Based on the vision of three female entrepreneurs to fill a void in the pediatric healthcare industry, NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care was created in Sugar Land, Texas, to brighten the prospect of pediatric urgent care by combining expert medical care with comfort and compassion. Today, business is thriving and the company employs over 140 individuals across eight locations in Texas.
We recently caught up with Zawadi Bryant, CEO of NightLight Pediatrics at the U.S. Chamber Small Business Summit. She chatted with us about her excitement for being recognized as the 2018 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Winner, the $25,000 grand prize brings for growth opportunities, as well as the challenges and growing pains it took to get where her company is today.
How did you get started?
Along with Dr. Anastasia Gentles and Connie Cazares, I created NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care so parents could avoid the hassle of the emergency room and bring their child into a warm, kid-friendly environment. As a doctor, an engineer, and a clinical specialist, we were taking a leap of faith that our vision could become a reality.
NightLight’s mission is to provide exceptional quality, affordable, and compassionate care for infants, children, and adolescents. It takes a village to raise thriving children and we strive to be part of the community of parents, healthcare providers, and caregivers dedicated to keeping little bodies, minds, and spirits healthy. Every day our team turns ouchies and boo-boos into smiles and laughter.
As the three owners, we were also the first employees of NightLight. We cleaned the clinic, worked the front office and back office, and started grassroots marketing to pediatricians in the area. We worked 3:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. every day, all while two of us had separate daytime jobs!
I’m proud to say that today, NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care is the only minority and woman-owned business of its kind. We’ve been recognized nationally by organizations such as Inc. 5000, for being one of America’s fastest-growing private companies; Houston Business Journal’s Best Places to Work; the Better Business Bureau Excellence Award; a host of local recognitions; and now the U.S. Chamber’s Dream Big Award. Those are some big steps from our early days!
What are some of the hurdles you had to overcome as a small business owner?
Being a small business owner certainly takes resilience. It was a challenge getting NightLight funded, and we hit a few roadblocks. To meet our goal for more locations and services, we needed financial resources so I spent a lot of time networking and creating connections to overcome this.
I feel very fortunate that I eventually found a female banker at a regional bank whose mission was to get more minority and female small businesses up and running. She helped us with everything from securing a line of credit and construction loan to helping determine what lease space made the most sense for our budget and business plan. We started in a small location – 1400 square feet – located just next to a Babies R Us, enabling some organic marketing by proximity. I recommend all small businesses find an advocate, a banker or otherwise, that believes in your business – it can make all the difference.
Are there any lessons you’ve learned, you wish you would have known when you were starting out?
How to grow and scale our business culture was a lesson that took us awhile to learn. Once we were ready to open our second location, we realized we had to hire beyond our family and friends, and finding the right people and interview techniques took time for us to figure out.
Looking back, we had a culture at our first location when it was the three of us and family and friends, but then we went to two clinics and we were hiring strangers. They did not adopt the culture, but it was our fault because we didn’t define it. We didn’t create an environment where they had no choice but to operate within the values of the culture. Even by our third location we still didn’t get that.
By the time we opened our fourth location, we learned that to grow and scale we had to first define the culture we wanted our business to have, and then develop that culture in every employee we bring on board. At NighLight, part of our culture is to practice joy, learn every day, and embrace originality and diversity. To get our employees to do and feel that, we have to talk in those terms and reinforce them on a daily basis.
What’s the best thing about being a small business owner?
The best thing is that you get to touch so many people’s lives as a small business owner. Looking back at where we’ve come from and where we are now, and then recognizing how our employees have grown professionally and personally through the business we created and launched is incredibly rewarding.
In the past 11 years, we’ve grown from three to 140 employees. We’ve worked hard to make sure that as we grow, our company culture remains positive and that everyone feels a part of the family. It makes me proud when our organization is recognized both externally and internally as a great place to work.
What’s next for NightLight Pediatrics?
Before NightLight, other than the emergency room, there were no options for parents if their child got sick after the pediatrician office closed. The Dream Big grand prize of $25,000 will support our goal of creating more value for our patients by opening more clinics and launching additional services, such as telemedicine or virtual visits, which will positively impact the pediatric urgent care industry.
We have two big initiatives underway – our physical expansion and marketing for our telemedicine or virtual visits extension, which we launched in June. Our goal is to continue to make visits as convenient and quick as possible. We want to be a leader in telemedicine, especially as it pertains to children’s medical care. The Dream Big money will help us with some mom groups’ pilot programs for the telemedicine extension.
It’s such a blessing and so exciting to have won this recognition. Having been at the Small Business Summit last year and seeing the promotional opportunities last year’s winner received is incredibly meaningful as we look to expand and continue to grow NightLight. The promotional capability that comes with the U.S. Chamber Dream Big award is something that money can’t buy.
About the Dream Big Awards Program
The Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award recognizes a small business that exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and individual initiative. The winner exemplifies success and leadership across business growth performance, innovative business strategies, community engagement, as well as customer and employee relations.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care from Sugar Land, Texas as the 2018 winner of the $25,000 prize for its annual Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, presented by MetLife. The annual award celebrates the achievements of small businesses and honors their contributions to America’s economic growth.
NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care was one of twenty-one finalists selected by a panel of judges from a record number of applicants for the six Business Achievement Awards and the one Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award.