We first opened our doors in 1983. At the time there were mostly fields in every direction and very few houses. Since then, Columbia has obviously grown and so too have we. Owner Debra Renz describes it as quite the experience:
“I started this school because I had a degree in Family & Child Development. My grandmother died and left me $10,000. I wanted to have my own preschool and that became my down payment for some land and the front area of the building. My sister was my partner. Shortly after opening the doors, however, her husband was transferred out of state. This left me with little help, a tiny enrollment, no business experience, and a young daughter aged three.
"I spent so many years struggling to make ends meet.
Keeping collectors at a distance and avoiding foreclosure was an unavoidable worry. At one point when I didn't have enough to pay for the playground equipment I'd gone out onto a limb to have, I just threw my arms up in the air and told the collectors: ‘You just have to trust me. I will get this paid.’ ...and they did. All the hard work (16 hour days) and a level of luck I'll never be able to quantify allowed me to get through those years of hardship.
"What’s meaningful to me now is when those students from the early years return to the school to say hello and talk about the successes they now have in their lives. It is always difficult in a competitive world. But staying current in the field and delivering such a vitally-important, personalized service for parents and most importantly – their children, is how the school has managed to grow and become what it is.
"It's 34 years later and I'm still here every day. I perform all the interviewing and hire all of our staff. I'm a hands-on owner and this school is my only professional focus because in a preschool setting, if an owner remains inattentive to what's happening at their school? The quality suffers."