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Black–Owned Businesses in Greater Rochester:
Marvelous Mind Academy

Q&A with Rosa Marie, founder & president of Marvelous Mind Academy

February 2021

Rosa Marie is the founder and president of Marvelous Mind Academy, located at 274 Goodman Street N in Rochester. The educational cooperative, open since 2014, provides affordable child care for parents and engaging experiences for young learners. For more information, go to

What inspired you to want to be a business owner in Rochester?

Honestly, it’s so multifold. I think my challenge of being a mom—and a working mom—was just, I can’t do this. I don't know how people give birth to these little beings, then turn them over to somebody else to raise them!

And then you become essentially like the taxi driver, the meal, the cook, and not the nurturer. That just didn’t sit well with me. So I said I’ve got to figure something out. That’s what sparked this journey of entrepreneurship. But I think wanting to own a business was innate within me since I was a little girl. Me starting a business in Rochester—you grow where you're planted. It’s just what you do.

“Me starting a business in Rochester—you grow where you're planted. It’s just what you do.”

Please describe your mission and passion.

It’s one thing to have a mission and a passion. I have a passion for children. I have a heart for watching them learn and grow and having these lightbulb moments go off in their minds and being the one to witness it happen. It’s another thing to say I want to impact more lives. I want to help more children, which means you need to have a scalable operation. That was the biggest challenge. I don’t struggle with teaching. I don't struggle with patience for children. I don’t struggle with any of those things. I struggle with the day-to-day operations of maintaining and sustainability and all of the things that I don’t necessarily have a passion for. But I have a mission to sustain this place because of the children and the lives that I want to impact.

Do you have a mentor or source of guidance who has helped you along the way?

My mentor is Tina Paradiso. She’s a woman business owner here in the Neighborhood of the Arts and owns a company called Imprintable Solutions. I have called myself in the past a resource junkie—whatever resources Rochester or beyond has to offer for learning, I tap in. So I’ve tapped into a lot. None of them have matched Tina’s. She just came on in and said look at my numbers. Let me show you what my spreadsheets look like. Show me your spreadsheets. Let’s work through this together. And so that open, honest transparency—it broke down barriers of distrust. It broke down barriers of, well, I think you’re just trying to tell me how to do something that you yourself can’t do. She is by far my biggest mentor.

What does it mean to you being a Black female business owner?

That’s a tough question for me, probably because I just see myself as a woman. Yes, I am a Black woman, but I don’t define myself by my race. I just don’t. So what’s it like to be a woman in business? It’s really empowering. It’s inspiring to others who look like me, and I didn’t know this was going to be the toughest question, but it really is. It’s hard, because I see myself as a human being, as an individual with goals and aspirations and the ability to impact lives. So I think at times having the ability to focus on the things I want and desire is my biggest attribute—not my skin color, not my gender, not any of those things that are physical, that people can see.

It’s the ability to focus and to draw in what is going to ultimately lead me to fulfilling my mission while I’m here on this earth. This year was the first year I realized the importance of children seeing people who look like them. And I didn’t think it mattered to me. I went to a predominantly white school. I grew up in the suburbs. The only time I saw people who looked like me was at church and in my family. But then I didn't realize how much TV had a big role in my perspective of who I am and helping me derive who I am as a Black girl, a Black woman, an individual. And even now in this role of being a role model and hearing from so many other women, mothers, and children saying, she looks like me. She looks like me. That’s important. That’s really, really important. It wasn’t a conscious thing for me, understanding that importance. But it is now.

What learnings have you taken away from your experience as a business owner?

The biggest takeaway is that you can set your mission but leave the how up to the universe.

What key impact(s) have you/your business made so far?

Our key impacts have been on the children and their ability to learn and grow, setting that strong foundation for learning and then being available to parents when they need us and giving them the peace of mind that they need—to be empowered to move forward and take that next step in their life. And here is what I call a side effect of doing your mission, your life’s work. We were blessed to be able to partner with SOOP last summer. That’s the Summer of Opportunity Program here in the city of Rochester. And I was unaware of how impactful our programming for preschoolers would be on high schoolers. We went through a value assessment with them—they’d never looked at their values that way.

