Anthony Insinna partnered with his sisters in 1992 to open child care center Doodle Bugs!. Twenty one years later the company has grown to 12 locations and seen 2,000 kids go through their doors.
Anyone who thinks that family businesses can work should look no further than Anthony Insinna. Twenty-one years ago Insinna partnered with his two sisters, who were both teachers, to start a child care company. Today, Insinna is the president and CEO of Doodle Bugs! BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Insinna about his decision to start his own business, the challenges of working with family and how others can follow his lead.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Anthony Insinna: When I was really young, I wanted to be a firefighter. As I grew up, I realized that firefighters in my hometown were all volunteers, so this profession was not going to pay the bills.
BND: What did your parents do for a living?
AI: My mother is a retired school teacher. She taught in Italy, where she was born, and continued to teach in Buffalo, New York for more than 20 years. My father is a barber; he started cutting hair in Italy when he was nine years old. He is now 75 and I do not see him retiring anytime soon. Teaching by example, they both consistently prioritized family and a strong work ethic – I’d be remiss if I did not credit my company’s success to them. Doodle Bugs! core values of commitment, accountability, respect and excellence were instilled in my sisters and I by our parents.
BND: Can you talk a little about your businesses and how you got your start?
AI: In 1992, my sisters and I opened our first child care center in East Amherst, New York, welcoming 24 preschool students and their families to Doodle Bugs! The business began as a part-time venture, but we soon realized the opportunity in the child care market. We worked hard to make sure that Doodle Bugs! became synonymous with high-quality child care and a commitment to continuous improvement. As a result, the Doodle community has grown to include more than 2,000 families.
BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?
AI: I love the fact that I am able to guide and direct the growth of our company the way our management team sees fit. I don’t have a board of directors dictating our operations or strategy, which allows me to trust my instincts. I have learned that continued success requires continued fidelity to our mission and beliefs.
BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
AI: Fortunately, I have not made any big mistakes – instead, I have made and learned from a lot of little mistakes. If I could change the past, I would have spent more time listening to our employees. I have noticed that entrepreneurs, myself included, love to hear themselves speak and tend to micromanage. I’ve become a much better listener over the years.
BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?
AI: At 19, I never thought I would ever operate a child care center. I simply wanted to help my sisters, who were both teachers, establish their center. However, I quickly recognized that child care was a growing industry with tremendous potential. I sold my other business to devote my career to Doodle Bugs! Now, after getting married and having four children, I can’t imagine life without Doodle Bugs! I'm incredibly proud of the ways our family business has grown and improved since we opened our first center and I can’t imagine any other career that would be more rewarding than providing young children with a solid head start in life.
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
AI: My experience as a small business owner and manager began when I was only 12 years old. I canvassed my neighborhood in search of clients for my lawn service. By the age of 17, I owned two trucks and a garage full of equipment. During college, I partnered with a friend to create one of the area’s largest landscape and snow plowing services. I sold my share of the business in 1994 to pursue my MBA and further develop the Doodle Bugs! concept.
BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
AI: Whether I was the smallest kid in the neighborhood or the youngest business owner, I have always had to compete with individuals who were older or more experienced. I have always been the underdog and I am always up to the challenge. I learned quickly that hard work inspires confidence and confidence inspires success.
BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
AI: As cliché as it might sound, there’s no time like the present. If you are a motivated entrepreneur who is willing to work hard, I’m tempted to quote Nike and say Just Do It! Owning your own business is extremely gratifying and provides a unique opportunity to pursue your dreams.