In society, there are people who see a need, but complain and do nothing creating a way to fulfill it; then there are those who take action and do something about it. Gabrielle Alvarado of Dez n’ Elle’s Playhouse off of Old 41 Cobb Parkway and Blue Springs Road in Acworth is such a person.
One major thing I was struck with is how she has seamlessly integrated into business her passion for people, especially those with special needs. Let me explain how she walks the walk and implements what she considers the core and heart of her business and passion.
Gabrielle was born in the Philippines, but came from a multicultural background – Chinese, Filipino and Spanish to be exact. She was raised in the Middle East, in Abu Dhabi / Dubai, the Emirates, and calls it home. She came to the USA in 2012, moving to Kennesaw in 2015 and enrolled in SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) to pursue Fashion Marketing and Management.
While still at SCAD, she bought and owned a franchise that offered youth sports ancillary to a daycare, which gave her the chance to learn the day care business. She also got married and had a son, CJ.
Now a working mom, Gabrielle wanted a safe place of inclusion where they cared for her son CJ. However, she was not satisfied with the daycare centers he was enrolled in. There were some components that were missing and fueled her desire to create a place that she envisioned.
She took matters into her hands to remedy a situation she felt was missing. Seeing the need for a place to serve children and parents that day cares were not providing, the Playhouse was birthed.
She wanted to provide a place where the parents or caregiver could simply drop off their child to run errands or take a needed break from their child / children on a drop-in basis. Couples, single parents, foster parents, or grandparents, she finds the need for this service high.
However, what makes the Playhouse very unique and separates it from other daycare or drop off places is that special needs young adults and children are accepted as well. She has managed to foster a place where all treat each other with respect and without any discrimination.
Goodwill has reached out with a 20 year old young man who has special needs and the Playhouse is giving him a chance to work with children. Even though he was bullied at school, at the Playhouse, the children accept him the way he is. This helps him to relax and open up more. Goodwill has been impressed with his transformation and looking to place a few more special needs youth. It has been a win-win situation.
Gabrielle is very picky about who she hires, finding those who can interact and play with children all day. She says, “It is not
only about the cleanliness and safety of the facility, but how the children can bond with the caregivers.”
Over 250 families have used her service at The Playhouse to date. Many families indicated that her service has saved their marriage, since they were able to go on date nights because of her business model. Just a respite helped many more parents gain clarity to get through their days.
Good feedback and observation has given her ideas to improve and better serve her community of parents and caregivers. One such new service she will be implementing is starting in January; she will provide a drop off and pick up before and after school service. Also, the Playhouse offers to stay open till midnights on Fridays and Saturdays.
So far she has four ‘play experts’, but is looking to hire more. However, she is seriously looking for someone who can run the business together as a co-partner or even as a manager. There are others who have seen her model and would like to buy her system as a franchise, but she needs solid help before she can expand and further serve other communities.
Her passion and desire to help others has recently extended to joining the KBA Communications Team to further share her valuable time and social media skills to support the growth of our members’ businesses.
I asked her favorite word and after pondering for few seconds, she calmly said, “ ‘Ora et Labora’ which translates into ‘Pray and Work’. This was ingrained in me”.
In closing, I asked her vision. She enthusiastically stated, “I would like it to be a hub for any caregivers. Anyone who has children: parents, grandparents, single moms/dads, people who adopt, fosters… anyone who has children in their life. It’s their hub and a safe place to ask for help when they need childcare. Also to come and network with other people who are in similar situations.”
As the well-known saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Well, Gabrielle has created a place where “it takes a community to raise a child & support the caregiver.”
Parents are welcome to drop off a child, participate in Single Mom Night or join the Playhouse staff as a Play Specialist or even have solid advice and guidance to partner in growing her business. I highly recommend you reach out to this amazing friend of mine. By supporting her business, you directly and indirectly will be supporting your community.
By Nadja Cook | Virtually in Focus | Communication Team