Carey-Saffold dominates the daycare industry


Kishia Carey-Saffold

Camille Zanders

Many Alabama State University alumni will agree that the university faculty and staff tend to instill an essence of excellence and resilience in its students; a great example being 90 miles from Montgomery in Dothan, Ala. Alumna Kishia Carey-Saffold combined her university-earned degree in communications, amazing ability to adapt, and natural entrepreneurial talent to create the most highly regarded day care in the Wiregrass area and named it Kiddie Care Learning Center. Though it may not have always been easy, Saffold has remained true in her faith, morals, and ability to build a business and brand that she can look upon with pride and accomplishment.
Saffold grew up in a military household with parents Ossie and Shirley Carey and her younger brother Kenzie Carey. Though her family is originally from North Carolina, they spent the majority of her childhood in Daleville, Ala.
The Carey family was musically inclined as her father was a musician. Saffold herself was involved in many choirs, and her brother still continues with his music.
“I was always in somebody’s church singing when I was growing up,” Safford said.
Along with music, Saffold also had an interest in the news and broadcast media. She remembers watching WSFA-TV news based out of Montgomery, Ala. and being awestruck by anchorwoman Kimberly Davis, who was the first African American news anchor for that network. That experience sparked dreams of working in broadcast news in Saffold at a young age.
Along with her dream career, the media also inspired Saffold’s college decision.
“I grew up in the era when black colleges were hot,” Saffold said. “Back then, we had the Cosby Show and A Different World, which was set at a fictitious black college. Everything was so pro-black and cool.”
At Daleville High School, she attended a college fair where she spoke with university representatives and was informed about the Leadership Scholarship, which she would eventually accept. It was also at Daleville High School where she temporarily changed her career path after finding the average salary of entry level news reporters. In 1994, Saffold graduated from Daleville High and enrolled at the university as a freshman, majoring in psychology with hopes of becoming a clinical child psychologist.
Upon arriving at the university, Saffold served as a resident assistant in Bessie S. Estell Hall her sophomore and junior year while also being a dedicated member of The Hornet Tribune. Still catering to her childhood dream, she worked as a news reporter her freshman year and eventually advanced to the position of managing editor her senior year.
“I have so many fun memories from that… I was always in the center of what was hot and happening because of my work with the Tribune,” Saffold said.
Her involvement with The Hornet Tribune brought about some of her favorite ASU memories, especially her opportunity to meet Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders while honoring the 40th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1995.
“We were in front of the dining hall and Parks stopped her wheelchair right in front of me. While my 20-year-old self was freaking out, she was as calm and cool as she could be,” Saffold excitedly reminisces. “She told me that she had 10 two-letter words for me, so I kneeled down in front of her and she said, ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’”
This great moment is one of many that Saffold knows she may not have received at any other school or had she been a part of any other program. She also recalls having the opportunity to meet other celebrities, who were new to the industry at the time, like Uncle Luke and Goodie Mob.
“If I would have known back then,” she humorously said, “Ceelo was going to blow up to be the Ceelo Green that he is today, then I probably would have taken a picture with him.”
In regard to academics, one of the classes she appreciates the most was a humanities course that focused on African American studies, taught by Bernice Price. Not only did the class teach her about the impact of African Americans in the community, it also provided a deeper respect for her own history as a Black woman.
“We were talking about black history and black culture and it was like the things that my grandmother had been trying to teach me for years had just sunk in,” she said. The class encouraged her to do more research into her own family and appreciate the time that she has with her elders.
In 1996, Saffold’s mother opened a daycare named Teenie Tiny Tots Development Center in Daleville, Ala. where she would work throughout the summer months. Though Saffold enjoyed working with the children, she felt uneasy by the everyday struggles that they faced.
“The kids were so disturbed,” Saffold said. “They had so much trauma, and I remember, with me being a psychology major at the time, just really understanding how important the work that we were doing was. I took the work so seriously and was really discouraged that the parents and others did not take it as seriously as I did.”
This experience resulted in Saffold deciding to change her major to communications with a focus in broadcast journalism, placing her back on the path to following her childhood dream.
Her next years were spent taking a multitude of classes so she could still graduate on time, despite her late major switch.
“I was determined that I was coming out of there after my four years were up,” Saffold said.
Her senior year brought on a new challenge, yet still a blessing, as she found out that she was pregnant. Even though she sometimes wanted to slow down due to her situation, her professors and drive to finish on time would not allow it. Now taking classes focusing on communications, she remembers Dr. E. K. Dauphin who challenged her to rise to the occasion.
She says, “She was very afrocentric before it was mainstream. She was very passionate about her work and was about her business. She pushed me even when I did not want to be pushed.”
1998 proved to be a big year for Saffold as she welcomed her daughter, Kiera Carey, into the world in March, then graduated from Alabama State University two months later.
