Hometown: Alice, Texas
Alma mater: Texas Tech University & Penn State University
After nannying throughout her time as a student, Haleigh Almquist turned to caring for newborns at nighttime to pay the bills while she interned at a Washington, D.C. nonprofit during the day back in 2011. “Before I knew it, one client turned to many clients,” she says. With that, Hush Hush Little Baby was born (metaphorically speaking), and Almquist now oversees 200 nannies in California, Texas, the D.C. area and the Tampa Bay area helping parents feed, change and swaddle their newborns at night. Almquist’s experience as a nanny to a young boy named Davis Moon inspired her to co-found the Davis Moon Project, which began as a way to fund libraries in the boy’s home country of Ethiopia. “[Davis’s family and I] visited the orphanage where he lived for many years, and one of the biggest things we realized was there was a lack of reading materials for the children,” Almquist says. “We’d just fill libraries full of books so kids would have access to them.” Ten years later, the Davis Moon Project has its own self-funded school of 1,200 kids in Ethiopia. “It’s great to see kids actually in school, especially girls, so they can get an education and pull themselves out of poverty.”
Tell me a little bit about Hush Hush Little Baby and how it started.
I’ve always been in the childcare industry. I was a professional nanny for 10 years, and then I found myself in the Washington, D.C. area after I graduated. I went to Texas Tech and did my undergrad, and I did my master’s at Penn State in public administration. I was toying with nonprofit and child care. I ended up D.C. with my now-husband. I started working nights, and I was also working during the day at my internship at a nonprofit. I was doing a little bit of both, but I was working with newborns. I was falling back on my childcare to pay the bills and doing my internship during the day. I loved it. I fell in love with working at nights. I’d always been a newborn nanny, and that was my niche.
Before I knew it, one client turned into many clients. I come from an entrepreneurial family. My dad has businesses, my brother now owns a business. We’ve always just had a business, so it’s just kind of like, what’s your business going to be? I I thought about it and tried to figure out, how can I make this into a business? I brought on two girls to help me. That was in 2011. D.C. is, much like Tampa, a very transient area. People don’t have family here. They don’t have that network you would traditionally rely on to help you with newborns, combined with the pressure to go back to work and be a CEO and to be everything to everyone. D.C. is very much like that. My company rapidly grew from two team members to 200 coast to coast. I never dreamed that me bringing on two team members to help me filter some of the clients I was getting would ever turn into what it has today, but it has.
It’s just been a very organic growth. I don’t have a marketing department. We don’t spend thousands of dollars on Facebook ads. It’s just very organic, which has, I think, helped me be successful. We grew at a steady pace instead of [a] crazy [one], and then you can’t handle it, and that’s when issues come up. It’s been a fun journey. I never dreamed that managing 200 women from California to D.C. We have a team in Tampa as well. California, Tampa, Texas, the D.C. tri-state, those are kind of our main locations.
How does it work for a mom or dad who’s looking for child care?
We have two ways clients come to us. They come to us post-baby’s arrival. They are tired. They have no support. They have to go back to work in a couple of weeks, and they start googling in the middle of the night, “newborn care” or “night care.” They’ve heard about it. Their friend had it. They’ll come to us after the baby’s here and we’ll set it up for one night a week — so you have that one night where you know someone is going to help you out — all the way up to five to seven nights a week or even live-in care. They’ll come and live in your home for three to six months, get baby on a good start. Or we have clients who come just before the baby gets here and they know they need care. They’ll set it up. They have anywhere from three to four nights to seven nights for four weeks to a year.
The ladies come in at night, usually nine or 10 at night. They help with all the feedings. Breastfeeding is a high priority for a lot of moms these days, so we’ll bring the baby in to nurse. Mom doesn’t even have to get out of bed. We’ll come back to get the baby. We’ll do all the changing of the diapers, getting them changed and swaddled and to sleep, that way the mom can sleep in between those sessions. You’re still not sleeping completely through the night, but when you can maximize that sleep, it’s great.
Tell me about the Davis Moon Project and how that got started.
When I was a nanny, the bulk of my years I spent in Austin with a family whose son was adopted from Ethiopia. I’ve always had just kind of a calling in my heart for Ethiopia. It’s just always been something I’ve been passionate about. Then this opportunity fell into my hands where I was actually going to be able to nanny for a little boy, whose name is Davis Moon. When I started working for his family, one of the first trips we did was to Ethiopia. We visited the orphanage that he was at for many years, and one of the biggest things we realized was [there was] a lack of reading materials for the children. As studies show, reading is really important for early literacy and education. That was kind of on our hearts when we came back. We said, what can we do? We really just started funding libraries. We would bring books over. We went every year. We’d take books, and we’d just fill libraries full of books so kids would have access to books.
Now, 10 years later, we have a school. We fund the school. We provide everything from a breakfast program to, there’s almost 1,200 kids now. It started at just a couple hundred kids. We fund everything for the kids, which is great. It’s great to see kids actually in school, especially girls, so they can get an education and pull themselves out of poverty.
