With just $20 and a vision from God, Giggles & Grins Learning Academy program director Rochanda Davidson overcame adversity to build her own business and legacy in her hometown of Huntsville.
Davidson was a single mom to three kids and drowning in bills, while also working three jobs to try and make ends meet.
“When I tell you that I was in the negatives, I was in the negatives. I had three kids, so I knew that I had to do something, because my kids were going into middle school and my goal was to be able to take care of them in college and for them to concentrate on their education, rather than working,” Davidson said.
In 2016, she was inspired by a vision from God to pursue opening her own daycare and, despite having no money to kick start the endeavor, wrote out her business plan, mapped a floor plan and completed a handbook for her business in just eight hours.
Davidson started Giggles & Grins Learning Academy in her living room with just $20 of start up money from her car payment. Setting out to find materials to start the home daycare, Davidson found a garage sale with everything she would need, and experienced one of many miracles from God, as the proprietor agreed to sell her everything for just her single $20 bill.
Before she could put in her two-weeks notice at her jobs, Davidson was already fully booked with 12 kids for the entire summer and was met with so much demand, that she eventually flipped the home entirely to function as a fully licensed daycare with a capacity of 25 kids.
“Still to this day, I have people that have been on my waiting list for two years,” Davidson said. “My kids do not leave, the only time my children leave is because they’re either moving, or they’ve aged out of the program.”
As the pandemic progressed, Davidson’s discussions with God led her to question her life’s legacy and inspired her to find a way to make a lasting impact in the community.
“My passion went back to being a teenage girl that didn’t have anybody to show her the way,” Davidson said.
Growing up in Huntsville, Davidson became a parent at 15 years-old and participated in a work program through Huntsville High School for teen moms. Through the program, she found her gift for childcare, while working at a daycare and has accumulated 30 years of experience in the industry.
Her mother, had similarly operated a daycare in their home when she was growing up, but no one prepared her for the steps of starting and growing her own business. Realizing that the traditional path of going to college and joining the workforce is not for everyone, Davidson set out to become the mentor she lacked in becoming an entrepreneur.
“I have no degree, I have a GED diploma, so there’s no way that I can make what I make at a regular job in Huntsville,” Davidson said, adding that she moved from making $800 a month at her regular job to $4,000-5,000 through her own business.
“They don’t really push entrepreneurship, but it is the new trend, and I want to be able to introduce to these kids another way,” Davidson said. “I do believe that God gives us all a passion that we can utilize in some type of way, whether it’s selling clothes, being an artist or a dog trainer, whatever it may be, God’s going to give you a passion if you just tap into it.”
Seeking growth while remembering where it all began, Davidson envisioned an event venue where she could start an outreach program for youth, to help them stay on the straight and narrow, experience structure and introduce them to college, tech school or entrepreneurship. She partnered with a realtor, who found a 7,000-square-foot building off of S Hwy. 30 in Huntsville that is large enough to make her vision come true, while also expanding her popular daycare business.
“This is the place that I used to come get food stamps from as a teen mother for over 20 years and I’ll be turning the key to the door,” Davidson said, watching construction workers inside the building finish the last leg of the remodel.
The new daycare, Giggles & Grins Little Scholars, is already at near full capacity for enrollment, while the event center and conference rooms are booked almost completely through the end of the year.
“I had not even put signs out until last week and posted on Facebook and now, I’m almost at full capacity,” Davidson said, adding that the daycare facility is estimated to cap at 80 to 90 kids.
“This is how I know that God has this all under control, because you talk about someone that does not have a degree, and it’s like he just gave it to me,” Davidson said. “If God gives it to me, I’m going to follow it through.”
The entrepreneur is passing the good will to her employees, who she hopes will follow their passion for kids to open their own daycares in the future and helps build them up to succeed. Davidson gave a full scholarship to one of her employees this year to get their director’s certificate in order to open their own daycare and hopes to continue providing the opportunity next year as well.
In the future, she hopes to partner with the school district to offer a work program for girls today balancing motherhood and to create an outreach program for kids starting at 11 years-old to inspire them to dream of paths outside of the norm, like entrepreneurship that they never thought possible.
“I want to be able to connect with the community and I hope they’re open to it because I can’t do it alone, I’m going to need everyone’s help. I definitely want to tap into these kids and win them back because I know it can be done, I’m just going to need some help,” Davidson said.
Giggles & Grins Little Scholars is located at 306 Hwy. 190 E. in Huntsville and is set to open August 3 for children ages six weeks to school age. Her home daycare, Giggles & Grins Learning Academy will remain open as a low cost option to families. For enrollment, call (936)714-9213.