LINCOLN HEIGHTS, Ohio — LaToya Lindsay had a 2-year-old and a new baby and was struggling to find a child care provider she trusted so she could go back to work.
That’s when she met Tara “Nikki” Holland at church. Holland told Lindsay that she was planning to start a home-based daycare, and Lindsay promised to be her first client.
“I found Ms. Nikki to be very trustworthy,” Lindsay said. “The children here, they get the same love and care that they would get at home from their parents. To me, she’s a grandmother to my children.”
For Holland, the role of Tara’s Tiny Tots Childcare is even bigger. She views her business as a critical part of building a stronger Lincoln Heights, the village where she grew up and where her business is located.
“These children are so talented and so smart, and they just need a place where they know that they can get everything that they need,” Holland said. “We want to prepare them for preschool. That’s our job.”
Making sure the children of Lincoln Heights are prepared to succeed in school is vital to helping return the small village to its former glory, said Brandon Woodard, Holland’s son and the assistant director of Tara’s Tiny Tots. Woodard also is a member of The Heights Movement, a group of young professionals with ties to Lincoln Heights who are helping the village work its way back to the glory of its past.
“What would it look like for us to create a pipeline for our kids, from birth all the way until high school, to have an opportunity to have quality education and have people around them to help build them up, expose them, launch them out, where they can go to college, trade school, military but then come back and invest,” Woodard said. “So this business is crucial.”
Tara’s Tiny Tots does more than keep kids safe while their parents are at work. The child care center requires all of its teachers to make at least two observations about each child’s development each day. The center also keeps track of each child’s progress in files that it shares with schools once the kids start attending preschool and kindergarten, Woodard said.
“Our tagline is, we want to build unbreakable foundations for kids,” he said. “We get to impact the lives of people one family at a time, one child at a time. If we can do that, if we can build unbreakable foundations in our kids, then the sky’s the limit.”
‘Nothing but love’
Lincoln Heights Vice Mayor Jeannie Stinson said Holland’s business is critically important to the growth and success of the village.
“It allows families to be able to go to work and leave their children with somebody they can trust that’s going to give their children strong values about our community,” Stinson said. “Right now Lincoln Heights is growing, and there’s so many opportunities out there for our young people. What Ms. Nikki does at her Tara’s Tiny Tots is she grooms our children to want to give back to the community in a positive way, and we love it.”
Holland’s path to becoming a child care provider was anything but direct.
She started her career working for clinical research companies in the 1990s but was always intrigued by the idea of operating a daycare.
Her mother left a corporate job to start an in-home daycare after Holland had her first son, and she operated it for about 20 years in Lincoln Heights.
“I was always her support, her backup,” Holland said. “I got a chance to spend time with the kids, and watching those kids get the same thing I got when I was a kid. It just kind of excited me.”
Still, Holland said, she continued trying to “stay in corporate America, climb the ladder.”
“I really loved my job,” she added.
But she finally decided that being a childcare provider was her calling, she said. Holland got the training she needed and became certified in July 2011. She left her job in December of that year and started Tara’s Tiny Tots with Lindsay and her two children as her first customers.
Now those children are 10 and 8 years old, and Lindsay’s youngest child, a 2-year-old daughter, stays at Tara’s Tiny Tots during the week while Lindsay works. All three children, Lindsay said, refer to Holland as “Nana.”
“It’s definitely nothing but love here,” Lindsay said. “She’s like a grandmother to all the children that come here.”
‘Be the example for your kid’
Holland started her business small and was authorized to care for only six children per shift. She operates all night when necessary for parents with second- and third-shift jobs.
She got a permit to operate a bigger childcare operation in 2017 and now can care for 12 children per shift. Holland hired her first employee in 2017, and now Tara’s Tiny Tots employs five people total. It also has earned three stars in the state of Ohio’s Step Up to Quality rating system.
“I think we do an awesome job for the young women in the community,” Holland said. “A lot of them are struggling to, you know, find jobs because they don’t have child care. Some want to go to school, and they don’t have child care.”
Holland wants to give those young moms the opportunity to thrive by providing a place for their kids to be safe and loved, she said. She also gives those parents support when they need it with pep talks like this:
“Who says you can’t do that? Yes you can. You can go to work. You can go to school, and you can trust and believe that your baby is here with us and being well taken care of. He’s learning just like you,” Holland said. “You have to be the example for your kid. And if it takes me having to be the example for you, so be it.”
Holland has such good relationships with the parents she serves that she will even pick up their school-aged children from school if they get sick or get into trouble.
“I did not have to worry about going to the school if someone got in trouble or something,” Lindsay said. “I literally could depend on Ms. Nikki to go and take care of the situation. She would tell me out of her mouth, ‘You will stay at work. I will go to the school.’”
Even now that Lindsay and her husband have moved away from Lincoln Heights to Finneytown, Lindsay said she still counts on Holland for child care.
“I honestly don’t know where I would be without the daycare,” she said. “It’s been a true blessing for my family.”
If Holland and Woodard have their way, Tara’s Tiny Tots will bless a lot more. They’re hoping to expand the business into a bigger location as soon as they can find one.
“We want to expand because there’s a need,” Woodard added. “Every month, we turn down probably ten to 15 families because we just don’t have the space.”
Holland said she’s eager to grow the business, as long as she can keep it in Lincoln Heights.
“Once we get the building, we’re running,” she said. “It’s off to the races.”
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for more than 20 years. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.