Impact Early Education is just getting started making an impact in the early childhood education industry. In our Meet the Founder series, you can get to know Dr. DeLucca, the visionary behind it all. Her resume will truly blow you away because she embodies the spirit of using all the experience she’s gathered to truly be an agent of change!
How she got here…
In 2010, Dr. DeLucca completed her dual PhD from the University of Florida in developmental psychology and educational psychology. Afterward, she worked as a research scientist for a children’s early literacy initiative. Her research focused on the cognitive development and academic achievement of low-income children and the important role of early learning environments in children’s long term trajectories. Dr. DeLucca’s research has been recognized with multiple awards, publications, and presentations.
She put her research into practice when she later worked as the vice president of operations for multiple preschools, which eventually expanded to her operating and creating before- and after-school programs within her local school district.
Dr. DeLucca has an extensive volunteer history and serves on the boards of local non-profit organizations. In 2019, Dr. DeLucca was a recipient of the Saint Augustine Record’s annual 40 under 40 Business Leader Award. This award is given to individuals who have set themselves apart to provide leadership and build community to make the city a better place to live.
She also recently served as the president of The Junior Service League of Saint Augustine, a women’s volunteer organization that serves many local non-profits. She tackled all of the challenges that came with being the 2020 president in a pandemic year and graciously led the league in a new direction to best meet the needs of local non-profits hit hardest by the pandemic.
As if all of this wasn’t enough already, she does it all while being a wife and mom to two busy, amazing boys. She’s the calendar keeper, chef, taxi driver, event planner, nurse, and housekeeper for her family. On any random Saturday, you’ll find her on the field cheering her sons’ soccer and track teams on, spending time with her Little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, or chasing around Bohdi, her family’s adorable dog. Dr. DeLucca has a true heart for service and loves serving her community alongside her friends and family.
Where she’s going… (and why she wants you there with her!)
Impact Early Education started as a dream that quickly snowballed into a reality that will transform others’ realities. Dr. DeLucca’s vision is that the love and work she’s pouring into “her new baby” will transform the industry of early education — not only for children, but also for the hardworking teachers, directors, and owners who provide those same children day in and day out with a safe place to learn, play, and grow.
Don’t miss out on our conversation with Dr. DeLucca!
Recently, we caught up with Dr. DeLucca to learn more about her exciting journey to creating what is now Impact Early Education. She shared so much with us and provided tons of good advice — be sure to check back soon so you can follow the Meet the Founder series!
What motivated you to start Impact Early Education?
Impact Early Education is a dream I’ve had for several years, and that dream started with the thought that someone should create a better way for preschool teachers to complete their professional development hours.
I also thought almost daily that “It shouldn’t be this hard” for directors and owners to successfully operate their schools. I truly enjoyed training, coaching, and mentoring my staff. It was fulfilling to see them make small tweaks and changes that worked. They changed up how they interacted with the kids in their room, with coworkers, and in the way they thought about situations.
The small changes were just that — little suggestions of things to try differently or a different way to think about things, and yet I saw big results. Lives were changed. Teachers were happier and reaching their personal goals, and their kids greatly benefited and were happier, too.
I enjoy seeing people gain more confidence in an area and overcome challenges. It’s personally rewarding to be a part of that process and help others grow. I took those experiences and they fueled me to action! Impact Early Education remained a dream for a couple years until I got out of my own way and got over my fear, realizing that the “someone” I was waiting for to make a change was me, and I could be the one to bring this dream to life.
What has surprised you so far in the startup process?
I’ve been surprised by how the right people keep coming into my life and into this process at just the right time. Truly, every time there’s a stumbling block or a need arises, the right person comes along with the answer or skills needed. I’ve made new connections and have been completely blown away by how many people have caught my vision and are equally excited to contribute to this work. Several have reached out to help, advise, and contribute in so many different ways, and for that, I’ll remain forever grateful.
What’s your vision for Impact? Where do you see the company in 5 years?
My vision is that Impact Early Education will transform the early education industry. I created this business to impact lives on both professional and personal levels. The definition of impact is 1. to have a strong effect on someone or something and 2. come into forcible contact with another. We intend to do just that.
