Barnegat Couple Opens Manahawkin Preschool

Federal Grant Supports New Learning Center
By | Mar 27, 2019
Supplied Photo NEW IN TOWN: Kalil and Amber O'Neal of Barnegat, owners of Little Graduates Preschool and Learning Center in Manahawkin, share a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Stafford Chamber of Commerce trustee Brian McCarty and chamber president Steven Rizzo.

Little Graduates Preschool and Learning Center is now open at 935 North Main St. in Manahawkin, thanks to a Small Business Administration loan to Kalil and Amber O’Neal of Barnegat. The couple’s first business venture occupies about 3,000 square feet in a new retail plaza, said Kalil O’Neal, the business operations manager. He said there is more lease space available if the business expands.

Little Graduates Preschool and Learning Center can serve children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. Programs include before- and after-school services, summer camp, seasonal care, drop-in/temporary care and a military childcare program. Discounts are available for active military/veteran families enrolling more than one child.

Unity Bank, based in Clinton, announced it granted the SBA loan.

“This is our first experience with Unity Bank,” said O’Neal. “We reached out to multiple banks willing to help a small business start-up. Our experience with Unity Bank thus far has been amazing. They took a chance on us when others turned a blind eye. Also, we feel as though they have committed so much energy, time and effort to guide us in the right direction to ensure that we were in the best position to succeed. We appreciate all the individuals who have helped us along the way because they have greatly made an impact on us.”

O’Neal has more than 18 years of military experience in the U.S. Army. He currently works in contracting for the Department of the Navy. He also serves in the New Jersey National Guard.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from The College of New Jersey, and a master’s degree in acquisition from Webster University.

Amber O’Neal runs the daily operation of the center. She has more than 12 years of early childhood education industry experience. She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Liberty University, and is working toward a master’s degree in school administration and supervision.

She is a member of the National Association for Education of Young Children and the New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children. She plans to work toward a national administrator credential in early childhood education.

“We wish Amber and Kalil the best of luck with their new business,” said Unity Bank President and CEO James A. Hughes. “As a community bank, we are committed to working with small businesses whether they are just starting out or looking to grow operations. It’s particularly rewarding when we can help customers start their first business.”

“Amber has always wanted to open an early childhood education center because she loves working with children and families. I have always wanted to own a business,” said O’Neal. “For the past four or five years, my wife and I have been trying to find a location to open a childcare center, to no avail. We noticed this building was being developed in the next town over from where we live, and decided the location was perfect because it was in a growing area.”

Unity participates in the 7(a) Loan Program, SBA’s primary program to help start-up and existing small businesses obtain financing when they might not be eligible for business loans through normal lending channels. The bank also participates in the SBA 504 Loan program, an economic development program that offers small businesses long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization. Unity Bank is consistently among the top 10 of New Jersey SBA lenders in loan volume. The program also serves parts of Pennsylvania and is expanding into New York.

For more information on Little Graduates, see the website lilgraduate.com or call 315-767-9512.

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