Soon after graduation, she began a job as a news producer at WAKA-TV news in Montgomery, Ala. A couple of years later, she relocated to Wilmington, N.C. as an overnight news producer with WWAY-TV. In Wilmington, Saffold dealt with the struggle of being away from her daughter as she worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. As a young single mother, she did not have the means to utilize the respected daycares in the area and resorted to ones that were not ideal.
“It was so scary leaving my baby, who could not talk, in somebody’s home that I didn’t know,” she said with a perturbed voice.
From Wilmington, she moved to Raleigh, N.C., where she worked nights and weekends as an investigative field producer at an ABC affiliate news station. While this job would likely lead her to higher positions with larger stations, she experienced a traumatic event that stopped her in her tracks.
In June 2000, while picking up her daughter from daycare, Saffold was criminally assaulted. Though she and her daughter survived the event, the headline of the story was titled, “A lady robbed at gunpoint and child shot during robbery.” Soon after, Saffold quit her job and returned back home with her family.
“I walked away from television news all together,” Saffold said.
After returning home, she worked at her mother’s day care while also getting her master’s degree in business administration from Troy University. While at Troy, Saffold had dreams of moving to Atlanta, Ga. and becoming the chief executive officer of a successful company, but her destiny had another plan.
“I messed around and fell in love with the dog gone kids!” she said.
She then decided to utilize her experience being a single mother, working with children, and her degree in business administration to come up with a business plan to revamp her mother’s day care. Though it was a big risk, the sales of the first year after the changes brought in more revenue than the day care had ever.
After such quick success, Kiddie Care Learning Center seemed to plateau and did not bring in as much revenue as expected the next year. Saffold considered giving up the business and returning to her plan of moving away and employing her business skills elsewhere, but after interviewing and selling herself to other companies, she realized her worth and decided to redirect that energy back into her own business.
She says, “One day, God was like, ‘I wonder how many of these interviews you have to go through for you to realize that this is not what I have planned for you.’”
This revelation allowed her to see herself and Kiddie Care Learning Center in a new light. She compared the experience to panicking in a pool. She said, “You think you are about to drown, but it is really just you splashing around, carrying on with all the commotion. I was not drowning. I just needed to calm down, think and breathe.”
Saffold worked to modernize her business by automating many processes, such as payments and time sheets to increase efficiency and run a tighter ship. She focused much of her effort on creating an interactive learning environment with the children, teaching them songs, dances, foreign languages and weekly field trips.
“Man, we would always have a blast!” Saffold said. “Kids learning floats my boat all day.”
Saffold was able to utilize her communications degree and experience in the broadcast world by effectively showing the joys of the day care to the public through social media, ads, and mementos that the children were able take home and share with others. She says, “The way I conduct my business, I am not going to just tell you that we are teaching the ABC’s and science,” Saffold said. “We are going to show you!”
Now open at two locations, one in Dothan, Ala. and the other in Enterprise, Ala., Kiddie Care Learning Center has been voted Best of the Wiregrass for the past five years consecutively. Her success with this business has led her to birth two more businesses: a photography business ‘Short Stuff Photography’ and a business mentoring program called ‘Kishia Carey Coaching.’ Her ambitious spirit has led to her being awarded as Top 50 Entrepreneurs of the Wiregrass and, which she is most proud of, to be invited to the 2016 Brown & Black Presidential Forum where she got to meet Sen. Bernie Sanders. Through it all, she appreciates all the trials and tribulations of her journey.
“Who knew that God would take the hardest part of my life and flip it around into something so great,” she comments.
Today, Saffold has taken a step back from being hands on with her businesses so that she can spend more time with her family and attending to herself. She has been married for 11 years to husband Jeffery Saffold, who she met at Kiddie Care while picking up his niece. Her daughter Kiera, now 22, has just graduated from the Ivy League Dartmouth University with a degree in neuroscience and is on track to start her graduate degree at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Saffold, herself, is enrolled in a course at Harvard University where she plans to get certified in Early Education.
She still dabbles in journalism as a hobby through different projects such as working on the newspaper and yearbook at her daughter’s schools, the newspaper at her church, and the television ministry at her church. She accepts that there is no shaking her drive for journalism.
“It is simply a part of who I am.”
Speaking from her own experience, Saffold encourages individuals, who have found their calling in fields that differ from what they studied in, to keep going and trust their journey.
“Lead into that, because all that I learned while in school, I still use everyday with the daycares.” she says. “Everything you learn is going to serve you later on down the line, even though they seem completely unrelated.”
Twenty years later, Saffold is proof that with hard work and the Hornet spirit, you can reach new heights. She continues to hold ASU to her heart, and she urges that current Hornets take advantage of all that ASU has to offer.
“Be present. Soak it all in and learn,” Saffold advises. “Your professors have so much wisdom to pass on. I wish I had taken more time to enjoy more of them. This is your time for growth!”