A Lakeland day care center shocked employees and parents on June 21 when the owner abruptly closed its doors and announced she was filing for bankruptcy. Funtime Learning Center had been operating for 21 years, but owner Lisa Naquin could not hold up under the financial pressures.
“Over the course of 21 years, the children in the neighborhood around us have grown up,” she said on Friday. “… There’s not enough children to pay the bills.”
The facility is licensed for 150 children, but they didn’t have that many enrolled. With fewer and fewer children, the business she started with her mother more than two decades ago became a big money hole.
“I haven’t taken a salary in a very long time so I can make sure other people’s salaries are covered,” she said.
Up until early last week, she was working behind the scenes with a potential buyer to sell the business and had negotiated a contract that would have kept all 15 current employees at their present salary with their current benefits for at least one year. Then the buyer backed out, saying she and her husband would rather invest in University of Memphis housing instead.
“I was pretty blown away,” Naquin said. She was so sure of the sale that she didn’t tell parents or employees about it because she didn’t want to upset them or jinx the deal.
Naquin found herself without the money for the Wednesday payroll, and she was already a month behind in rent. Her attorney advised that a business bankruptcy was her only real choice. She couldn’t hand out worthless paychecks.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said.
Many former employees and parents have been outraged, talking about the impact to them on social media and in the news, she said. Parents who paid for a week’s care on Monday only got their money’s worth for two days. Employees who expected to pick up paychecks on Wednesday got nothing and also lost their jobs without notice.
The withering comments from all sides felt like slices to Naquin, who said she has been crucified on Facebook and has been drawn and quartered elsewhere.
“I lost all my friends, who were my employees, who I thought were my friends,” she said. “And I’ve lost a lot of parents. it’s sad for me, it’s sad for them. It’s devastating for the employees.”
She said she’s currently working on a plan she can’t discuss yet, but she believes it will help her make sure the former employees get their pay. On Friday she actually felt a glimmer of hope.
“It may not be this week or next, but I believe it may be sooner than we thought. It’s absolutely my goal. These people were my family.”
She added, “Today’s been the first time I’ve not sobbed all day.”
She clarified that she is still filing bankruptcy. “But I think there is something really great on the horizon and I’m excited about it.”
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Meanwhile, there are still days worth crying over. On Saturday, the business’s equipment was available in a liquidation sale. And Naquin is looking at a possible personal bankruptcy herself.
She hopes to have better news soon.