Penny Dale-McCant built a childcare model — and a $4 million expansion of her KD Academy brand with her husband, Myron McCant — unlike anything else in the region, she said. Today, however, the center serves only a third of its intended capacity: a product of pandemic trends that have limited staffing.
“I’m just proud of our business,” Dale-McCant said, staying positive about the years-long dream that culminated with KD Academy’s opening in 2021. “I’m happy that we have just reached this point. But a lot of times, you know, it’s a struggle because it’s taxing on you, but it’s still ours. And I think about all the babies and I think about the parents. That’s what keeps me going, my babies and them being happy to see us.”
The 24/7 dream facility on Prospect Avenue was designed entirely online because of the pandemic by Kansas City-based architecture and interior designer Hoefer Welker and local general contractor Centric Projects. It’s headline-grabbing selling point for parents: overnight care.
KD Academy gives parents peace of mind when they’re working the night shift that their children have a safe and supervised place to sleep, the McCants said. The children are given a meal before they go to sleep and a snack in the morning before they’re picked up.
About 60 children are currently on KD Academy’s waitlist, Myron McCant said.
“I’m limited by state ratios in terms of how many students I can have,” he said. “I gotta have so many staff per student ratio, right. We turn away families every day.”
With big box corporations like Walmart and Target offering more competitive pay, small businesses are struggling to keep up with compensation, incentives and benefits, McCant said, emphasizing the pandemic has proven a difficult challenge even with KD Academy’s two other established metro locations.
Still, the duo is grateful the Prospect center is open and meeting the needs it can. Childcare is a huge burden for many figuring out how to work from home with their children running around or making the choice to put major finances into daycare or other education facilities, they said.
Click here to read more about KD Academy’s journey to opening.
“My wife and I, we worked and we worked and we worked,” McCant said, expressing pride in the planning and execution needed to bring KD Academy to life. “We watched our spending and we saved, and we saved and we saved until we got into a good position. We never had an investor and we don’t have any debt.”
And they aren’t done expanding. KD Academy is raising capital to finish its space and lease it to a pediatric healthcare and dentistry business. These services would not only be available for their students, but also to the community.
“We serve children here and they sometimes have ear infections, they need shot records and a lot of times they can’t start,” McCant said. “Or the bigger problem is, Mom has to take off from work. So she misses work, she doesn’t get paid, she loses wages, and she owes daycare. So we saw that as a problem. So we thought, when we build our own facility, we would build space to lease to the healthcare industry.”
The McCants are empathetic as parents and grandparents themselves, they said. Many parents use the public transportation system to get to their doctors, work, the grocery store and other necessary places. It’s a long day to travel by bus to Children’s Mercy or Swope Health. It’s exhausting and financially debilitating for families on Kansas City’s east side, they said.
“Our objective and purpose is to create accessibility and create convenience,” McCant said. “Create that space right here where it’s accessible to them, and it helps mediate their transportation issues, [and] helps to mitigate their workforce issues.”
A daycare-healthcare-dentistry-center has perhaps been developed before, but it does appear unique to singles or couples without children, he said.
“It’s not anything that I think is genius,” McCant said. “I think it’s just identifying a problem, and creating the solution. And that’s how I’ve always looked at business.”
As active and present co-owners at KD Academy, the McCants make sure to visit their students in each classroom and communicate with parents regularly, they said.
“[Penny] is by and large a foot soldier,” McCant said. “She is always in the classroom. She’s always engaged with the staff. And my deal is business development and expansion. And so, we have two different modes of operation, but we work together.”
Click here to learn more about KD Academy.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.