Holly Flanders, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, spent her entire career in childcare and early childhood education, giving her lots of experience in helping families figure out their nanny and daycare needs. But when it came time to figure out her own childcare, she knew that she would need to branch out on her own to spend as much time as possible with her son. Enter Choice Parenting, where Holly offers personalized nanny placement and childcare coaching as well as a unique perspective on finding the right support that’s landed her spots on CBS and FOX news. We sat down with this Hudson County mama of 2 boys (5-year-old Parker and 3-year-old Hudson) to talk about how developing a relationship with her families gives her an edge above the rest, the challenges she faced during the early days of the pandemic, and the very cool Jersey City spot where she takes her boys to stop and smell the flowers.
featured photo via Claudia Paul
What was the spark that made you take the first step to own your own business?
I’d had a full and busy career that included working as a nanny, nanny trainer, director of children’s programming, and a director and headteacher at an early childhood learning center before opening Choice Parenting in 2014. I was ready to take the leap because I had started the adoption process for my son, Parker. I wanted the flexibility to spend a lot of time with him—launching an at-home business enabled me to do it. The idea came when I picked up on the need for personalized services, and I knew I could fill that need from my prior work experience and passion for helping families.
How is Choice Parenting different from other businesses that offer childcare services?
Most childcare service companies sell a specific type of service, be it daycare, nanny placement, au pairs, but Choice Parenting is much more personal. When I was working in NYC, I was a “parent coach,” helping families navigate everything when it came to their children. I researched daycare centers and preschools. I explored different drop-off solutions versus educational solutions. I toured schools and centers and reported back to parents to help choose the right place for them. I realized that there are so many different programs, and one is not necessarily better than another. It depends on what is most important to you, your needs, and your personal preferences. For a myriad of reasons, what fits one family doesn’t necessarily fit another. At Choice Parenting, I guide families in the same way as their “coach.” I get to know a family personally to help them figure out which options are the best ones to consider.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Before the pandemic, a good part of my business had been in nanny placements, so the first six months of it were incredibly daunting since nobody was comfortable having anyone else in their home. People were also very uncomfortable with dropping their children off at the daycares that were still open, so I started offering week-to-week nanny placements. I also was busy with many of my Hoboken and Jersey City clients. The pandemic prompted them to move to the suburbs for more space, so families had big decisions to make about their childcare situations during this time.
This past year has caused so much change and transition in households—a lot of my time was also spent coaching parents on how to navigate working from home with their childcare person and kids in one space. We talked about fair and reasonable solutions for a safe and healthy employment relationship. I don’t claim to be an expert in parenting, but this is a very emotional business, and a lot of hand-holding does occur. I have been a sounding board at times, the way a good friend would be, and I think this is helpful to many families.
When it comes to childcare, what is something you think every parent should know?
In all relationships, I firmly believe in the importance of sharing your expectations and communicating them. When this breaks down, things tend to fall apart fast. It is crucial to regularly communicate with your childcare provider instead of walking away or into another room. Right now, the pandemic is a constantly changing dialogue. Everyone has very different feelings about it, and talking things through is crucial for a healthy professional arrangement.
What are the biggest rewards and challenges of running your own business?
The best thing about running my own business has to be that I get to do something I’m passionate about while having a very flexible schedule. It allows me to spend a lot of quality time with my kids. The most challenging thing is the business behind the business. Every entrepreneur should consider the accounting, contracts, and all the other behind-the-scenes stuff you’re not passionate about but is a must to keep a business running smoothly.
Tell us about two or three of your favorite family spots in NJ.
Point Pleasant is a family favorite. I used to play volleyball there, so it has some wonderful memories for me. I love that the beach is relaxing and pretty quiet, yet there’s still plenty to do with the kids. We like walking and playing on the boardwalk, the food, and of course, Jenkinson’s. Closer to home, we love spending time at Ogden’s End Community Garden in Jersey City, playing and learning about flowers and how things grow. And the entire Hoboken Waterfront is a must for my boys—we go playground hopping there since the playgrounds are all so unique. Plus, it has the best views of NYC, great restaurants, a perfect breeze, and is the ideal setting to watch the boats go by.
What is the best piece of advice you would share with another NJMOMpreneur starting out?
You need to have a lot of grit to launch your own business, but don’t give up. Problems will arise, small failures will happen along the way, and you’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. But if you can persevere and learn to set boundaries, so you have enough down-time, too, it will be more than worth it.
For more information about Holly Flanders and Choice Parenting, check out her website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.