Kylee Sullivan opened her first preschool in the Tri-Cities in 2018, with 10 students enrolled.
She now owns and operates multiple child care locations serving more than 1,000 local kids – and she's not showing any signs of slowing down.
In fact, Sullivan is poised to open three more locations in 2024, including two in February and a third later in the year.
"I always say that this dream keeps getting better and better," Sullivan said. "It truly does."
She's worked in early childhood education for more than a decade.
In the Tri-Cities, she runs Dino Drop-In preschools and day camps in Kennewick and West Richland, plus ABC Dino Academy preschool and child care center in Richland and Dino on the Go, which offers child care at home or during events.
In February, she's set to open another ABC Dino Academy, this one in the former Kid's World Child Care building at 814 Comstock St., Richland.
She's also set to open a Dino Discovery play center at 6501 Crosswind Blvd., Suite J, in Kennewick the same month.
"Families will be able to play together," Sullivan said, noting Mommy and Me classes will be offered and the space will be available for birthday parties and events.
The Dino Drop In center in Kennewick is in the same complex, in a different suite.
Later this year, Sullivan plans to open another ABC Dino Academy in West Richland, this one in a brand-new $1.1 million building at 2885 Bombing Range Road.
Syed Amir is the general contractor and will own the 5,000-square-foot building, and Draftco Designs LLC is the architect.
Amir was looking for a tenant who worked with children as a way to honor his late daughter.
Sullivan has been heavily involved in the design process.
Groundbreaking was expected within 90 days, she told the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business in early January, and the hope is that construction will be done this summer.
After the initial building is finished at the Bombing Range Road site, another Dino Drop In center and a yet-to-be-determined Dino facility are planned in the future, Sullivan said.
Child care is a pressing need in the Tri-Cities and beyond.
Washington has seen a 5% drop in child care slots since 2014, with 1,500 child care slots lost since 2020, according to the Association of Washington Business, or AWB, which helped organize a cross-state bus tour last year to raise awareness about the issue.
A 2019 report by the AWB Institute and other groups examined how child care access and affordability impacts employers, families and the economy.
It found that nearly half of parents in the state had trouble securing, affording and keeping child care, and more than a quarter quit their job or left school or training because of issues around child care. It put the cost of turnover and missed work due to child care issues at more than $2 billion.
Sullivan's business partner, Jessica Dehn, is the Dino founder and runs locations in Bozeman, Montana.
The Tri-Cities facilities operate under the name, KYCO LLC.
Sullivan lived in Bozeman for a time and worked at a Dino Drop In there.
She and her husband eventually had to move for his job as a journeyman lineman, and when they settled in the Tri-Cities, Sullivan felt it was an ideal place for Dino to set up shop.
She said the growth is exciting.
"I have so many emotions," said Sullivan, who won the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce's ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award in 2023.
"There have certainly been hard days and hard times. We navigated Covid, which was so challenging. But I think it showed families that we were invested in the community – that we were dedicated not only to their children but to the community as a whole," she said, noting that her business has helped boost local nonprofits.
She credits her staff of nearly 50 people and counting with helping to make Dino Tri-Cities a success. She's looking forward to what's ahead.
"I think 'proud' is the word that comes to mind most," Sullivan said. "Knowing one idea, one dream has become so much is really fulfilling."
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