We decided to change our Small Business Saturday features to Small Business Love because they should be celebrated everyday of the week, not just Saturdays! Up this week is Playgroup North Shore!
You may have caught one of the sensory play posts we’ve shared from Playgroup, but rarely do you see the women behind the business. After sharing one of their posts recently co-owner Arta Gjota reached out to us to say thank you. When we say that she is one of the most gracious & kind people that we’ve encountered, it’s no exaggeration. Her students are very lucky kiddos! Arta and her partner Nita Gjota have created a warm and fun learning environment and made safety a top priority this year. These women are passionate about what they do and truly do what they love- teach. We caught up with co-owner Arta to learn a little more about how they got started, how they’re handling the changing times, and what they see for the future.
How did you get started?
In college I studied early childhood development and child psychology and worked as a nanny for wonderful families across the city and suburbs. In 2014, my sister and I opened a daycare/preschool in Chicago and ran it together for 6 years! It was a very successful program and met many great families throughout the years. Long story short, a year ago I realized that the daycare model was taking a toll on my personal life as I was working 15 hours a day. Regardless of the many employees we had, it was always very difficult for me to find a good balance between work and my personal life. I realized that the daycare model was no longer what I wanted in life, but teaching was still very much a passion!! So I came up with a plan that would allow me to still do what I love most, and also take time to focus on my personal goals. and that’s how Playgroup North Shore was formed. Instead of continuing with the daycare system, I knew I’d be a happier person if I opened a program that offers morning and afternoon classes without the commitment of full day care! One of the best decisions of my life!
What makes your business really shine within the industry?
Unlike most other early childhood programs, our program has two owners who are hands on and involved on a daily basis! We’re also teachers in the program, and have really high standards regarding social and education enrichment for young children!
This has been such a tough year for small businesses. What are a ways you’ve had to pivot or adjust with the restrictions, and more importantly, what have you found that works well?
It definitely has been tough, but we make it work! The first thing we did when the pandemic started was listen and learn from the experts! We believe in science wholeheartedly, and we value all the men and women who have dedicated their lives to science, research, medicine, etc. Since day one we have planned according to what health experts recommend and we follow all the CDC recommendations and protocols. Throughout the pandemic, we will keep our students in pods (5 kids/pod) and separated by more than 10 feet. We have a very large space and this helps a ton with separating the pods! Planning ahead and creating good strategies is really what helps us make everything possible! Like many people, my partner and I have also made a lot of changes in our personal lives due to the pandemic and making sure we behave responsibly outside of the classroom to make sure we don’t get infected and then bring the infections to the children. It’s all about choices, and we choose to run our program safely over our own personal needs and wants. Covid19 is obviously a nasty virus, but it’s very much possible to live with it if everyone on board understands what social distancing means and appreciates the difference masks have made! We’ve been running programs since April, and thankfully 0 cases so far!
Tell us who or what inspires you!
I love this question because I recently realized who my biggest inspiration is! My students!!! They’re truly the best, and it is them who has made the biggest difference in my life! I’ve spent the last 10 years teaching and caring for young children, and as much as I have taught my students throughout the years, they have also taught me a lot and in many different ways! They’ve made a difference in my professional and personal life. It’s my students who have allowed me to gain more experience, build confidence, and encourage me to keep up with early development!
You set up the most creative sensory play for the kiddos! It must come naturally- Have you always wanted to work with children?
Sensory play is one of my favorites! Most sensory activities don’t involve toys, and that’s what I love about it! Sensory activities are also therapeutic, and help children cope with their feelings. In college I realized how much I loved the science behind human development, particularly child development. That’s when I realized I would be super happy working in a classroom with young children!
Time to get personal- what are you reading, watching and listening to currently? (for fun- because we all need a little fun in 2020!)
I love reading!!! It’s one of my favorite things to do and has helped me a lot with the stress the pandmeic has created. I love reading about current events, anything to do with science, and child development. I also started reading the True Blood series! hahahaha. I’ve been a bit obsessed with watching documentaries about the solar system , and listening to 90s music as I’m not really digging today’s music options. Lol.
How did you end up choosing the North Shore as the location for Playgroup?
I used to work as a nanny in the North Shore and still keep in touch with some of the families! One of the families lives in Glencoe, and that definitely helped me choose our location. I was also interested in a community that doesn’t rely on daycare programs and the village of Glencoe was really great and easy to work with. They were very welcoming and approved our program within 24 hours! There’s a strong sense of community in the area that we liked.
What do you hope for the future of your business?
What I hope is to simply make a meaningful difference in people’s lives! We have so much to offer, and we want to share this with the community! We’re dedicated, committed, hands on and believe in high standards. The quality of the program is our number one priority and we hope to continue showing families that!