We had the good fortune of connecting with Felicia Conn-Payton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Felicia, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
The two most important habits that help me succeed are tenacity and being an early riser. When I took over ownership of an existing child care center, I had many hard obstacles to overcome. I did my due diligence before purchasing, but there were many hidden problems, such as falsified student rosters, students that were school-aged enrolled for an all-day program ongoing investigation by the licensing agency; I could continue, but I would have to write a book!

I was determined to succeed even with the problems and the hard times that lay ahead of me. I depleted my savings and worked hard to make my brand equate to quality. I opened and closed my business every day for 3 years. I worked approximately 16 hours per day; I wanted the children on the Southside of town to be exposed to a quality early childhood education. I grew up on the Southside of Atlanta when there was a sense of community. We knew the prominent Black people in Atlanta because they were our neighbors, but more importantly, they gave their time and talents back to the community. There was no such thing as “Black flight.” Our community leaders lived on the southside, and their children attended public schools. The leaders were invested in making our education a priority!

My tenacity came from watching my dad fight for my sister and me to have a better life. My dad was a WWII veteran and the stories he told about his time during the war was enough for me to want to work hard in life and help erase some of the racial disparities in early childhood education. I work hard because I want to give the children in our neighborhood the same opportunities as the children in the neighborhoods north of the city,

I also think being an early riser helps me think and organize my thoughts. I walk, do yoga, and meditate before I begin my day at the child care center. This helps me keep the stress low, and I can focus on the important task to complete for the day.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I graduated from Benjamin E. Mays in 1983 and the University of Georgia in 1987. The years I attended Atlanta Public Schools changed my life. The teachers were more than just teachers. They were our mothers. The educators taught us morals and values. The educators were an extension of the family. The exposure from high school and college help me maneuver the real world. Attending the University of Georgia and the University of Massachusetts exposed me to a diverse group of people. I realized that the exposure I had living in Boston for 10 years help me provide different cultural opportunities for the children at the child care center.

I worked as an insurance executive for 15 years before I took the leap of faith to be an entrepreneur. I dealt with many microaggressions during my career. I overcame many challenges by working hard! I always knew that my journey was my journey, and no one else would define my life.

I want to be remembered not for how many likes or followers I have or how much money I have but for how I treated the children who graced my child care center. Everyone knows that I do what I do for the children. I want the world to know that the world’s children are our greatest hope, and we must nurture and love them. The children will change the world if the adults move out of the way!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If your best friend was visiting the area I would take them fishing and hiking in Clayton, GA. My idea of a fun time is outdoors. I love chasing waterfalls! I would also take them to the Varsity for my favorite chili slaw dog and frosted orange and to a Braves game.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My children’s love and support help me to succeed. I started Little Scholars Academy in the basement of my house in Boston because of my daughter. She was 3 years old when I left my corporate job to provide her the early childhood education experience that she deserved. She graduated from The University of San Fransico in May. My son is a rising Senior at Hillgrove High School and he is a pretty decent baseball player. I am a proud mom. My children are my inspiration and I treat all the children in the center as if they were my children!

I would like to give a shout-out to the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) for the resources the organization provides to Black children.

Website: littlescholarsacademyatl.com

Instagram: littlescholarsacademyofatlanta

Linkedin: Felicia Conn-Payton

Twitter: Scholars Academy @fcpayton

Facebook: Little Scholars Academy of Atlanta

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