Business Feature: Partnership promotes growth

Maria Carrasco, co-owner of Maria’s Montessori School. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

As the owners of Maria’s Montessori School, Phillip and Maria Carrasco foster an environment that allows children to excel at their own rate.

That philosophy has enabled them to excel in their business with assistance of the Small Business Development Center at Clovis Community College, which selected the school as its Success Client for the year.

The Carrascos opened the school in 1997 with 12 children. Enrollment today numbers near 80.

Maria Carrasco became enamored with the Montessori method when she taught at Humphrey’s Montessori school in Clovis, according to her husband.

Their older daughter, Alejandra, now 20 and a New Mexico State University sophomore, attended the school, allowing her mother to remain involved in her upbringing.

“At second grade my daughter went into public school but immediately she was just singled out as somebody who had every tool necessary when it came to doing her classroom work,” her father said. “Most of the kids are in the same boat. They are prepared, they can follow instruction, they are organized and they are willing to do the work.”

So too was the father when the Carrascos wanted to expand the school in 2001, according to SBDC Director Sandra Taylor-Sawyer, who said it was his willingness to do the work — “we call it homework” — that has led to the business’ growth.

“If he didn’t do the work, it would not have been a reality,” Taylor-Sawyer said.

The school’s popularity necessitated an expansion in just a few years.

Phillip Carrasco said he mentioned the problem to Connie Landry, executive vice president at Western Bank of Clovis, who referred him to the SBDC.

“They were really, really supportive, inspirational, to the point of when I walked out of there, the only thing I could think of was, why didn’t I know about these people sooner?”

The Carrascos doubled the school’s size and borrowed the necessary funds through Western Bank of Clovis, Phillip Carrasco said.

The bank’s Landry had high praise for the SBDC.

“It’s been a terrific partnership,” she said. “Everything just clicked.”

Phillip Carrasco said the SBDC helped lay out a business strategy “so that you feel like you’re just not stepping in to the unknown.”

When the Carrascos later needed to adjust tuition, Phillip Carrasco again turned to SBDC for guidance. He was able to raise tuition without losing students.

The Carrascos are planning to expand again, so the school can accommodate as many as 100 children, Phillip Carrasco said. They may also open a second school for bi-lingual students in Santa Fe. Again they plan to work with the SBDC.

“It’s a three-fold story,” Phillip Carrasco said. “The business center there gives us the information, but again that information doesn’t help much if you don’t have financial assistance. They work hand-in-hand with local banks, and in our particular case, Western Bank. … It’s been an amazing experience. And we’re looking forward to more of it.”

The Carrascos will be honored Thursday in the State Capitol along with 19 other New Mexico small business owners selected as their top clients by their local Small Business Development Center.

Fast facts
—The Montessori method of educating young children is based on the
philosophy of Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed children’s initiative and
abilities can be developed through practical play. The approach fosters
individual choice and uninterrupted concentration instead of group instruction led by an adult.

—The New Mexico Small Business Development Center network consists of 19 service centers hosted by 17 higher education institutions across the state, with additional branch and satellite offices. The SBDCs give free counseling to more than 4,000 clients annually in such
matters as obtaining investment, business planning, personnel issues and marketing.