WILTON – Inch by Inch Preschool is a well-known and reputable child care establishment in Franklin County. Owner, director and teacher, Jessica Lewis, purchased the land and built the school with help and support from family 15 years ago. Getting started, however, was not easy.
“We opened in September of 2006 and I had two part-time children until probably January, so those first few months were definitely a struggle,” Lewis said. “In January I had six children and could have eight by myself, but I had someone waiting who wanted to come work for me with the hopes that we would eventually be up to 20. It took us a long time to get there, but in the end, I think word of mouth is your number one for marketing; people want to know someone who knows someone.”
Lewis recommends the use of social networking for building that sense of trust with parents in the community because people enjoy being able to see what her students are up to. She now has babies on her waiting list so they can get into Inch by Inch by the time they’re three, and that waiting list gives her a feeling of true success.
Opening a preschool was a multifaceted decision influenced by multiple factors, including a course Lewis took on administration while earning her bachelor’s degree; having a father who was self-employed; recognizing a significant need in the area and having a desire to work with children. The need, however, is something that Lewis continues to be aware of, especially in the face of the pandemic.
“There’s a pretty good network between providers in the area where we use each other as resources, and that’s one thing I’m thankful for; there’s so much need for child care that we don’t have to compete with each other,” Lewis said. “Definitely right now, even nationally, there’s a child care crisis.”
As a woman and business owner in the female-dominated care-labor industry, one of the greatest shortcomings in the industry as a whole is that the majority of caregiver roles fall to women.
“It’s expected that this is our industry, unfortunately for men who want to be here,” Lewis said. “I would definitely encourage men and women to take the leap and get the training if they enjoy working with children; it’s definitely an overlooked profession.”
Lewis noted that a willingness to participate in continuing education and state training for the child care industry is necessary, but there are educational resources available for those interested in getting into this industry without a degree.