Educator Turned Entrepreneur

by Kara (Niemotka) Gibbs '96

It’s a challenge most moms and dads face: what to do about day care. When both parents work, it’s important for them to choose the right environment for their child. Faced with this dilemma, Tammie (Foore) McClafferty ’95 went into action.

While Tammie’s husband, Sean, was earning his doctorate in physical therapy, Tammie accepted her first job teaching third grade at a public school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After five years, the family started to grow with the birth of their daughter, Baylie Autumn.

“I went back to work after having Baylie because I loved teaching, and my husband and mother-in-law were able to watch her,” Tammie says. “Then I became pregnant with our son, Creed, who is now five years old. I took off a full year on maternity leave with him.” During that year, Sean’s job changed, making him no longer able to watch the kids while Tammie was at work. For the first time in their lives, they had to look into child care.

Tammie graduated from Cedarville with an elementary education degree and from Marygrove College with an M.A. in teaching. With education under her belt, the teacher in her wanted to find a child care facility that was nurturing and academic and would prepare her children for kindergarten. Being believers, Sean and Tammie also wanted a place that was Christ-centered.

“I couldn’t find both,” she says. “I found wonderful, academic, state-licensed centers, but nothing that was Christian. Others met in churches, offering the spiritual side of things, but they were lacking academically.”

So what could they do but start a child care center themselves! “We figured if I was looking for this specific facility then some other people may be interested also,” says Tammie. “I really was just hoping for a nice place for my kids to attend. We felt that our most popular families would be Christian, working moms.” Tammie thought it was temporary and intended to return to teaching in the fall … but God had other plans.

They opened The Sycamore Center, Inc., on October 13, 2003, before any children had enrolled. Six months later, they were filled to capacity and beginning construction on their first addition, which was completed and filled within the year. That’s when a second addition began. You guessed it … soon that addition was finished, and they still needed more room. “We began branching out and opening at other locations,” Tammie says. “We opened centers in churches, schools, and country clubs.”

Sean eventually had to quit his physical therapy job to help his wife on the business side of things. They now have 25 staff … and counting.

“God has blessed us more than we could ever have imagined,” Tammie says. “It is amazing even now as I talk about it.”

Recently, they were given the opportunity to expand The Sycamore Center to Florida. This past August, the McClaffertys packed up their family — which now includes a third child, Canon — and relocated to Ponte Verde Beach, Florida. Sean is in seminary and will graduate next year. His goal is to teach Bible at a Christian college upon completion of his degree.

In the process of expansion, Sean and Tammie “can’t wait to see where God will take us and The Sycamore Center in the future.”