The grand opening for Tiny Tots Learning Center took place in September 2015 just in time for the new school year. Along with help of the Nez Perce tribe and the joint effort of the business partners, Bobbie & Santee Penney, Lindsay & James Penney were able to secure a building in the old BIA area of Lapwai. The building was built in the early 1900’s, but has been preserved by the tribe and updated inside and out. It was the perfect place at a great location to start a daycare in Lapwai.
Santee and Bobbie’s started Tiny Tots from their home in September and could the run the business without a license as long as they were providing care for less than 7 children. Lindsay and James came on board in October and the business was licensed in February, so they could start enrolling more full-time kids. Not much advertising was needed to get the ball rolling for the business. Enrollment was steady every month adding an average of 2 kids per month. It wasn’t long before they needed to start looking for a new location the business.
After a long process and with the help of the tribe’s executive director, Rebecca Miles, the program managers were approved by Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee to lease the old TANF building for the new Tiny Tots Learning Center. With some cleaning, new paint and minor repairs the building received a new look on the inside. “We spent a lot of time cleaning and preparing the new facility for our kids. After a month or so we made the move and now have close to 30 children enrolled. We all recognized the need for childcare in our community.” said James Penney, “Aside from that, the Tiny Tots team is also extremely proud of one another’s entrepreneurial status.”
They haven’t stopped at all since the grand opening. They recently enrolled with the State of Idaho, Idahostars program, to become a star-rated facility. They will be one of eight star-rated facilities in the state. “Our team made this decision because we want to do everything we can to provide the best quality care for kids and we are all excited about being in the Steps to Quality Program.” Lindsay Penney, “We have all done the required back-ground checks, first-aid and CPR trainings. With the help of Idahostars we are able to continue learning. They give us scholarships to take care courses and host trainings for federal food program and offer online trainings and webinars.”
Currently Tiny Tots holds a state license to run a childcare center with 25 or more kids. They currently have 22 kids enrolled, but are seeking to enroll more full-time children. There are three providers: Bobbie and Lindsay are our infant and toddler teachers and Santee works with the pre-school and school age kids. Santee brings 12 years of experience working for the tribal head start program, Lindsay has her degree in early childhood education and Bobbie has her degree in elementary education, and together they do the lesson planning and curriculum building. “Our kids are already smart, we just want to make sure they are fully prepared to enter a school setting when the time comes.” says Bobbie Penney, “ Our primary goal and mission statement is to build a love of learning through exploration and play, while maintaining a stable and consistent environment, one that reflects the core values of the families we serve.”