Selling Her Startup
Childcare Owner turns seed money into serious cash
There are a number of reasons as to why someone decides to purchase their own business. Some are looking for a career change, others want an investment to earn extra income. For Amber Cushman, she wanted to provide high quality child care at an affordable cost. In May 2010 she purchased Tiny Town USA in La Vista for $100,000. Five years later she sold it for $395,000; nearly 400% Return on Investment.
Her road to success didn’t veer far from her passion. She said she has always enjoyed working with children, and as early as age 16 worked in different positions for Papillion La Vista Schools’ after school programs. Amber’s sister, Neena Chase, followed a similar path that led her to the position of Director at Tiny Town, which is how Amber learned that the daycare was soon to be for sale.
Amber was nine months pregnant with her daughter when she bought Tiny Town, but that didn’t stop her from diving in. “I felt that all children, no matter their economic demographic, deserved to have the same opportunity to be in a safe, loving environment where they can learn,” Amber said. When she and Neena took over the center, it was only ¼ full with 43 children. Five years later enrollment had grown to 121 children. “I was really proud of that,” she added.
Child care centers typically endure a lot of turnover with employees, pay minimum wage, and don’t offer many benefits or perks. Some of the ways they rewarded employees for their hard work was by buying the staff pizza, handing out gift cards, and even giving them two 10-minute breaks throughout the day. “Allowing employees to take a mental breather from any situation really helped the staff quite a bit,” Amber said. Having happy employees resulted in having more kids enroll at the center. “Most of the contact parents have is with the child’s teacher. If that teacher is happy, loves their job, and believes in the center, then they are going to relay that to the parents. And when parents are happy, then word of mouth results in more students enrolled.”
"I learned so much during the sales process, that I'm hoping to take what I earned and reinvest it in a new opportunity."
- Amber Cushman
As with any business, social media is another tricky area to navigate. Amber said she taught all of the employees about public presentation and how to address comments posted to social media, whether positive or negative. She also insisted that any issues between employees be resolved immediately and in person.
Amber’s success with Tiny Town led her to think about expansion. However, her personal life took a turn when her husband’s grandparents fell ill. They needed 24-hour care, and Amber started spending more of her time helping them and away from the center. She eventually made the difficult decision to sell Tiny Town. “It was my baby, and leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done emotionally,” she said.
She worked with The Firm to find a buyer, which Amber said was a very streamlined process. “Working with The Firm made it so easy. In today’s world, it’s hard to find a business with true integrity, and that’s exactly what The Firm has.” The sale took almost a year because Amber wanted to make sure she found the right fit for Tiny Town. She turned down a few offers (even full price) until she found someone she felt shared her vision and passion. It turned out to be a group of female partners, all with backgrounds in education, so Amber said their interests really aligned with hers. Post-close Neena stayed on as Director at Tiny Town, and Amber said her sister was happy with the transition as well.
"I knew The Firm worked hard for me during my sale of Tiny Town, I just didn't know how hard they work for every transaction they do."
- Amber Cushman
As much as Amber loved working in child care, she wanted to explore opportunities that would enable her to spend more time with her family. After having a number of conversations with team members at The Firm, she realized she could reinvest her money in a new business that could potentially earn her an even greater income.
“I learned so much during the sale process,” she said. “I’m hoping to take what I earned and reinvest it in a new opportunity.” On a typical business purchase, the buyer puts 10-15% cash down. Since Amber sold Tiny Town for $395,000, that gives her enough money to buy a new business with a purchase price in the neighborhood of $3 million. That type of reinvestment is in line with the philosophy of making your money work for you; a company with a 3 million dollar price tag should profit almost $1,000,000 annually.
But taking that next leap is a big endeavor, and Amber wants to make sure it’s once again the right fit. Her experience with the sale of Tiny Town inspired her in another way: she wanted to help others interested in buying and selling a business. As a result, she joined The Firm as a way to find and connect potential buyers and sellers as well as keep as eye out for that next opportunity for herself. “It just seemed like a natural transition from where I was, to where I want to go,” Amber explains.
Even though she experienced the sale of a business first-hand, Amber said watching how it’s done on the inside is even more fascinating and unbelievable the amount of work that must be done on each deal. “I knew The Firm worked hard for me during my sale of Tiny Town, I just didn’t know how hard they worked for every transaction they do,” she said. “Now that I’m on the ‘inside,’ what I admire most is how the entire team fights to beat their previous record and make themselves better than they were the day before.”
Working for The Firm enables Amber to have a first look at businesses that come up for sale, but she said it’s also difficult not to want them all. She enjoys working for a company that doesn’t compare itself to others, since it’s already the prominent business brokerage in the State. “It’s incredible to see how the entire team shares the same mission,” she boasts. “And that’s to provide a win-win for all of their clients.”
The Firm Deal Review
Reason for Sale: Opportunity for a second chapter
Childcare Capacity: 125
Startup Funds: $30,000 in seed money; sold for more than 16x initial investment
Type of Sale: Asset Purchase Agreement