Tessa Holloway’s measure of success is better life outcomes for children

Tessa Holloway, founder, Kidz Karousel (Collin Richie)

When Tessa Holloway was approached in 2006 to purchase a child care center in Port Allen, she was a manager at Blockbuster with no experience in early learning. She had two sons, a husband who believed in her, and the will to become an expert at something she had never done before. The Irwinville native would have never imagined that one leap of faith and years of education, certifications and child advocacy would lead to her becoming the co-owner of a multimillion-dollar early learning and child care center.

Holloway and her husband, Derrick, opened Kidz Karousel in December 2006. Eighteen years later, they have eight locations in Louisiana including standalone centers in Baton Rouge, Zachary, Mandeville, Prairieville and Addis, as well as centers at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge and a microcenter at a Scotlandville elementary school in partnership with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Kidz Karousel is the largest private Black-owned early learning center in the state and instructors start the curriculum for children as early as six weeks old.

“Ninety-five percent of everything you will ever learn in your entire life is learned from birth to 5,” Holloway says. “What is poured into you at that time is so important.”

Each center offers programming to prepare children for kindergarten and beyond. Holloway and her team aim to advance children mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The centers use Frog Street, an early childhood curriculum based on early brain research that helps with vocabulary development, social and emotional connections, and physical activity. Kidz Karousel also has enrichment programs such as Upfield Soccer, an age-appropriate and noncompetitive soccer program; Tumbling Tigers, a gymnastics and fitness class; storytime with librarians; and an annual scholastic book fair.

“Early child care will reduce incarceration rates and decrease the juvenile issues that we’re having,” Holloway says. “If more people around the nation poured into early child care like they do K-12, it would fix so much. By 7, a child’s personality is developed. It’s so important for you to learn the right stuff, be around the right people, see the right things and feel the right love.”

In 2023, Louisiana ranked 41st for pre-K-12 education, according to U.S. News and World Report, five spots higher than in 2019. While the data shows local education is improving, Holloway feels there is more work to be done, especially in early learning.

Holloway wants to reach as many children as possible to create better overall outcomes for their lives. This year, she has two new locations in the works. One will be a microcenter, located inside a school, and the other will be at Perkins Road and Rouzan Avenue.

In addition to shaping the minds of young children and providing them with intentional care, she is motivated to improve the lives of staff members and create a legacy for her family. She supports her staff with a 401(k) program, health benefits and promotion opportunities. Some of her instructors have gone from teaching children to becoming administrators to running their own early learning centers.

“I could stop right now and be financially 100 percent OK,” she says. “I am growing to help the community, help these children be better people and create better environments and outcomes. It’s also for my staff. The bigger I grow, the more opportunities they have.”

Holloway’s go-getter attitude, resilient spirit and desire to soak up everything there is to learn about early learning and child care make her more than an influential woman in business, but a woman who influences how everyone can do business.


THE INFLUENCE

Tessa Holloway is an entrepreneur who, with her husband, Derrick, has founded eight Kidz Karousel early learning and child care centers in the Capital Region, with two more in the works. The curriculum is designed to advance children mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, She also actively engages in public policy advocacy for early childhood education, participating in the Public Policy Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington.


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