Lori Jiannuzzi '99 (BBA)
Former USD Real Estate Student Opens Business, Fills Community Need
Walking into New Generations Learning Center, a day care facility in Scripps Ranch, the first thing you notice is that there is a lot going on. About 15 toddlers are eating turkey bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, sitting around a table together with their teachers. The preschoolers across the hallway are gathered around desks enthusiastically learning about shamrocks, and the infants are using baby sign language to signal they want more scrambled eggs.
At the center of the hubbub is Lori Jiannuzzi '99, eight months pregnant and seemingly handling a dozen different tasks at once. As founder and owner of New Generations Learning Center, Jiannuzzi has created what she set out to find after she delivered her first child—a day care center where she could feel comfortable leaving her own children.
Jiannuzzi will tell you she started her business out of necessity. After giving birth to her first child, Noah, in 2004, she got an itch to go back to work. "I was a mom who wanted to go back to work and couldn't find [adequate] childcare," she says. "I was disappointed with my selection. A lot of places are just babysitting until preschool. Children can learn so much sooner."
A USD grad with a bachelor's degree in business administration and emphases in real estate and finance, Jiannuzzi set out to create the day care provider she was looking for. After five years in the real estate industry as an underwriter, asset manager and real estate broker, Jiannuzzi brokered her own real estate deal to obtain the facility for her day-care center. Using a business plan she wrote during her senior year at USD for a class project as a template, she started making arrangements to start her own business. She spent the next two years getting licensed, navigating mazes of paperwork, researching child care systems and obtaining financing.
"I received an SBA loan on this project, in addition to mortgaging everything I've ever owned in my life," she says.
Hard work and a strong entrepreneurial drive is nothing new to Jiannuzzi. The daughter of factory workers from Ohio, Jiannuzzi is the first in her family to receive a bachelor's degree. A few years after finishing high school she moved to California, financed her education at a local junior college, and eventually at USD all on her own.
Now 13 years after starting at USD, Jiannuzzi and her staff are celebrating their one-year anniversary as a center. In addition to offering a progressive curriculum, the center also teaches the children Spanish. Each classroom is equipped with a large, flat-screen TV which doubles as a computer. Webcams can be found in every room of the building. Parents can log onto the center's Web site at any time of day to watch their children in action. The center also has an advanced security system that includes infra-red cameras, motion detectors and requires personal security codes to open every outside door.
The center has its own personal chef who prepares breakfast, lunch and snacks for the children, and makes home-baked bread, cakes, muffins and coffee for their parents every morning. In the afternoon, the chef bakes cookies or brownies for the parents to enjoy when they pick up their children. The center also offers a "Pick up your child and a dinner" option for parents who are too busy to cook.
Jiannuzzi hires only college graduates or those working towards their degree in education or child development. "It is important to create a career atmosphere if you want someone to come in here with a career mindset," she says. To attract the best staff members, the center offers benefits that many in the child-care industry do not receive. "I felt it was really important to offer paid school holidays plus two weeks paid time off, medical, dental, vision and a life insurance policy," Jiannuzzi says. "We are also working on a retirement savings plan with a company match."
After one year of operations, the center now has 75 students and has grossed over $500,000 in revenue. The infant and toddler programs are at capacity, and both have waiting lists. Looking into the future, Jiannuzzi hopes to expand her business to a second location. Despite the challenges of owning and expanding her own business Jiannuzzi says it has all been worth it. "I feel like I have the best job ever," she says.