Growing a Garden, A Business ... and Young Lives

Growing a Garden, A Business … and Young Lives

It’s a sunny morning on Revere Avenue in San Francisco’s Bayview, and toddlers are tending to the garden they have carefully planted, with organic tomatoes, cilantro and radishes ready to be picked for that afternoon’s lunch. No, this isn’t a City-sponsored summer camp: It’s Delia’s Little Angels, a home-based early care and education center.

The brainchild of indefatigable Delia Suarez (photo, second left), who emigrated from El Salvador almost four decades back, the only thing that doesn’t have her mark on this venture is the name. That was a neighbor’s idea.

“In the year 2000, I was actually looking for quality, affordable child care for my grandchild. I didn’t find many options. So, I decided to start my own,” explains Delia of the genesis of her business.

Delia’s Little Angels has grown over the years, currently serving as the daytime home for kids ages 24 weeks to three years old, with 14 young ones at a time lovingly cared for by Delia and her two assistants. 

Delia always showcased an entrepreneurial spirit: She ran businesses in her Central American homeland, plus operated a retail store in the Mission once she came to San Francisco. Looking to hone her business skills, in 1998 Delia first came to MEDA, where she took workshops. As is the norm, she then started one-on-one coaching, in her case being connected to then-Business Development Coach Teresa Garcia (photo, second right; Garcia currently sits on the MEDA Board.)

In 2012, MEDA’s Edwin Rodriguez (photo, right) started working with Delia to expand her child care business. Rodriguez helped Delia apply for a Preschool for All certification through First 5 SF. Additionally, Delia’s personal and business finances were strengthened, with marketing and business plans created.

Delia’s trajectory has included other milestones.

For example, to further her education, Delia went through San Francisco State University’s “Soy Bilingüe” program, specifically designed by First 5 SF for day care providers to better skills to strengthen dual-language learners’ pathways to school readiness. This program afforded Delia the opportunity to complete her bachelor’s degree. 

Also, First 5 awarded Delia a five-star qualification. These ratings, which are communicated to both programs and parents, help provide a sense of a program’s strengths.

Additionally, Delia received a $5,000 grant from the San Francisco Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, a joint project of MEDA in collaboration with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD). Delia used this mini-grant to remodel the backyard to be accessible for even more activities for kids.

In recognition of her lifetime of achievement for the community, Delia’s Little Angels was awarded a “2019 Excellence in Teaching Family Child Care Recognition Award” on June 19 at the Children’s Creativity Museum.

Explained First 5 of why Delia was chosen for the award: “You have been nominated and selected to receive the ‘2019 Excellence in Teaching Family Child Care Recognition Award.’ Delia, thank you so much for the quality you bring every day to the field of early care and education. San Francisco is very lucky to have so many professionals doing outstanding work in our field.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Delia has even bigger dreams for her business.

The Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) cradle-to-college-to-career education collaborative, for which MEDA acts as backbone agency, is bringing services to 10 family and child care provider sites, of which Delia’s Little Angels is one. Delia is now working with Early Learning Family Success Coach Dannhae Herrera-Wilson (photo, left). With the support of Herrera-Wilson, at her site Delia is providing Abriendo Puertas — a parent-leadership program created by Latino parents for Latino parents. Delia is also working with MPN partner Instituto Familiar de la Raza and their mental health consultant to bring mental health services to Delia’s Little Angels.

Delia’s story showcases how MEDA and MPN’s integrated services are supporting small businesses, family stability and academic achievement. 

“I want to move to another location, no longer being just a home-based business. I currently use 85 percent of my home for Delia’s Little Angels. I want to expand my business by 50 percent, so I can provide an early care and education center for up to 21 children. MEDA continues to guide me to the right people and resources. So, I know that my future is bright!” concludes an optimistic Delia.

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