Three entrepreneurial Leland mothers team up to offer KinderStop Kids, Leland’s first drop-in childcare center.
When friends Liz Long and Jessica Middlesworth were brainstorming ideas for a business they could start together, the kept coming up against one stumbling block: child care. And then it dawned on them: They weren’t the only ones in that situation. Inspired by their own need, they opened Kinderstop Kids, a convenient, premier drop-in child care center in Leland.
For busy parents with young children, finding a last-minute babysitter can be impossible. Whether it’s for a lengthy doctor’s appointment during the day or a much-needed date night on the weekend, sometimes parents need flexible child-care options. KinderStop Kids offers safe and fun hourly drop-in care, after-school programs and summer camps for children ages 1 to 12 years, all in a clean, imaginative environment. It is also the first service of its kind in the area to feature specifically designed facilities and specially trained staff that can accommodate the needs of children with sensory challenges. Best of all, they are open seven days a week.
Long, Middlesworth and Lisa Dobstaff, another friend and business partner, made it their goal to set a standard for drop-ins with a clean, inclusive and enriching environment.
The collaboration for a business venture began when Long reached out to Middlesworth about starting some type of business together. Both had young children and were looking for a path back into the workforce. “We weren’t thinking drop-in at all, but for every business idea we came up with, we started thinking about where we’d leave our kids and where our customers would leave their kids,” Long says.
Details for Kinderstop Kids progressed as Long and Middlesworth worked on a business plan. Their original intent was to locate the business in Wilmington, but their real estate broker found the perfect space in Leland.
“The fastest-growing market in Leland is people with young families,” says Middlesworth, who is on the board of the Leland Parks and Recreation Department. “Leland is where our community is. We thought, this is where it needs to be.”
From the beginning the pair knew they wanted to set their business apart by focusing on the aesthetics that would accommodate children with sensory challenges. Middlesworth’s youngest son has been diagnosed with autism.
The interconnection between the partners is what makes Kinderstop Kids the positive endeavor that it is. Long, who moved to the area with her husband from New England 10 years ago, used her background in interior design to create an inclusive look and feel. “Bright colors and sounds can be overwhelming to kids of any age, especially ones with sensory challenges,” she says. “We also wanted to bring the outside in.” There are no TVs on during the day, just opportunities for children to explore through play. They also have a calming room, silencing headphones and cocoon swings. “We met with the Autism Society of North Carolina to develop a training program for our staff,” Long says.
Middleworth’s professional business and sales experience managing 11 stores for Enterprise gave her the chops to handle all aspects of human resources and employee relations. She moved to the area in 1999 after graduating from Averett University in Danville, Virginia, with a degree in sports medicine. “Whether I was managing accounts or managing people, I found that I just really liked business,” she says. Having a place like Kinderstop Kids where she brings her own son is life-changing. “It was hard for me to do things as a mother, like the grocery store and doctor’s appointments. No matter where I took him, my son couldn’t get a break from sensory overload.”
Originally from Atlanta, Dobstaff moved to the area 10 years ago when her husband fulfilled his residency at New Hanover Regional Medial Hospital. Dobstaff worked for years as a preschool teacher and then became a nanny. Now a mother of three boys, she was very supportive of her friends opening up Kinderstop Kids. “I was in the corner rooting them on, and then they eventually asked me to partner with them,” Dobstaff says. “It was the perfect collaboration of the three of us. I have a passion for children, so just having this opportunity was a blessing that I wasn’t planning for.” Dobstaff is the activities director, coordinating crafts and the camps for Kinderstop Kids. She’s also learning hands-on training in marketing the business as well.
Newly opened in January, Kinderstop Kids has been well received in the Leland community. Long is humbled by the positive response to Kinderstop Kids. “Leland is such a great place,” she says. “We’ve been having fun getting to know people better in the community.”
511 Olde Waterford Way, Leland