Krisana Puccio always wanted to learn Spanish. She didn’t achieve her own dream until later in life, but she’s dedicated to helping her young charges learn this language while attending The Pineapple School.
The Spanish-immersion early learning center, located in north central San Antonio, has 180 students enrolled. “We only speak Spanish at the school,” said Puccio, who serves as the school’s administrator. “We have children who range in age from 6 weeks to 5 years old. From the moment they start coming to the Pineapple School, we try to only speak to them in Spanish. The idea is to take advantage of this time that, according to education research, children are able to acquire a second language, or even a third or fourth at a very rapid rate and very easily.”
The children aren’t the only ones achieving rapid success. The school, which opened in 2010, already has a waiting list of more than 300 children, thus prompting Krisana and her business partners – husband Juan Puccio, her father Dr. Hugo Carvajal, and her mother Susan Carvajal, who serves as the school’s director – to seek a Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan through Texas Certified Development Company (TxCDC) to build a second location.
¿Habla usted español?
In order to become fluent in Spanish, Krisana took part in study abroad programs in high school and college. However, she didn’t begin to realize her dream until she attended a two-year graduate program at a business school in Costa Rica where she was immersed in the Spanish language. Juan, who was also attending the school and was fluent in that language, helped Krisana understand the coursework. After the pair graduated, they married and moved to Krisana’s hometown of San Antonio. Once there, she returned the favor by helping Juan, a native of Venezuela, improve his knowledge and use of English.
Tutoring each other in an unfamiliar language got the two entrepreneurs thinking about starting a business based on the goal of learning a language. They hit upon the idea of starting a daycare because of her parents’ history of owning a daycare when Krisana was a child. Krisana and her husband approached her parents about the idea and they quickly decided they wanted to join the endeavor.
The four partners began to search for property at a time when the economy was shaky. They found a location and worked with BBVA Compass Bank, which connected them with TxCDC Consultant Bob Nance. The partners qualified for their initial fixed rate SBA 504 loan and only had to contribute a 15-percent down payment. “Krisana and her family had a great vision and a solid, well-conceived plan. All they needed was good financing,” Nance said. “BBVA Compass Bank brought us in as a partner, and together, we structured the 504 loan that provided them the funds to achieve their goal of a start-up daycare.”
Building on Their Success
The school’s rapid success has led the partners to consider expansion. “The first center was so successful that a second location was a logical step in their growth,” Nance said. “We were able to provide a second 504 loan, ensuring that they would have the same long-term, fixed rate financing that was used to start the business.”
Because they owned their business for more than two years, the SBA 504 loan only required the Pineapple School partners to make a 10-percent down payment. Construction on the new site is scheduled to begin in spring 2014 and the school should open in early 2015. The new location, which is located slightly north of the first school, will serve 230 children and employ 40 staff members.
Opening the new location will allow the partners to more than double their business as well as to gain many efficiencies. “Right now, we develop curriculum for one school. We can do the same amount of work and now develop it for two schools; it takes the same amount of time,” Krisana said, adding that having the second school will help the partners economize in other areas such as staff training and supplies.
A Friend in TxCDC
Krisana and her partners purposely decided to include the pineapple in the school’s name. Besides being a symbol of welcome, the pineapple, which is grown in Latin America, also represents friends and family.
And that’s what TxCDC’s Bob Nance has become to the partners since he often literally went the extra mile to help the partners get their loan. “Since there are four of us — my dad’s a physician who is on call, my husband has a full-time job on the other side of the city, and my mom and I are here at school — it’s always tough to get us all together to sign the papers, but he has always been accommodating with us,” Krisana said. “He would come to school so we could sign papers. One time, my mom got sick and had to be put in the hospital, and he met us at the hospital to sign papers.”
Nance also has made sure that each SBA 504 loan would fit the partners’ evolving needs. “We had to increase the amount of the loan at one point, and Bob worked very diligently to get the increase approved,” Krisana said. “Bob and TxCDC have been very clear and transparent in helping us understand the financials and process. He has always worked in a timely manner to get the loan approved. We’re very satisfied with Bob. He’s been a real pleasure to work with.”
by Dorian Martin