My vision is that early educators will learn valuable skills and strategies that will truly make teachers more impactful in their classrooms, and directors more successful in operating and leading their schools. These changes will, in turn, improve the early foundational skills of children across our country.
In five years, Impact Early Education will be the leading professional development institute for early educators. We’ll have created a strong online community that provides support to others and will have an extensive amount of online courses available. We’ll offer live events and workshops so we’re the place where early educators turn to for ideas and help. I plan to continue growing the team so we can extend into other exciting areas of early education and reach more people.
I’m confident that Impact Early Education will create national change in our field — and really excited about it!
What factors do you consider when looking for someone to join your team?
I look for many factors and have extremely high standards for my team. After all, we’re transforming the early childhood education industry!
First, it’s paramount that they wholeheartedly believe in and embrace the mission of Impact Early Education. Their heart and passion for helping and contributing to the early education industry must shine through.
Their personality and interpersonal skills are of equal importance. I need to be confident they’ll work well with me and mesh with other team members while embracing our key standards of behavior.
At this early stage of our growth, I want to be sure they’re not too much like someone else on our team. I want a robust team so each brings a personality trait, skill, or experience to the team that’s not already represented.
Of course, I think it goes without saying that I consider their previous experience, education, and the skills they bring to the team. I need to know their contributions will increase revenue because I sure will be spending by hiring them! So the assurance that they’ll truly help expand and grow the brand is key.
Besides those things, I look for someone who is trustworthy and ambitious, who will take initiative and contribute new ideas, processes, and ways of doing things. I need people who are willing to learn new skills, not someone who will say, “That’s not my job.” Flexibility is necessary with a new business as we learn the most efficient ways to do things and things are rapidly evolving.
What’s a recent challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
Creating and launching a business during a national pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. Our world changed with COVID-19, and the way we work and do life daily changed drastically. I became very ill with the virus myself and was also suddenly a homeschool teacher for my two boys. I was also the president of a womens’ volunteer organization and we had to change our plans and direction for the year.
I overcame the challenges of the pandemic by staying disciplined, keeping a laser focus, and surrounding myself with the very best people. I looked for opportunities in the challenges and found ways we could still accomplish the end goals by taking different paths than originally expected.
It required a lot of flexibility, a lot of listening, and a lot of brainstorming with others. There was no room for pride in these scenarios. In fact, sometimes my own ideas weren’t best, so listening to feedback from my team and creatively finding new processes and ways of doing things made all the difference. I had to embrace the uncertainty and recognize that what we were attempting might not work, and sometimes it didn’t, but we took what we learned from failures, and the experiences led us to new ideas and successes.
Tell us about the most important thing you’re currently working on, and how you’re making it happen.
I’m excited about a virtual series we’re creating for those in early childhood education. I’m working with my team to build a series of trainings for preschool teachers, as well as a leadership series for preschool supervisors and directors.
I’m in close communication with the writing team, and each writer has their area of expertise and speciality. I remain continually amazed at their ideas and creativity. The strategies they suggest are truly transformational. We’re in the content writing phase and are gathering feedback from our advisory council.
I’m making it happen by having the absolute best in a few fields contributing to the development of each aspect. It’s a labor of love, and one that I expect to really make a difference.
Let’s say hello to vulnerability for a moment. What scares you these days?
The fear of failure is ever-present. Impact provides for my family and that pressure is real.
The fearful thoughts rise up and I remind myself of scriptures and truths, and then as a wise mentor advised me, I say “Bye!” to that thought and let it go while focusing on the next right thing to do for the day.
On a smaller level, box jumps really scare me! (Yes, a high-impact workout move where you literally jump from the floor onto a box.) I enjoy working out regularly and dread the days I walk into the gym and see those darn boxes out. WHY MUST WE JUMP ON BOXES?!
… why, though?
I have a true fear response. I get nervous and my heart races. If I’m in a bad headspace after a long hard day, I sometimes become stubborn and flat out refuse (if my coach reads this, he’ll say I always refuse). Other days, I break it into smaller accomplishments by jumping on stacked barbell plates instead of the small box, and then attempt to progress up.
What does your desk look like?
A command center! Ha! I’ve had many virtual meetings this week, so I have multiple screens and lighting, plus speakers that have taken over my desk.
