“We did it!” says Haj Herbert, owner of Magical Minds Studio, as I meet her early on a May morning inside her new space at 110 Madison Street. Seven years into her business—a play-based, art-based preschool program with additional offerings for school-aged children and adults—Herbert has bought her own building, had it rehabbed, and moved in. As we talk, sun floods the colorful floor tiles. Children socialize and play, busy at kid-sized tables, until a teacher takes them out to play in the grassy yard.
Since she first opened Magical Minds Studio on Harrison Street in 2007, Herbert has adjusted her model a few times. At first, she offered ten-week classes. Herbert says she learned, “Parents needed longer care or shorter care. There was a need for after-school programs. We kept tweaking it until we got it right.” Currently she offers Passport 2 Preschool, after-school programs and more.
Herbert’s best tool for “getting it right” is listening to her clients and her would-be clients—both the kids and their parents. As a working mother herself, knowing it was hard to leave her own children, Herbert says she thought, “How can I make these moms feel the trust that I feel when I take my child to a daycare?” She set about trying to create that environment. She adds, “My programming has always evolved based on what the kids want.”
I ask Herbert to name some of her keys to success. She says it’s been important for her to be available to her clients, but that she still carves out the family time she needs with her husband and two children. She adds that being clear about her vision helped her get things done. Finally, she says, she has built a relationship with her community. She says, “[Within the community], I talk up my business—and then I listen to what people say, and what they want.” Later, she is able to make programming changes or tweaks based on what she learns.
With a brand new dedicated ceramic studio and weekend hours, there’s a lot to check out at Magical Minds Studio (magicalmindsstudio.com) in its new Madison Street home. Herbert says she is planning a grand opening celebration in June. I ask her how it feels to finally walk into her own, customized space where she can spread her wings. She answers me with one word: “Wow.”