Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cristine Thibodeau '09, graduated from Lynn University with a degree in communication and journalism. She reflected fondly about her time at Lynn, “I learned to become a responsible adult. I built wonderful relationships with my professors during college, and I still keep in touch with them today.”
After working in journalism and retail management for several years post-graduation, Thibodeau realized what many newfound parents do: “When I had my daughter, my priorities began to change,” Thibodeau said.
In 2015, the Thibodeaus opened their daycare, Boynton Beach Day Care in Boynton Beach, Florida. Shortly after opening, the center earned recognition in the community and a waitlist began.
“I was fortunate to have a lot of experience nannying for young children during high school and my freshman and sophomore years at Lynn,” said Thibodeau. “That experience gave me the fundamental knowledge that I needed to understand if childcare was the right field for me. I knew I could market my business given my studies at Lynn,” she added.
As the waitlist grew, Thibodeau recognized an opportunity: there was a lack of childcare services that accommodate parents’ needs—and their schedules.
“We realized that most preschool and daycare centers only offer hours until 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m., but most parents work until 5 p.m.,” Thibodeau said. “After lots of research, we decided to open a preschool that would provide that flexibility and convenience for working parents.”
Thibodeau embarked on the journey by returning to school and earning her Director Credential in early childhood education from Palm Beach State College. Now, two years later, Thibodeau’s Soleil Early Learning Academy is coming to fruition. With the goal of remaining open until 7 p.m.—the latest in the area—and offering monthly “Pajama Party” service on Saturdays from 5–9 p.m., Thibodeau hopes to provide parents with a much-needed break.
“We want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” she said. “It’s great that we’ll get to spend more time with our growing family, at the same time.”
The most challenging part of opening the preschool was finding the right location and learning city requirements, according to Thibodeau. “It’s critical to do your homework before considering opening your own business. It’s not a walk in the park; it’s not easy. It takes a ton of time in planning and learning tedious details,” she said.
“Relationships are everything, and networking is the key to success,” Thibodeau added. My husband and I have developed relationships with city officials, the city health department, local children’s vendors and countless others. We are constantly networking because you never know who you will meet and what you might learn.”
Most importantly, Thibodeau loves what she does and is excited about the future, “I love to make learning fun. Teaching and watching little ones learn and grow is an incredible experience,” said Thibodeau. “I see the happiness in the children’s and parents’ eyes, and it makes my heart whole.”
Thibodeau and her husband plan to open the Soleil Early Learning Academy this coming summer.