It only took a few years after graduation for Ashley Parkins to catch her big break.
With her human development and family studies degree from Penn State Altoona in hand, she began building her career in child care. When opportunity struck, she seized it – and it was right in her own backyard.
Now, the 25-year-old Richland High School alumna is a homeowner and a local business owner – and she said business is good.
In September, Ashley and her husband, Jake, 26, opened Little Peaches Child Development Center – formerly Daydreams Daycare. The couple bought the Budfield Street building in Richland Township – the chance was there and it wasn’t like the space had to be repurposed.
“I thought, ‘This is our chance. We need to jump on this,’ ” Jake said.
“We’re not going to get a chance like this again. We had to jump into it.”
Ashley said with her prior experience as the director of Small Miracles Child Care Center along Western Avenue and a passion for childhood development and care, it didn’t take long to grow her clientele – mainly through word-of-mouth and social media.
“We’re filling up pretty quick,” she said. Right now, Little Peaches has
38 children enrolled and applications are still rolling in. So are applications for employment.
Ashley said she currently employs seven caregivers. Nearly all have child care experience; one is a preschool teacher. The hours they keep don’t leave much room for competition: The day care is open Monday through Saturday from 6:15 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
She said the hours allow them to sign-up much more than the building capacity of 62 youngsters – Little Peaches is still accepting enrollment for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children.
“We have some nurses who work 12-hour shifts,” she said. “It seemed to be a good idea right now since we’re young and just starting out.”
Ashley said the all-day approach allows them to experiment with new services like “drop-off” care for parents who need to make a quick run to the grocery store.
“Something we want to start promoting is a ‘parents’ night out’, for parents to go out on dates (but aren’t enrolled at the day care),” she said.
“We’re going to have a room with a TV and a couch and a ‘comfy room’ for kids of all ages.
“You’re going to pay a babysitter $100 to watch the kids or you can pay us $30,” she said. “(We) have trained girls who watch kids all day.”
Ashley – or “Miss Ashley,” as the Little Peaches kids know her – said child care and development was always something she wanted to do. She spent her internship at Beginnings Inc. doing early intervention work – visiting low-income families at home and providing special instruction for children with speech or learning disabilities.
That was around the time she and Jake, a high school friend, started dating. They married and now have a 7-month-old daughter.
With Jake as an unofficial partner and general repairman, and the couple’s daughter joining Ashley at work every day, Little Peaches is very much a family affair.
“We wanted to stay in Johns-town,” she said. “I like that we’re a small town but we do have a lot of stuff going on here too. It’s not too small that you know everybody… I have all these friends and people who know us - that know our name. They send us new clients.”
Jake said he hasn’t given any thought to living elsewhere – especially since his family owns Fi-Hoff Concrete.
He earned a business management degree from West Virginia University in 2009 before returning to the area and eventually becoming a sales manager in the family company.
“I grew up here. I’ve always loved being in such a tight-knit community,” he said. “We have a bunch of big city opportunities here but we don’t have the traffic.
“And it’s nice to know your neighbor.”
This story is part of a continuing series featuring young professionals who decided to build their careers in the region. If you would like to submit a local professional to be featured in this series, email their contact information to JDennis@TribDem. com. Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/ JustinDennis.