Ironwood Early Learning Academy

When the last remaining child care facility in Ironwood was facing closure, Chandra Moreno sprang into action with the help of the Michigan Small Business Development Center


They say that necessity is the mother of invention. When small shop owner Chandra Moreno and her husband were looking for child care options for their son in their area of Ironwood, they quickly discovered their options were limited. As one of the only local child care facilities closed and the other was facing closure, Ironwood was becoming a child care desert – and Moreno decided to spring into action.

Thanks to clients from her retail business, Moreno and her husband had an angel investor who wanted to donate an initial $100,000, and within weeks a local dentist bought and leased a former elementary school building for them to meet the child care needs of the Ironwood community.

“I was given an opportunity to shape the culture of early childhood education in our community, and we did not take this responsibility lightly,” Moreno said.  

Renovations and the licensing process began in October 2022. Moreno, her family and the local community spent months preparing the 100-year-old building for its lead assessment and working to pass various agency inspections.

Moreno also reached out to the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC), having worked with the organization previously during the growth of her retail space. With the help of SBDC Associate Regional Director Daniel Yoder, she was able to get positive criticism for her business planning and financial projections.

“One thing that is very difficult about child care is that the profit margins are razor thin and the variables that need to be considered are never-ending and can be vast,” said Moreno. “It is a challenge that does not end. From waitlisting classes until there is the perfect number of kids-to-staff ratios, to planning for summer care and meals, this business is multi-faceted. The SBDC has really been there to assist in any way we have needed them. From looking at our books to developing plans to expand, the SBDC has played a pivotal role in our success.”



Moreno opened the Ironwood Early Learning Academy’s doors in May 2023 with four classrooms and 12 staff members. Since then, she’s hired over 22 staff members, provided care for over 100 children and is continuing to find ways to grow the business.

“We are currently expanding operations to include a nursery location and have dedicated our retail space to provide more revenue to child care operations,” Moreno said. “We have also been able to do this without the use of loans, thanks to continued financial support from our angel investors, but have been financially independent for going on six months now. Working with the SBDC has given me the information, confidence and guidance I have needed to be successful. Because of that success, we have touched the hearts of families and children in ways that will impact them for years to come, all while providing a critical resource our community needs in order to thrive.”

Learn more about the Michigan Small Business Development Center and additional Small Business Resources from the MEDC.