Photos by Keeley Smith.
One year ago, the owner of Kidworks Children’s Center, Dinuka Ranasinghe was overwhelmed.
She found herself at a crossroads: how could she provide the quality preschool and daycare environment desired for the business she’d owned since 2008, while also ensuring affordability for every parent and child her little school served?
“Owning and operating a business was a huge learning curve,” said Ranasinghe, amid the usual cries of joy and daycare noises emanating from the classrooms of the daycare, located off of Broadway in Belmont Heights. Over the years, her husband began donating to the business to keep it afloat.
“Little by little, it was just going under,” Ranasinghe said.
Ranasinghe, who is a trained lawyer, passed the New York bar, and had spent a large portion of her career as a legal recruiter in London, Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles was finding that application of business logic to her passion project easier said than done.
Enter Long Beach City College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Ranasinghe said she spent many months in phone calls with experts from the center, who eventually helped her steer the business back on track. The simple solution?
Raising the rates.
Ranasinghe said she raised her monthly fee from $750 a month per student to $995 a month—a 25 percent increase informed by market research.
“I gave parents eight months of notice of the price change, because I was so worried parents couldn’t afford it, and I wanted to give them enough time,” Ranasinghe said. “Do you know that not one family left?"
The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and the City of Los Angeles recognized her business’ recovery, awarding her the Shaun Lumachi Rising Star Award and a “2016 Outstanding Small Business Award” from Mayor Garcetti, as recommended by the SBDC.
And so the Sri Lanka and Hong Kong-bred Ranasinghe is looking forward to the future of her business, as well as having the means to enhance the play-based learning center’s amenities.
It’s been a long road for Ranasinghe, who met her husband in New York and decided to focus more on her passions when she moved to Long Beach.
“I decided I wanted to wake up in the morning and really enjoy what I’m doing,” she told the Post.
Since acquiring Kid Works, which employs some teachers who have worked there over 15 years through various owners, Ranasinghe said the daily hubbub of the center has become her “white noise.” Silence makes her uncomfortable now, she says—a far cry from her days as a legal recruiter, which required marking off a streamlined series of boxes and coordinating lunches to wine and dine potential contacts.
Given her business’ revolutionized approach toward the future, Ranasinghe said she’s most excited about upgrading the business’ current facilities and forging ahead, wearing the “many hats” she sports in her current position.
“It’s so interesting and constantly evolving,” she said. “Also owning a business and running a business is unique. I learned the hard way.”