Richard and Stephanie Bassler

Name: Little Ivy Learning Center
Location: Ridgewood

Little Ivy Learning Center needed $15,000 to expand a thriving preschool and child-care center built on nurturing young children and their families, but the reception at commercial banks was hardly warm and fuzzy.

“I was looking for a small loan in a tough economy that made it extremely difficult,” explained Stephanie Bassler, director of Little Ivy Learning Center in Ridgewood. “We just needed a modest amount to move our business forward. We didn’t fit into the neat categories that commercial banks like to lend to.”

Little Ivy, however, was a perfect fit for UCEDC. Its First Steps Childcare Loan Program provides loans to both center- and home- -based childcare programs, including for-profit centers and centers operated by non-profit organizations.

The right loan at the right time

Little Ivy received the full $15,000, which allowed Bassler to pay the security deposit for a long-term lease at the preschool’s new, expanded facilities on the campus of the Old Paramus Reformed Church, where the school has been operating since November 2009. More importantly, the loan freed up money to expand Little Ivy’s programs, which now accepts children as young as 12 months old, and to add a second kindergarten class with transportation to/from local public schools in September.

“It was great because Plan B was to draw from the business,” Bassler said. “If we had to use operating funds to pay the security deposit, we wouldn’t have been able to open the (second) kindergarten classroom so soon. It was a little bit of money that had a great impact.”

The entire loan process, in fact, had a great impact.

“Everybody over there is great. It was probably the most pleasant loan I’ve ever gotten,” Bassler said. “UCEDC works directly with a lot of childcare centers and preschools, so they could look around here and see what we have. They knew what they were talking about.

“The banks weren’t as responsive,” she added, “and had we gone there, we’d have ended up with high interest rates. UCEDC saw our expansion potential and it counted for something. Plus, the ability to talk to the people who are lending the money is huge. (Loan officer) Paula Star understood the process. She could give me information that made sense.”

Bassler first learned about UCEDC while scouring the web for financing options. “We wanted additional money because this building is larger than our original location, and we wanted to expand our offerings.”

Little Ivy originally was located in classrooms at a Midland Park church, but an overnight fire in the parish hall forced the school to relocate. Bassler had already identified the Ridgewood site as the ideal location for a second Little Ivy that was under consideration. The school was able to move quickly into that space, and had been notified that a security deposit would be required to close on a long-term lease.

Bassler said Star and her team check in often and invite Bassler and her husband, Richard, to seminars and networking events. “They have a real interest in making sure the businesses they lend to have the know-how to thrive,” Bassler said.

To learn more about Little Ivy Learning Center, visit