All Our Kin Teams Up with First Up for Business Series and Business Coaching Program

October 23, 2023 / 5 mins read

Kendra Thomas with AOK Business Series participants at their graduation dinner.

In All Our Kin’s technical assistance (TA) work, we get the opportunity to partner with inspiring organizations across the country doing innovative work to grow and bolster family child care (FCC) in their communities. In this edition of our ongoing series spotlighting TA partners, we spoke with Kendra Thomas, Manager of Family Child Care Initiatives at First Up, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering early childhood educators. First Up is the southeastern chapter of PennAEYC.

All Our Kin: Kendra, can you tell us about your role at First Up and the organization’s work?

Kendra Thomas: As the Manager of Family Child Care Initiatives, I have partnered with home-based child care (HBCC) educators for the past sixteen years. I actually came to this work first as a FCC educator myself. At First Up, our name embodies our core commitment to early educators and our belief that the first relationships in a child's life are crucial to healthy development. We have multiple programs, ranging from apprenticeships to QRIS coaching, and of course our HBCC services. In that work, we provide organizational development supports to the Family Child Care Advisory Council, which is a HBCC network.

AOK: Could you share about how First Up originally connected with All Our Kin for business programming and how we have collaborated?

KT: Several years ago, around 2018, I attended the BAS certification training at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. I met a woman there and when we shared our passion for family child care, she asked me if I had ever heard of All Our Kin. I was blown away by the fact that the entire organization's mission was to serve FCC educators. I found AOK’s business series curriculum online, which I saw as a way to raise the business acumen of HBCC educators.

I wish I had that knowledge when I ran my program because I didn’t understand what it really took to manage the business side. That’s the case with a lot of FCC educators – we have big hearts that want to take everybody in, but don't have the full scope of the business that we are embarking on until we get into it. First Up has now participated in the Business Series Train-the-Trainer and we just did your first Business Coaching Train-the-Trainer last month. We’re excited that we can extend the work that we do in the Business Series and develop a robust business coaching program.

AOK: What difference do you think it makes to partner with All Our Kin on business supports for FCC educators?

KT: In case you can't tell, I'm the poster child for All Our Kin’s Business Series! The curriculum is easy to follow. The activities are meaningful, relevant, and guide you step by step. It provides for reflective and thoughtful dialogue. Many of the educators in the course say, “why isn't everyone participating in this?”

First Up AOK Business Series graduate Jennifer Pearson-Mills shared this about her experience:

I love that I have a better understanding of things I didn’t know about, like space-time percentage…and all the policies that I need to put in place. I love that I am more motivated to complete my cash flow chart…and I love the new friends that I was able to have because of this class.”

AOK: What role do FCC educators play in the work of First Up?

KT: At the organizational level, we are involving FCC educators in strategic planning so they can help direct our HBCC services. FCC educators are involved with all of the training programs that we offer. With support from Vanguard’s Strong Start for Kids Program, we are able to provide organizational development support to the Family Child Care Advisory Council. This network is dedicated to providing peer networking to educators, promoting their leadership development, and educating our community about HBCC. My colleague April Solomon-Tate and I have supported them through the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) organization. We know that HBCC educators that operate financially sustainable businesses are less stressed, and are able to show up for the children and families in their care in ways that are meaningful and relevant.

AOK: What’s the vision of your team?

KT: The HBCC team at First Up has a vision to provide robust HBCC services, while also looking to unite all home-based educators in the Philadelphia region. We have provided guidance to the Family Child Care Advisory Council in forming a strategic alliance with another network, so we’re seeing some wonderful professional leadership and amazing educators that are part of networks coming together. We’re also focused on a NAFCC accreditation project that includes five other networks. We’re all looking to increase the quality of HBCC in the region.

AOK: Do you have an anecdote or story to share about the impact of First Up-All Our Kin work?

KT: One story that sticks out to me is related to the time-space percentage topic in the Business Series. Educators really enjoyed that particular class and started going back to their accountants asking very specific questions. One of the educators recounted that her accountant said, “Wait, how do you know all of this information?” The educators are so proud that they could now engage in conversations with their accountants. Educators no longer have to rely on an expert – they can talk apples to apples with their accountants.

We want to thank Kendra Thomas and her team at First Up for their partnership and participation in our Business technical assistance!