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Small Business Development Center assists experienced pre-K teachers in setting up and growing Little Brilliant Minds 

Joann Serra, left, and Francesca Gambino, co-owners of Little Brilliant Minds, prepared to greet students and families during the preschool’s grand opening in September 2013.

Joann Serra, left, and Francesca Gambino, co-owners of Little Brilliant Minds, prepared to greet students and families during the preschool’s grand opening in September 2013.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – As seasoned prekindergarten teachers, Francesca Gambino and Joann Serra were well aware of the ingredients needed for a nurturing pre-school environment.

When they decided in 2011 to open a school of their own, however, their mutual track record of success in early childhood education wasn’t enough: The pre-K educators required expert guidance in the startup and management of a business.

“We looked at potential sites for our school, and when we narrowed it down to a handful of possibilities, we realized we couldn’t move forward without expert help,” said Ms. Gambino, who with Ms. Serra marked the first anniversary of their Brooklyn preschool, Little Brilliant Minds, on Sept. 3. “We’re professionals at running a classroom but we didn’t know anything about running a business. We knew very early in the game we would need assistance in order to succeed.”

The women found the help they required from George Telmany, a certified business advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Brooklyn, an organization which provides aspiring and established  small-business owners with a wide array of cost-free confidential guidance and technical assistance.

The satellite office, located in the Santander Building, 9512 Third Ave., Bay Ridge, is a branch of the Staten Island SBDC (SI SBDC) based at the College of Staten Island.

“George has been with us since the beginning,” Ms. Serra said. “I can’t believe what he and the SBDC have helped us to accomplish. A year ago, it looked like our doors might never open. But here we are today, fully staffed, fully enrolled – and with a waiting list. It all feels like a dream.”

GETTING STARTED IN BUSINESS

One of the first steps toward opening the school was choosing a well-suited location, Telmany said.

With his guidance, the women eventually decided upon a street-front location at 5916 20th Ave. in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst.

“We worked closely with Francesca and Joann to build a customized cash-flow template that allowed them to analyze the expected financial challenges of particular locations,” Telmany said. “The first year for any business is typically extremely difficult, so I am thrilled with their success as they celebrate their first-year anniversary, and I will remain a resource for them as their business continues to grow.”

Ms. Gambino described Telmany’s guidance as an “invaluable resource,” helping to create a business plan while addressing cash-flow considerations involving general startup expenses, such as construction costs, marketing strategies, personnel development, and more.

Staffed by experienced educators who are certified in early childhood education, Little Brilliant Minds provides programs for toddlers (2 to 3 years old) and preschoolers (4 to 6) within a safe and nurturing environment.

“Fran and Joann have used their experience, hard work and commitment to excellence to forge their own brand, Telmany said. “It is great to see young entrepreneurs make such a valuable contribution to the community.”

With their 1-year-old enterprise exhibiting a potential for expansion, a future goal of the business partners is to open a second location.

“We love what we do,” Ms. Serra said. “We love seeing young minds blossom, so our ambition is to create a successful foundation of early childhood education in the lives of as many students as possible.”

For additional information about Little Brilliant Minds, the preschool may be visited online at www.LittleBrilliantMinds.com, reached by phone at 718-234-MIND (6463), or contacted via email at info@littlebrilliantminds.com.

George Telmany may be reached at his SBDC Brooklyn office by phone at 718-619-5603, or via email at George.Telmany@csi.cuny.edu.

About the Staten Island Small Business Development Center

The Small Business Development Center at the College of Staten Island (SBDC at CSI) is part of the New York State Small Business Development Center, which is administered by the State University of New York.

The center operates as a full-time enterprise during weekday business hours, assisting small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs with a wide array of cost-free confidential guidance and technical assistance.

Since launching in 1993, the experienced advisers of the Staten Island SBDC have worked directly with more than 6,700 businesses, helping them to invest more than $148.5 million in the area’s economy, and creating or saving more than 4,500 jobs. 

The Staten Island SBDC is located at: The College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Blvd., Building 3A, Room 105; Staten Island, NY 10314-9806.

The Staten Island SBDC additionally operates two outreach sites: The Small Business Development Center, Bay Ridge Satellite Office, in the Santander Building, 9512 Third Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11209, and the Small Business Development Center, Staten Island Office, in the Empire State Bank Building, 1361 North Railroad Ave., Staten Island, NY 10306.

For information about business counseling on Staten Island, the SBDC at CSI may be reached at 718-982-2560, or via email at Christine.Purelis@csi.cuny.edu. The Brooklyn office may be contacted at 718-619-5603; the Staten Island satellite office may be reached at 718-873-4496.