EuropaKids Preschool provides Spanish-language immersion instruction at two locations in suburban Seattle. The business is led by entrepreneurs Kelly Milbrandt and her husband, Colin Wiggins, who started the school in response to a need for an exceptional preschool in their community. Though neither had a background in childhood education, they built a successful business, one that had parents vying for open spots.
The couple knew the business needed to expand if it was to reach its full potential. That would require remodeling the original preschool (while it remained open) and launching a second location.
They needed a banker that recognized their vision and was willing to work with them to try to secure financing based on projections and potential earnings. But the COVID-19 pandemic was complicating this dream.
“KeyBank has been a dream to work with. I can text my banker at 6 in the morning and get an answer.” – Kelly Milbrandt, co-owner, EuropaKids Preschool
Milbrandt and Wiggins had a prior relationship with KeyBank through a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan to start an earlier company and they didn’t hesitate to call on them again for help with EuropaKids.
This time, KeyBank helped them secure an SBA loan to remodel the original preschool in 2017, which allowed them to increase enrollment from 86 to 120 students. Even when construction delays required a second loan, the bank came through. Their local banker led them through the SBA process, advising them on what documentation to collect for the applications and how to complete them.
“She really put a lot of faith in us,” Milbrandt said. “They understood the concept and backed us the whole way.”
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, the couple turned to KeyBank to help secure Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to save the preschools.
The PPP loans allowed them to continue to pay and retain their workers, even when the schools were closed or only partially filled. They were even able to provide bonuses to employees and give refunds to families who stopped sending in their children.
Despite the pandemic, the couple forged ahead with plans to expand and, with the help of another SBA loan, opened the second preschool in August 2020 to meet demand.
Both EuropaKids locations are near capacity and being run largely by the same staff that Milbrandt protected during the pandemic.
After all the turmoil, Milbrandt and Wiggins are looking forward to a period of normalcy – before pursuing a third location for EuropaKids with the help of KeyBank.
“I just want six months of equilibrium – then I’ll get restless,” Milbrandt said.