Creative. Eloquent. Determined. Resilient. Compassionate.
These are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when thinking about Kayme Pumphrey, the founder of K Grace Childcare. You see, Kayme’s story is a unique one of how she built one of the most well regarded childcare services in Chicago from her original office of a bedroom closet while also building a beautiful family with her husband Bryan, and how she mustered all of her strength and determination to maintain the success of K Grace, create an additional business, and start a non for profit organization for grief support after unexpectedly losing her beloved husband.
The Growth of a Business
The beauty of Kayme’s entrepreneurial story is that it is organic. As a college student at DePaul University, she balanced nannying and going to school full time, and both she and her husband babysat almost every night of the week. To fulfill the demand of families seeking caregivers, they started referring friends and sorority sisters. It wasn’t long until Kayme and Bryan brainstormed on how to build a business off of the word of mouth referrals.
With the business growing, Kayme hired staff, moved into larger spaces, and also expanded the K Grace list of services. Now instead of simply providing child care, they have been able to fill noticeable voids in the areas of tutoring (both educational and enrichment), personal concierge/assistant, and event planning.
The K Grace Difference
What makes K Grace such a great resource for Chicagoland families? They use a rigorous screening process for potential sitters consisting of three in person interviews, a doctor’s physical exam, CPR certification, child development exam, reference checks, a national criminal background check, and social security verification. Furthermore, K Grace prides itself on creating ease and peace of mind for parents by establishing a dependable agency that has grown to service over a thousand happy Chicagoland families.
Based on Kayme’s diligence hiring only the best staff and treating them with appreciation and respect, they have provided families with wonderful caregivers for the past 13 years. Having clear and concise rules, regulations, and expectations for sitters has led to positive and long term relationships between K Grace and families across Chicagoland. Her staff is truly one of the elements she is most proud of in terms of being a business owner, as well as the consistent quality of K Grace services.
Hoping to launch a business as successful as K Grace? Kayme’s advice is to trust your instincts, pay attention to every detail, know that you are going to be fully consumed with your project, and know that the rewards (in terms of time and money) rarely come in the beginning…and maybe never at all. Additionally, she highly recommends that you read up on anything and everything, including industry materials, as well as record your thoughts and ideas. That’s why I always keep a notebook handy—you never know when genius will strike.
As with many business owners, there is always a struggle spending enough time simply living and enjoying the company of family and friends as opposed to being consumed by your endless to do list. So when Bryan was offered a position in Kansas City as an executive with YMCA, they welcomed the shorter commute and slower pace with two little ones. The great thing was that Kayme was still able to manage K Grace even though she was no longer in the Chicagoland area.
In terms of life balance, Kayme points out that her kids always come first and she will drop everything to meet their needs but on a daily basis, she just about equally splits her attention between her kids and her work. Add in the fact that she is an owner of multiple businesses and you will get a true picture of her days in “messy survival mode” as opposed to structured and organized time dedicated to one specific thing.
Life was much more balanced before Kayme tragically lost her husband Bryan in June of 2012. Thankfully her amazing staff helps her to take care of things on the business end so she can devote as much time as possible to her adorable children. As one who sets very high standards for herself, she had to shift her focus after losing Bryan and find the time for all that she wants, needs and feels required to do, including volunteering at her kids’ school every week, running both K Grace and Blue Balloon, managing a household, maintaining friendships, and grieving.
The Blue Balloon
As Kayme so eloquently puts it, “Being a mom as well as an entrepreneur was one thing, but being a widowed mama and entrepreneur is completely different.” But there have been many successes and bright spots on her challenging journey, including starting The Blue Balloon in the midst of her worst nightmare.
The Blue Balloon is an adorable kids’ salon located in Wichita, where Kayme and her family now live. Blue Balloon is aptly named for Bryan’s favorite color that shined from his bright eyes, and the fact that balloons float up to heaven, where Bryan is watching and encouraging Kayme and her children as they continue through life, celebrating and honoring his memory. The best part is that her children have the opportunity to watch their amazing mom muster her strength and determination to create The Blue Balloon to honor their wonderful dad.
Grief is Gray
If you take anything away from this article, Kayme hopes that you realize that “you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so you should make the most of today.” It is tricky to give advice about grief since it is such a personal and unique thing for each individual, but Kayme has found that writing (read her blog/public journal here) and taking time to grieve has helped her in the time since losing Bryan. Being honest with yourself and others about how you are feeling (read her wonderful article about being a widow here), enlisting help, and talking about your loved one are also positive ways to grieve.
Kayme pointed out that one of the most difficult things about her loss is that there are “triggers” for grief everywhere. After losing my Dad five years ago this Father’s Day, I couldn’t agree more about this statement. Maybe that is why I chose to write about Kayme and her story of perseverance during a month when I knew I would need some inspiration and support.
Lastly, Kayme is starting a non profit organization with the aim of supporting those who are grieving. Just the name in itself shows Kayme’s strong understanding of grief…it is hazy and never simply black or white. It is a complex situation with no right or wrong; the only thing that is wrong is that there currently are not many things as a support or community that exist. Yet again, Kayme is filling a much needed void for families like hers and mine, much in the same way as she started K Grace.
I hope this article leaves you feeling inspired and amazed at all of the good work one person can do, no matter what obstacles may be in the way.
Looking for other inspirational stories? Check out the other fantastic mompreneurs in the area.
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