My desk will always have a glass of water and a cup of coffee on it with The Piano Guys playlist playing while I work. I have a picture of my kids and a little plaque that brings me joy. It states, “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History,” and I fully embrace that saying!
My desk is always a bit of organized chaos. I’m a note taker, so I keep notebooks and Post-its handy and usually they’re randomly placed, waiting to be entered into my calendar or notes. I keep an inbox and to-do box so miscellaneous files and documents have a place to wait for me to file them, along with the books I’m reading placed on top.
Speaking of your desk, what book are you currently reading?
I’m actually reading three books right now. I love to read!! I’m reading Standing Tall by Debora De Farias, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?
I love playing outside and exploring with my kids and our dog, Bodhi. We play tennis, basketball, soccer, and like to find trails and paths to go explore. I practice Baptiste yoga, and it’s an instrumental part of my daily routine. I enjoy going to my yoga studio and I really enjoy pushing myself in the gym.
Volunteerism is a large part of my life, too, so I spend a lot of my downtime working with others in the organizations I’m a part of. I’m the happiest when I’m with my family and friends. I’m blessed with the MOST amazing tribe who lift me up, encourage me, speak truth into my life when I need it most, cry with me, and truly do life with me. We plan our lives so there’s always time to get together and we laugh hard, until it hurts! I can’t imagine doing this life without them.
Any advice for someone wanting to go big and start working for themselves?
My advice is to pray often, seek wise counsel from other entrepreneurs, and find a mentor or coach who you can ask for feedback on business plans, processes, and ideas. They’ve likely made mistakes and had failures they learned from. Learn from their experiences so you can set yourself up for success.
Get connected with business groups, either in your community or online so you can build your network, and then get out of your own way and take each next step that brings you closer to launching. I say that in all sincerity because many people have dreams and plans to work for themselves, and it’s easy to spend countless hours researching and planning, but only a small few take the next steps to truly bring forth action.
We (you, me, us, humans!) were all made for more. We’re each gifted with unique passions and skills that we should use to help others and make our communities and world better. It takes courage to overcome the fear and excuses we tell ourselves, and your mindset is the key to your success. You must develop confidence (yes, confidence can be learned) and you have got to be relentless in meeting your goals.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, so break each aspect of your business development into small components with tasks you can accomplish daily. Things will not go according to plan — that’s the nature of entrepreneurship! So look for the opportunity that’s waiting for you in each twist and setback, and create from that new place. It may take every creative bone in your body to think of the best direction to go after a setback, but the important thing is to keep on going.
We all need your ideas. The world will be better when you do what you were created to do, so let’s go!!!! Take that giant leap and enjoy the wild ride.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Change your thinking, change your life.
You’ll actually find this sprinkled into most of the trainings we’ve created because I believe it’s so transformational. It’s easy to think that if things in our lives, schools, families (or wherever) changed, then everything would be better.
That’s not what happens, though.
More often than not, when things do change, we eventually fall back to our thoughts about who we are, what we deserve in life, and what we think about situations.
It’s our thinking that determines what happens to us, not our circumstances.
When we change our mindset about who we are, we can literally learn to be and do anything. Phenomenal leaders weren’t born knowing how to best lead a team; they learned those skills from leadership they were exposed to, books, trainings, and by trying things that didn’t work so well. It’s when we change our way of thinking about circumstances that everything begins to change.
We can’t control what happens to us — we can only control how we respond. People will fail us and quit on us, difficult situations will come up, plans will fall apart, and life will be hard. That’s reality, but our self-talk and the way we think about these situations have power. We interpret things based on who we think we are, so changing how we think, especially on our bad days, can change our life circumstances so we don’t settle for where we are. And! We can avoid drama this way, too.
I strongly believe it’s important to commit to personal growth and never think you’ve arrived. I remind myself frequently that the only person I’m in competition with is the me I was yesterday. If we continually strive to be better versions of ourselves daily, even if it’s only 1% growth, by the end of the year, that’s a 365% increase.
How’s that for a motivational speech?!
So there you have it!
You’ve met Dr. DeLucca, the founder of Impact Early Education. We’re so excited to have shared this series with you, and look forward to sharing so, so much more.
Your work matters.
And you’re making a difference.
So get out there and make an impact!