's driving you right now, specifically that you're working towards over the next, you know, 2, 3, 4, 5 years.

Speaker 3 (40:36):

I am. I'm looking, um, at one of the things that I want to do is through our, our real estate entity is work with some organizations to build a, a place of survival where men and women that are going through domestic violence have some place to come to, um, when they're trying to get away from their abuser. And so I want to have some kind of a 12 Plex or fourplex or something where they can come to, they can have a safe Haven, they have childcare, they have a job, they have all these centrals that they need to start their life over again. Because a lot of times we stayed because we were afraid for our children. We're afraid that we don't have enough to survive. We don't know what's next. We don't know how our children are going to eat, or where are we going to sleep? So that's something that I'm really focused on is trying to get with some programs and get with some people that can help me, um, build something like that for other survivors so they can get out so they can do, they can dare to dream. They can put their dreams and to moving forward and they can find themselves and get out of those relationships. They're not going to do them or their children

Speaker 2 (41:48):

Eating good. Yeah. You, um, you know, you kind of hit on something there that you know, is, is obviously it comes from a place of reference for you, but you know, the idea that, you know, individuals that are in tough situations, abusive relationships, oftentimes they stay because like you said, they've got kids that they're worried about. Like, look, it's, I don't know how I'm going to go provide, I don't know what that next step looks like. And so I'm going to kind of endure or suffer so that I can try to provide or protect, you know, my kids. So, you know, your dream is to have something where, Hey, I can give you a safety line. Like we have a place for you. You don't have to stay in that difficult situation and, and have a place where you would then provide them housing, but also help them find employment and get on track and the schooling and the things like that were a big part of your path forward.

Speaker 3 (42:41):

There was a big part of my path forward. And I tell people nobody's on an island by themselves. Everybody needs help at some point, am I my brother's keeper? Yes, I am.

Speaker 2 (42:51):

Yeah. Uh, and, and there's, you know, not everybody has a one moment in life or one day where it's like that point of, you know, kind of demarcation where it's like, everything changed right there. But if I, you know, if I hear your story, right, maybe there's a few of those for you, but, you know, you were talking earlier about that day. I think it was your birthday on 18th street and at Fort Raleigh where, uh, that was like a real changing point in your life. It sounds like you were headed one direction and, you know, something happened and you made a decision and a completely altered the course of your life from, from that moment forward.

Speaker 3 (43:26):

From that moment forward, my entire life changed.

Speaker 2 (43:29):

Yeah. Well, you've, you've obviously got, you know, from, you know, we're lucky to have you in our industry and be able to take, you know, your story and what you you've shared, even on this episode. Um, you've written it in your book. I know you continue to also share your story, you know, publicly, like you referenced. So if people who are listening to this episode, the fairs wanted to connect with, you wanted to reach out, wanting to follow your story. Um, I just want to give you an opportunity. Can you share how people can find you or how people could reach you if they wanted to?

Speaker 3 (44:01):

Yes. My website is LA So it's L a F as in Frank, a R R I You can reach me on any of the social media outlets, Facebook, LinkedIn, um, Twitter, um, um, the salesman Instagram, Mr. Graham is L'Affaire affairs Risby. That was the one beautiful thing. I was able to get my name for everything. So it's LA Ferris Frisbee, L a F a R R I S R I S B Y for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, um, Twitter. And then you can do little for my actual website.

Speaker 2 (44:45):

Wonderful. And I, and I tell you what we really, you know, appreciate. I mentioned this at the start of the show. I might've mentioned it before we came on air, but, uh, you know, really, uh, you know, this podcast for us is obviously talking about the business of childcare. We have people come on our show that talk about some of the, you know, the mechanics and how to go execute some of the, you know, the actual practical things of running childcare. But our industry is also filled with amazing individuals, with stories that are inspirational and impactful and are going to, you know, uh, I think evoke emotion and individuals to challenge them and cause them, and, and, and, um, inspire them to be better too. So I think this, uh, the show is going to do that with Ferris and just want to thank you for your time. And, uh, hopefully we'll talk again in the near future

Speaker 3 (45:33):

Hope. So it was wonderful being with you. I'm so glad I was able to meet with you.

Speaker 1 (45:39):

Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare business, make sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app. So you never miss an episode. And if you want even more childcare business tips, tricks, and strategies, head over to our resource until next time.