Once I realized there was something called ALC and that what they were doing really appealed to me, I downloaded the starter-kit. I nodded my head through the first thirty pages: everything that was mentioned about what to think of when opening up a school, I already knew was true from my own experiences. It made me feel these guys knew what they were talking about.
It was also really nice to see that they had defined what kind of qualities the people on your team needs to have. Not that I had a team (this time I wanted to do it on my own and avoid any potential problems that can arise while working with others). But it so happens that I have all those qualities, plus seven years of experience of doing this kind of stuff so I figured I´d be fine.
I contacted Tomis, paid the membership fee, and started working on my business plan. Oh dear how tedious, but oh my God what a great document to have! It really helped me clear my thoughts and word them in a way that would make sense not only to me but to parents and future sponsors. It also helped me creating attractive and clear texts for my website that I was working on at the same time.
I know the importance of branding, and asked a graphic designing friend to help me create a logo. Thanks to the clarity of the business plan, it was easy for me to explain to her what I wanted: something that looked cool, unique and clean, that would appeal to adults (they´re also the target group since they´re the ones that pay), with the idea of exploration and learning for life expressed in some way (which is why my logo has both a magnifying glass and an infinity sign in it).
I also started contacting a couple of directors at other schools, because I knew that since I no longer represented competition, I might be able to convince them to spread the word to other parents. That prooved to be a really good idea, and I now have what I call allies in the schoolworld: people who have loads of contacts with other families and who will help me in some way or another of letting people know about Explora.
One of them specifically said: “I really support your idea, it´s brilliant and it´s exactly what my students need. I will strongly recommend your project to all of my families – I don´t want to brag, but they usually pay attention to my recommendations.” YAY!!!
By February it struck me that renting a house for only three hours per day is kind of bad business. That´s when I decided that I would create two projects at the same time: In the mornings I´d have a small kindergarten running, and in the afternoons Explora. That would mean: two separate projects with separate budgets sharing the same facilities AND sharing many of the expenses (rent, maintenance, administration etc.).
In no time I had three new teachers to train, local girls that really wanted an opportunity like the one I was offering them, and I started training them on a weekly basis. (For Explora I already had four people in my mind, but I will write more about that in another post.)
I knew I was on the right track when three of my “old” families showed up and said “Your old school is going down the drain without you. Can´t you open up another kindergarten?”. And I realized it was actually a really good idea because I knew that I´d get inscription fees at an earlier stage than with Explora (simply because people don´t pay for extra-curricular activities until the semester starts) which would help me set up the facilities – wherever those would be…
The search for a place took forever, and I was focusing really hard on trust. Everything was flowing in such an amazing way, the house just had to exist. I just needed to find it. I knew I wanted a good house for the kindergarten, but for Explora I wanted land. Loads of land.
I was driving around searching every area. Small houses with no land. Huge houses with not even a garden. Huge chunks of land but no house. Found one perfect place but with owners unwilling to rent. Nothing. I started to get desperate. I was asking all my contacts. They came up with ideas, but nothing that would work for my projects. Not both simultaneously. Trust is really hard, especially when May is ending and I had been so sure I would have the house by then.
Mid-June, there it was! The perfect place: a huge house with two floors, one for the kinder and one for Explora. A small garden for the small kids, and two huge chunks of land for the older ones. And I mean: HUGE!!! Just the way I wanted them. One a little bit arid, but the other is really a small forest. Trees, tiny paths, a big rock to climb, rabbits… I mean: how could it get any better than that?
And all of this for a rent that is so low I can hardly believe it! Just because the house has been a burden to the owners and they´re so grateful that someone is going to take care of it.
The only catch: burglars had taken everything. And I mean everything: toilets, showers, and all the electricity cables including lamps, buttons – it was all gone.
So the rest of June and all July has had me busy dealing with electricians, plumbers, running around all over Puerto Escondido buying stuff I don´t even know what it´s called. Also ordering tables, chairs, curtains, matrasses, cushions and stuff that would make the kindergarten look inviting and cozy so that I´d be able to receive the little ones as from the 1st of August when the kindergarten summer camp would start.
That, I thought, would give me the entire month of August to focus on Explora.
This is where I stand today. In three days it´s time for kindergarten summer camp! And I have exactly ONE MONTH to turn Explora into what I want it to be: a welcoming creative environment that makes kids feel it´s the coolest place they´ve ever seen.
Ahead of me lies:
- Promotion (radio interviews, informational meetings, putting up posters and distributing flyers – material that has already been prepared – but not yet paid for…)
- Continue training my team of facilitators, now adding on the agile tools.
- Finding sponsors for kids from families that lacks the resources to enroll them.
- Cleaning the land, preparing games (kubb – yes!), making the facilities welcoming and functional.
- And, ideally finding a sponsor or someone that can lend me a 1000 USD which is what I need in order to be able to furnish the place.
I have no idea how I´ll be able to pull it off, money-wise that is. But I so trust that everything will sort itself out perfectly. The flow has been amazing ever since I decided to do this. On the other hand, I´ve never known from the beginning how I´ll succeed. I just do it. And that is part of the beauty of creating something new. I see things so clearly in my mind, I know so strongly what I want that I don´t let anything stop me: least my own fears. And step after step I figure out the way, and suddenly I´ve made it. My vision has manifested into reality through focus, clarity, perseverance, resilience and trust. Loads and loads of trust.