Stay up to date on the latest projects, news, and happenings in our city by subscribing to our quarterly e-newsletter.
Pasadena Cares for Small Businesses
14 Jul 2021
For the past year, various government entities and economic development corporations have sought to provide assistance to small businesses across the country to combat the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. The Pasadena Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) was able to do that with over 168 small businesses in the Pasadena area through the Pasadena Loves Local Initiative. One of the businesses selected through a lottery process to receive a grant was the Pals Activity Center, a childcare center in Pasadena. It serves children from six-weeks old to 13 years of age with a daycare, preschool and pre-K, with the ability to pick up from Pasadena ISD schools.
Pals has been part of the Pasadena community for over 30 years, but Deepa Rao and her family took over in 2018. Deepa owns and manages the childcare center, drawing on her experience in Healthcare Management before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
“My father knew the previous owner and I love children, so when the opportunity presented itself, we took the leap,” said Rao. “All our staff worked with Pals prior to us purchasing, so their experience has helped me learn the business.”
As with so many other businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic proved 2020 to be a difficult year for Pals. Rao said she was extremely appreciative of the $1,000 grant Pals received from the City at the end of 2020.
“We were able to put that towards year-end bonuses for our staff,” said Rao. “Employee turnover is very tough to deal with in the childcare industry, so that was very helpful.”
While they never had to close down due to the pandemic, they did struggle with having enough kids to make ends meet. Rao said for her business to be successful, the first priority is to get kids what they need. But from a business perspective, they do need a certain number of kids enrolled to pay their employees and buy supplies.
“I completely understand that when parents cannot work, one of the first expenses to go is child care,” said Rao. “Even once more time passed, there was still the fear of the unknown, being afraid to send kids anywhere outside of the home.”
Pals focused on having the right plans in place, such as drop-off and pick-up procedures, wellness checks, and more rigorous sanitation and disinfection practices, such as cleaning twice per day in addition to specific cleaning occurrences throughout the day.
“Kids have always been putting toys in their mouths, so we have always focused on cleaning,” said Rao. “But I thought we were very fortunate that our families are very honest, keeping their kids home until they got a negative test to keep our community safe.”
Rao said Pasadena is a great community, with sincere, genuine families that are hard-working and have a great sense of community. The grant program was just one example of the city working for small businesses.
“In general, small businesses do not have the deep pockets like large corporations and need more guidance for operations in general,” she said. “We do what we need to make ends meet and learn through that experience, so assistance from groups like the Pasadena EDC is very helpful.”
With the pandemic further in the past each day, Rao feels like she can again focus on the future. Her previous management experience has helped her with running the business-side of Pals and she has continued to learn the childcare-specific segments with the help of her staff. Now, she can focus on including more marketing of her business to create more of a digital presence to increase enrollment. And getting back to more of the typical in-person events for families will help.
“We want to get back to the activities we used to do, like holding an Open House or a Back-to-School Carnival,” said Rao. “It feels good to get back to normal again.”
Pals activity Center can be found at 1007 Burke Rd., Pasadena and staff are available to provide more information at 713-472-6040.