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Interview with Owners Diane Havens and Heather Jensen of Kids In Action - Kingwood

Interview with Owners Diane Havens and Heather Jensen of Kids In Action - Kingwood

Published: Jun 26, 2020, 1:00pm

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As part of our ongoing "Getting to Know Your Local Businesses" series, this week we sat down with Diane Havens and Heather Jensen of Kids In Action.

Tell us a bit about your business:  What does your business offer, and how long have you been around?

Diane Havens, the founder and co-owner, started KIA in 1988.  She started out with birthday parties and mommy and me type classes. In 2011, her daughter Heather came on board and started the after-school program. In 2013, a karate studio/child care facility came on the market. It’s a building Diane had always “eyed.” They purchased the building and moved in the night before school started in August. 
Starting in 2013, Kids in Action became a fully licensed child care, from 6 weeks to 12 years old. They care for infants, toddlers, two years olds, pre-school 3’s and 4’s, and a huge after school program, in addition to still providing mommy and me classes, birthday parties on the weekend, gymnastics, parent’s night out, and Kindermusik. The KIA teachers also go out to other schools/childcares and do their motor development/gymnastics classes for them. Kids in Action holds on to their employees too. Some of the teachers have been with the program for over 20 years.

How did you decide to get involved in this line of work? How did the business get started?
Me personally…. I never imagined being in this line of work.  I went to graduate school for counseling, specifically, counseling athletes.  I got my dream job of working at a high collegiate level when I took a job at Rice University, as an academic advisor working with the athletes.  However, the commute was killing me as a mother.  I missed my kids.  My mom had always talked about opening an after-school program.  I decided to take the leap of faith, quit my Rice job, and started the after-school program in 2011.  The rest is history.

Ms. Diane started teaching the motor development and developmental gymnastics as part of the original YMCA on Woodland Hills.  We eventually outgrew the space the Y had to offer and moved into a separate facility for expansion.

Tell us a couple things you are proud of about your business. What are you known for? What separates you from the competition?  

I'm so proud of what Kids in Action has become.  Our teachers are what set us apart.  Seriously, we have some amazing, creative, driven and fun teachers. 

We still offer the Kids in Action foundation, but now we are able to apply it to more children than ever before.  Our motto is "Learning to Play and Playing to Learn."  We are firm believers in the importance of play in academics, as well as incorporating physical fitness in fun manner.  This foundation is what sets us apart from our competition.  Our founder is a former PE teacher.  From the kids just learning how to crawl, to 5th graders who just need to play, we have two large gyms to accommodate.  We also believe in the importance of music in everyday practice. 

Our Kindermusik program, taught by Mrs. Debbie, who has been with KIA for going on 23 years, implements the international program weekly with our infants through pre-school.  Our teachers have fun, which fosters a positive and fun atmosphere for the kids.  But also, our academics in our pre-school programs, are second to none.  From one teacher who has her Master of Education in Early Childhood, to others who have their CDA in early childhood, it's a fantastic program. 

I am very proud of how we are developing our young staff to become better teachers and teaching them work ethics.  

What is your favorite part of running this business?

Kids in Action is a small, family owned business.  Coming to work every day, it feels like a family.  Not only that, but I get to work with my best friend, my mother, on a daily basis.  It's amazing to watch the kids grow.  From our loyal families who have been with us forever, to our new families just learning what we are about, makes coming to work enjoyable.  While I still consider myself a rookie, even though I've been at it for 6 ½ years, there is still so much to learn in early childhood.  We are always looking for new and exciting things to implement with our kids.  I am really big on going to and sending my teachers to in-person trainings.

The smiling faces of the children on a daily basis make this job so wonderful.  Our biggest complaint is not wanting to leave!

Who is your ideal customer/client? Who do you serve best?
We are not the place for everyone.  It can be loud and crazy at times.  We are for families who are looking for something different than the normal chain "day cares."  (FYI, we do not use the word "day care" to ever describe what we do….it is viewed as a derogatory term in our world.)  Our teachers do not have to follow a black and white curriculum.  If parent's like very cookie cutter, black and white programs, we are not for them.  Although we have a set curriculum (Frogstreet Press and Handwriting without Tears), our teachers are encouraged to think outside the box.  We want to keep it fresh and fun for our teachers.  

We are a very active program.  But besides the child care, our classes are amazing.  Again, this is what our foundation was based on.

Can you tell us something about yourself as the business owner? What is your background?
I have a Bachelor Degree from Southwestern University in Psychology and Kinesiology, and a Master of Education in Counseling from Springfield College.  I love my job, but never would have imagined this is where I would be.

Ms. Diane has a BS in education, was previously a Physical Education teacher for Houston ISD.  My passion in education has always been in early childhood.  I started Kids In Action so children could learn confidence through motor development without the fear of failure.

Are there any special promotions, annual sales, or special events that you'd like to mention?

We have opened up our summer camp (ages 3 and up) and our childcare spots (2 and under) to those who just need some part-time help. Maybe they are working from home, and only need a few days. We typically only offer full-time. Parents can now choose Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday. This is for June and July only. 
With the Covid-19 pandemic going on right now, we are also gearing up to offer 100% virtual pre-school in the fall to those who’d like their 3-5 year olds to continue learning, but within the safety of their own houses. The classes will be live and recorded in case they miss one, with materials and handouts to go along with each lesson.
We are also prepared to adjust our after-school program based on what the school district decides to do. Whether we need to offer all day care, or only a few days a week, we will be here for what our parents need. For the fall, we have openings in our 2 year old classroom, pre-school and after-school programs.

Is there any other information you'd like your potential customers/clients to know about your business?
We are very involved in a 'give back' concept for the community.  We feel it is very important to teach our after schoolers to help others less fortunate.  We have helped out at the Houston Food bank, been a drop off location for back packs after Harvey, prepared goody bags for our first responders, raised funds for cancer victims, walked as a team for March of Dimes and are currently collecting personal hygiene items for CPS families.

We are very much a family run operation.  My mother and I are both owners, and very hands on on a daily basis.  Come try out a class for free, or stop by for a tour of our pre-school, summer camp, etc.

How do you see your business growing and improving over the next couple of years?

Right now, we are almost at our max building capacity.  We have already built 3 new classrooms, to accommodate more pre-schoolers.  Eventually, we foresee building on our back acre, but the plans for that are yet to be determined!

For more information about Kids In Action, visit https://KidsInAction.net

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