We go through understanding affirmations and why this is important and how language is literally calling things into play in your lives and why we talk and use certain language with small children to impart this sort of innate wisdom. We were also partners with AmeriCorps, and these are adults we’re working with. The feedback we got from the SOOP program and from AmeriCorps members—they never thought about the decision-making process this way. Being able to impact them in their learning journey, as well, has been almost like a side effect of just doing my life’s work.

Describe one situation that left a particular impression on you.

I’ve got to go back to my roots for this one. My grandmother is the reason why I’m in childcare. She was our childcare provider for a kazillion years, and I never went to anybody else. So getting to learn and grow under her tutelage was really awesome. But the most impactful moment that I’ve shared with my grandmother was her telling me about my great-grandfather, her dad, and how he would work on the crops in the fields to earn money for them. This is at the age of 15, after their mother died. My grandmother raised her siblings, all eight or nine of them.

We were standing in her foyer when she shared this story with me about her father working in the field. At the end of the year, he would go and collect his earnings—or not. He would have to rent all these tools. The field owner would then bill him, and he would have worked a whole year and earned little to nothing. So this wasn’t slavery. They were free people. But they weren’t free people, right? So picking cotton and having pricks on their fingers and things like that just resonate with me because this story made what I learned in the history books so real.

“...this isn’t somebody else's story. This isn’t somebody else’s life. This is our history. This is our life.”

And it was like, oh, so this isn’t somebody else's story. This isn’t somebody else’s life. This is our history. This is our life. This happened to my great-grandfather. This was happening while my grandmother was growing up. Wow, Rosa, you’re only three generations removed from this lifestyle. And it just seems like a million, kazillion years ago until it’s put into context. That was a very wow moment for me. It’s a conversation I will never forget.

What hurdles have you faced and how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle we’ve had to date was funding. And this is aside from the pandemic. Because prior to the pandemic, we had scheduled to open Marvelous Minds on Easter Sunday, April of 2020. And then of course COVID happened in March. Prior to all of that, we were looking for a space. We’d found this gorgeous space, but it was going to absorb all of the funding we had received from our MAPI to bring it up to fire safety code. So we opted not to go with that one.

It took us two years to find this one, but by then, the funds from our MAPI and Kiva had been exhausted on payroll, exhausted on insurances, exhausted on worker’s comp. All the things that I was new to and unaware of—like the cost to keep all of these things current, even though we didn’t even have a location. Beginner stuff. So when we did find Village Gate, all those funds had been exhausted. We weren’t sure how we were going to afford the rent, if we could afford the rent, what happens when we can’t afford the rent. And up until this point, I had been a solopreneur. It was just me and the children. That’s it.

Now we’re trying to grow and expand sustainability impact. In order to do that, you need funding. I applied to several financial institutions—and brick walls, every which way I turned, because it just did not look good on paper. But thank God for relationship building. And that’s how we overcame our financial hurdle. Our relationship with Venture Jobs Foundation really rescued us. Believe it or not, I don’t know if there’s any stories out there about COVID blessings, but COVID was surely a blessing to us because it gave us an opportunity to connect with the SBA, to connect with financial institutions around our mission and what we were aiming to do. And that is honestly how we've been able to survive. Thank God they rolled out the PPP.

What do you hope to achieve next?

There are so many things. We’ll just focus on the next step—sustainability, creating the policies, procedures, processes so that anybody who wants to impact the lives of children and families can take our model and duplicate it, and go big or go home. I mean, duplicate it around the world. So the next step for us is definitely creating the policies, procedures and processes so people can do that.

“You don’t know what you don’t know—and there’s a lot you don't know until you have to know it. So believe in yourself and just get started.”

What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs/business owners, particularly Black people and women looking to start their own businesses?

Get out of your own way. We are often taught to write things down, think it through, and I think often we get stuck in the “think it through.” That we never really get started because we look at our goal from a place of lack. Always know that there is more than one way. If you don’t have enough funding today, the funding will come if you just get started. You don’t know what you don’t know—and there’s a lot you don't know until you have to know it. So believe in yourself and just get started.