Raji Sridhara turned a personal loss into an opportunity to help children and families in her community. When she lost her job in California’s tech industry, Raji and her husband Ravi decided to tackle an issue that many mixed-income Bay Area families face, the lack of affordable, quality early childhood education. They started Little Genius Montessori, a pre-school program that offers a Montessori education at rates that low- to moderate-income families can afford.
When the demand for the program quickly outgrew the space available in the Sridhara’s home, Little Genius Montessori relocated to a more spacious facility in Dublin, CA, a move that was expensive and required financing. Banks wouldn’t lend to the unproven business but one referred them to Working Solutions, a CDFI that provides Bay Area entrepreneurs with capital and resources to start or grow successful businesses.
Working Solutions provided a $25,000 microloan for equipment upgrades, marketing, and working capital. “We were able to use the loan to improve our school,” says Raji. “I am proud that now we can bring our Montessori program to even more families from diverse economic backgrounds.” Raji and Ravi have since expanded Little Genius Montessori to a second location in Antioch. They’ve also opened a third non-Montessori childcare center in Marin.
In addition to offering a first rate early childhood program, which lays the foundation for a child’s success in school and in life, the couple has created 11 jobs to help serve the more than 80 children who attend Little Genius Montessori. It’s a win/win for Raji and Ravi, the families in their area, and the community in which they all live.
“I didn’t go into this thinking about opening a business or creating jobs. I went into Montessori because it’s my passion. The rest is an added benefit!” —Raji
(Date of loan: 2014. Date of story publication: 2014)