YAAASSSSS, Queen!!! Making Over an Organization

January 9, 2020  |  Published by

The Fab Five
The Fab Five

The fab 5 are back and they have enthralled my whole family! Like all of us, the hubs included. I spied my youngest (9) talking to a friend about how to put on perfume, “spray, delay, and walk away!” I mean, #gorgeous!

One night at dinner, we were all talking about our favorite episodes and I turned to my husband and wondered what it was about this show that had us so completely and totally engaged.

My 10 year-old very sagely noted while gnawing on a carrot stick, “some new clothes, better diet, grooming, new furniture, an attitude adjustment. They get everyone to understand how they are just fierce and fabulous with just a couple of small adjustments!”

Yep. Nailed it!

Big personalities. Fun quotes. Personal connections. Unleashing the potential that has always been there. And that is exactly how I felt about the firm formerly known as ASCC (Association for Supportive Child Care) about two years ago.

All the good bones were there. Dedication and passion for our littlest learners. Expertise and hunger to learn more in order to have every single child across the state shine their brightest. But having existed for 43 years, rhythms, routines, conventional wisdom, programmatic “lanes” stifled innovation and risk taking. There were definitely some deeply entrenched ruts and mental models. Like sporting the same hairstyle since college, some change was needed to modernize.

Clearly, this team was fierce and fabulous, capable of blazing new trails to ignite the bright minds of children. However, change can be hard, scary, disruptive. Old. Dogs. New. Tricks.

But Jonathan Van Ness (arguably our collective favorite) said in an episode,

"When people say, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks,' it's not true, because you can reinvent yourself and learn new things whenever you want."

And that affirmation has become our organizational ethos. We are reinventing ourselves, learning new things with a little “zhuzhing” of our organizational clothes, diet, grooming, furniture, and attitude.

Left to Right: Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown
Left to Right: Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown

Clothes & Grooming

The entire organization came together and identified our core values. Being a big believer in the Rule of Three - we decided on:

Relentless Pursuit of Challenge

Good words and phrases. But so what?! So many organizations have core values. Little laminated cards handed out to everyone. The values painted beautifully on office walls. Embedded in that onboarding video tossed out like a catchy jingle.

But we did it a bit differently. We collectively agreed that we would legit LIVE by our core values. Hire and fire based on them. And to know what they were, what the values looked like, we took the time to identify what the observable behaviors were for each one of them.

(We) need to understand that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It shows that you are in tune with yourself.

Karamo Brown

We integrated all those observable behaviors into the annual performance reviews. Handed out note cards with the behaviors written on them to be used in one-on-one meetings. We are vulnerable with each other, with our community partners, with our funders recognizing when we are not living up to our core values and then course correcting which allows us to grow stronger for the communities and children we serve. #frenchtuck #servingyourealness

Antoni Porowski
Antoni Porowski


We needed to change up how we saw ourselves. We were in silos. Programmatically. Departmentally. Intellectually. I wanted to blow all the walls out and redefine what it meant to be an employee at Candelen. What it meant to be a leader. What it meant to take control of our personal and professional goals and destinies. What it meant to share with one another our knowledge and help sharpen each other’s saws in pursuit of our collective mission.

Dr. Bob Ruotolo, a dear friend and executive coach, came in and brought us a new way to learn about leadership – Beyond Leadership to Transformation. BLT was a tasty vegetable. Like a gorgeous roasted Brussel sprout that makes us love – not hate – that mini cabbage. A little tweak that completely reframes the way we see, taste, and experience.

When I want friends to come over, I want them to leave full and tipsy and satiated. I just want everyone to feel like they’re taken care of and they never want to leave.

Antoni Porowski

We shared with the team that each and every person in the organization is a leader and that they are co-designers of their present and future. A leader’s job is to help others accomplish their goals – be they personal or professional – to have them feel full and satiated, to feel like they are taken care of. It’s ongoing work. But it’s collective work. Like cooking good, healthy meals in the kitchen with your family and friends. It may get messy, the food may not always be perfect, but together, it will get better. #letseatavocado

Bobby Berk
Bobby Berk


Well, like, literally – new furniture and new office space (in Phoenix) happened. New build outs. Bright colors. Often refreshing your space changes mind sets. Well, ours is open, breezy, non-walled space – allowing for collaboration. Quick, out in the open huddles. White boards. Portable seats and tables allowing for on-the-fly configuration.  Open spaces – leading to open exchange of ideas, transparency, access, flattening of the organization in the hopes of eradicating any notion of hierarchy and top-down power dynamics.

This is perhaps not out of the box thinking in the world of big tech, but in the world of education – well, it is without question coloring outside the lines.

I was always told to stay between the lines…so I drew my own.

Bobby Berk

And then there is this notion of changing our name, our logo, our website, our brand identity. Yep. That’s happening, but I just can’t share the secret of our new name and logo yet. I know secrets don’t make friends – but anticipation makes everything better, right? #daretobedifferent

Karamo Brown
Karamo Brown


The final area that needed a bit of fluffing was the way we see the work, who we are when doing it, where we live in the ecosystem of helping children shine their brightest.

Lanes. Oh how I hated hearing about how we needed to stay in “our lane.” What lane? Why is that the only lane we can be in? As though the whole of the highway had been built from point A to point destination in the world of early childhood care and education.

Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope.

The power of creating, innovating, and meaningful solutions comes from the people we mean to serve. Parents. Family. Friends. Neighbors. Home-based child care providers. Teachers. Center directors and owners. Principals. Consumer based, rapid cycle prototyping. That. Is. Where. We. Are. Headed.

 By saying, 'I wanna let you know I'm inviting you into my life, and I want you to be a part of it,' is the healthiest thing you can do.

Karamo Brown

We are inviting all the people into our life, we want them to be a part of it – and to help us co-design the solutions they’ve identified. We want to build things WITH the people not just FOR the people we serve. #yashunny

On our way

No more lanes. No more tropes. No more being defined by anyone other than ourselves. Only wide open highway with nothing but the possibility of making sure that every single child has the ability to be happy, healthy, bright little learners.

The future is bright for us. And the more energy we dedicate to young children, the brighter THEY will shine. It is a new day, built on a foundation with great bones.

And to pivot away from the amazing and fabulous 5 change-makers of Queer Eye to an old touchstone, Steve Jobs.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.


We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here.

Steve Jobs

Let’s combine our misguided, arrogant, crazy minds together to dent the universe on behalf of children! #shamazing

Yas pic 6
Madeleine Lovett

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