Editor’s note: A version of this story also appears in the 2017 Wells Fargo Annual Report.
Time was running out for Prabha Sanjay to fulfill her dream of opening a Montessori-based preschool large enough to meet the community’s demand for her education services.
It was 2009, and even though her company, Odyssey Preschool, had been open for less than a year, positive word-of-mouth from parents had resulted in a waiting list of new students for the small, in-home day care in Foster City, California.
She needed more space but lacked the financing to secure a commercial building to accommodate additional students. The lenders she had met with were unwilling to provide additional funding due to a previous loan rate modification on her home mortgage.
“When I was ready to expand my business, many banks wouldn’t even talk with us because of the loan modification on my credit history,” she said. “But when we met with Paveli Roy, the business relationship manager at Wells Fargo, she personally spoke to us and saw the potential for our success. Without Wells Fargo, I don’t know what I would have done … and it means everything to me.”
Helping customers ‘make their dreams a reality’
The two began working together to develop a plan to obtain financing for the expansion of Odyssey Preschool. The first step was a secured business credit card from Wells Fargo to pay for day-to-day business needs and help strengthen her credit profile. Then they worked to refine Odyssey’s business plan, providing a path forward for the company’s success and helping to build the case for financing a business loan and line of credit, despite her credit issues.
“When you meet with business owners who are so passionate about what they do, that rubs off on you, and you become an advocate for helping make their dreams a reality,” said the business relationship manager. “That was the case with Prabha from our very first meeting. When she said to me, ‘We need help now!’ I knew Wells Fargo could find a way to keep their small business journey moving forward.”
The business plan was a success, and a loan for $100,000 was approved, which allowed Odyssey Preschool to relocate to a commercial location and cover the cost to update the building to meet the needs of a larger-scale child care facility.
“My business really took off at that point, and there was no looking back,” Odyssey’s owner recalled. “I’m in this business today because of Wells Fargo.”
Today, Odyssey Preschool cares for 130 children ages 18 months to 6 years old and employs 20 teachers from China, India, Spain, and the U.S.
The young students at Odyssey, 90 percent of whom are immigrants, learn through language-immersion programs, including Spanish, Hindi, and Mandarin. In addition, Montessori teaching methods, which value the human spirit and the development of the “whole child” — physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively — allow the children to explore their natural eagerness for knowledge.
“Early childhood education is such an important part of the growth of a human being,” she said. “This is when kids are like sponges, absorbing everything around them, which is why the environment they learn in is so important. And that’s where our name came from — Odyssey Preschool — because it’s all about the journey.”
Stepping in to ‘meet the community’s need’
Prabha Sanjay grew up in Bangalore, India, and moved to the U.S. with her husband in 1996. She raised their two children as a stay-at-home mom, but once the kids were in middle school, she felt it was time to pursue her passion — early childhood education.
“Being an immigrant myself, I realized that there was a need to improve inclusion in preschools, with the goal of helping young children connect culturally,” she said.
After going back to school for her early education degree and working at a local preschool, she ventured out on her own. And since its opening, Odyssey Preschool has become known in the local community for its inclusive, culturally diverse teaching methods.
That strong reputation and the resulting success have her business expanding once again.
Through a U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan from Wells Fargo, Odyssey Preschool will soon open a second location in Palo Alto, California, that will support more than 50 additional students.
“With a shortage of high-quality toddler care, it’s extremely rewarding to know that we have stepped in to meet the community’s need,” she said. “They entrust their children to Odyssey, and that is just so fulfilling at the end of the day.”