Gregory Pereira, Small Business Owner
“When you succeed, we succeed.” That’s the motto of First Steps Urban Outreach, a family-owned and operated training and certification center for in-home childcare operators in the Bronx.
Gregory Pereira and his team recently successfully completed the NYC Means Business Training Program, where they received training thanks to a grant from SBS. Their training included Google Applications for Small Business, a four-part series where their entire team was introduced to the tools that Google Suite offers to businesses. In addition, Gregory participated in Digital Marketing training, and his daughter completed Microsoft Excel Part 1.
“Digital marketing has led to us getting a ton of traffic...before our website was just sitting there, so learning how to maximize Google My Business has allowed us to convert people who visit to customers. Melissa just finished Excel, and she’s using it right now for some of the data we collect. That helps because now, when we need to recertify people to do CPR recertification, we have a database that allows us to track that. We’re using Google Calendar to restructure our business calendar in a more effective way.”
Located on top of the iconic Frank’s Sporting Goods building, Gregory and his wife and business partner Milka know the many challenges, and rewards, of running a small business in the Bronx.
“Having a family-owned business is like a roller coaster. My wife and I have been doing this since 2008. We get up together, go to work together, come home together...it’s a lot of together. Our 3 daughters have all worked for us, too. The premise is you agree to disagree.”
Since its founding, Urban Outreach has served over 3,100 community members with training, certification, and support to open in-home daycare centers. This has been done under the guidance of the Department of Health and the Offices of Childcare and Family Services.
Their clients, mostly women between the ages of 20 and 45, come from diverse educational backgrounds. It isn’t uncommon to find people with GED’s sitting in a classroom with others who have a Master’s. The thing they all have in common? A commitment to the importance of high quality, accessible, and affordable childcare.
“Childcare is essential. We saw that at the beginning of the pandemic—home based care was open because essential workers had to go to work, and someone had to watch their children.”
But like many small businesses in the city, the pandemic upended their entire business model. Gregoy and Milka moved to a larger space on March 1st, just two weeks before lockdown. Suddenly in-person classes were not an option, which meant the business had no way to sustain itself.
“That’s where Lehman came in,” says Gregory. “The support that we’ve had has been incredible. They helped us make the pivot. Clarance Stanley introduced me to the Wednesday morning merchant’s meeting. Through the Bronx Small Business Development Center (SBDC) we were able to get EIDL and PPP which helped us survive and innovate.”
This wasn’t the first time that Urban Outreach leaned on Lehman College for help in a crisis. After Hurricane Sandy, they received a $50,000 loan through the SBDC. This introduction made Gregory aware there were many other free resources available that could help support their business.
“I took a few classes through Lehman, including any classes that come through for small business. I participated in Marketing and QuickBooks classes as well, which have been huge. It’s so important to know your numbers.”
Urban Outreach has also hosted workshops at CUNY on the Concourse for people looking to learn how to become their boss by opening an in-home childcare center.
Gregoy’s advice for anyone looking to start their own business, or to improve their existing business, is to get involved with the programs that Lehman College has to offer.
“You need to engage with these kinds of resources and programs because it opens and expands your mind to new possibilities. There’s a quote I like that goes old dreams awaken, and new possibilities arise. Learning new skills is the fastest way to make your dream come to life. Too many people stand on mountains of their own broken dreams.”
“When you work hard for someone else, it’s exhausting. Amazing things happen when you realize that you could work hard for yourself and for your own dream.”