How rewarding is it to see that in person?
It’s really rewarding. It’s not about us, it’s not about all the great things we’re doing. It’s about seeing the kids really flourish. The girls, especially, being a female. Our school is in rural Ethiopia, three hours from the main city. To be able to see these young girls get an education is really a big deal for them to have this opportunity. To be able to see that when you leave is really awesome.
Fill in the blank. When I’m not in the office, you can find me…
Usually with the kids. I love being able to work from home. I’m able to pop downstairs. I kind of get the best of both worlds, where I’m not technically a stay-at-home mom with my kids all day, but I am home and I’m able to hop downstairs and see my daughter, and my son is at school. They’re six years apart. Usually with the kids. If I’m not with the kids, I do a lot of serving at church. I’m a member of Radiant Church, and I spend a lot of Sundays there at the women’s ministry. Between the two, that’s where I’m at.
Who is your mentor, and why?
I don’t have one particular mentor. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so I’ve always been around business. I’ve seen mistakes, and you see how to correct mistakes and how to be a leader. Just growing up in that atmosphere has been really huge. I have people that I look to for certain information. My husband’s a really big mentor, in a way, when I need to bounce ideas off of [someone] because he’s not in the industry. It’s nice to get a view of somebody who is completely an outsider. He can give almost an unbiased opinion or information that I might be seeking about an issue or any kind of topic.
Do you have a motto or philosophy you live by?
One of them is give first. I give a lot. I give a lot of time to my church. I give a lot of time to my team. I’m always trying to make sure I’m giving to them so they can return that back to our clients, which kind of comes full circle to my company. I do a lot of things for my staff. We’ll do quarterly lunches. They’ll come in, we’ll go to a restaurant, order whatever you want. It’s just a treat, a little something. Then we do an annual retreat. Just come, have a weekend away. We do massages and info sessions. Again, it’s a way to give back to them for working so hard all year.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and from whom did you receive it?
[One] thing that I do in my business is, any time there’s any kind of conflict or issue, I have a 24-hour rule. I let it sit for 24 hours and then revisit it. It could be anything from a post on Facebook to an email you get, and you’re steaming. I have a 24-hour rule. The amount of times that it’s helped facilitate conversation has been huge. I see a lot of young entrepreneurs fall into that problem where they’re quick to reply, and I’m like, ugh, if you had just let that sit for 24 hours and come back to it, you’re able to respond in such a clear, educated, professional way. It’s been huge. I don’t remember who told me that, but it’s something I tell other entrepreneurs.
What do you love most about Tampa?
We’ve been here for seven years, and I never thought we would be here this long. My husband is out of the military, but we’ve moved around a lot. I moved to Tampa, and I had never been here a day in my life. I got off the plane and went to this apartment I booked online. I really had no idea what to expect, but we really love Tampa. My husband works from home as well, so we really could live anywhere that we’d like. Texas is on our horizon because I’m from Texas. It’s just a special place for us. But there’s something in Tampa that just keeps us here. It’s small enough but still big enough. You have all of the things that you need — shopping, the airport’s right there — but it still has that small-town feel to it. We’re in South Tampa, so we have a great community. We love our church. We love our neighbors. Just the kind of small feel to it is what keeps us here.
What is the last book you read or your favorite book?
I have not read in a while. I had a baby nine months ago, so that’s part of it [laughs]. One of the books I really like is by Emily Ley called Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy. Emily Ley lived in Tampa for a long time. She has since moved to Pensacola, but she brought herself up as an entrepreneur, so she’s made the mistakes. I love following her books because she’s done things, and you’re like, oh, that’s good to know. It’s just about grace, not perfection. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in [being] perfect, and it doesn’t have to be that way. That email from the client can sit there for another hour and I can spend time with my family. It’s going to be OK. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in that work, work, work, and your family is last. Take a step back. The book talks about ways you can do that. Almost like a pep talk in a way. It’s totally OK not to be everything to everyone always.
Which app on your phone could you not live without, and why?
Because our app is schedule-based, I have the When I Work app. It’s the scheduling system we use, so I can open it and know who’s where at what time and what client. I probably open that daily, especially when a client is like, hey, do you have someone tonight? I can pop the app open and say, yes we do, or no, we’re totally booked. That app is really crucial to not being glued to the computer and having access to that when I’m out and about.
What is your dream vacation?
I am fortunate to travel a lot. That was [part of the reason] why I wanted to create a business. I didn’t want to be tied to an office 8 to 5. I grew up that way. My parents had a business, so we kind of got to pick up and go whenever we wanted. But really, it doesn’t matter where I am as long as I can check out, which doesn’t happen a lot. But I try to schedule one or two trips a year where my assistant can completely take over and I don’t have to check email, I don’t have to check anything, and she can just do it all. Really anywhere abroad. I love Europe. Really any country, or country hopping, is my favorite.