As the founder and CEO of Whiz Kidz Preschool, both Martha Picciao-Mazor’s life and career have been shaped by her passion for serving and supporting those around her.
After two years teaching first grade in a local school district, Picciao-Mazor made the decision to stay home with her first child and start her own in-home preschool. She transformed her garage into a classroom, providing local families and their children with not only educational programs, but a safe community to learn and grow.
Five years and another baby later, Picciao-Mazor’s home preschool operation – her first adventure in entrepreneurship – was rocked by a divorce. “Being a single mother, I needed some sort of security,” she says. “It was a very difficult time in my life. I had no family around and nothing but my teaching degree to fall back on.”
With her oldest child about to start kindergarten, Picciao-Mazor began looking for a stable teaching job to support her family. But the school year had already begun, and this unfortunate timing meant that Picciao-Mazor was unable to find a full-time position. She began selling appliances online to make ends meet.
But soon came a stroke of good luck. “Months later, I got a call that would forever change my journey,” Picciao-Mazor says. “I was offered the chance to take over a failing early childhood education center and, knowing this would make my dream come true, I jumped without hesitation or reserve.”
The preschool was in worse condition than she had anticipated, but Picciao-Mazor worked tirelessly – for years without profits or pay – to save the program, motivated by the support system around her. “It was not easy,” Picciao-Mazor says. “Many days I second-guessed my decision, but I never gave up. My father always taught me that tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
Her father, who moved to the U.S. from Italy, and her mother, who immigrated from Mexico, instilled in Picciao-Mazor the importance of hard work and excellence in everything she does. With these lessons from her immigrant parents in the back of her mind, Picciao-Mazor was able to adapt and evolve, scaling her preschool business from her repurposed garage to a successful childcare business with campuses in Scottsdale and Phoenix, with a third location opening in Mesa this month.
Whiz Kidz Preschool is centered around a play-based curriculum that lets children explore their own expression through outside learning environments, all-natural meals, and family events that help busy parents ensure their children are able to be active in extracurriculars and preschool programs. Whiz Kidz is focused on creating a community that provides an essential support system for both children and their parents, something that Picciao-Mazor knows the importance of firsthand.
“My career and businesses have evolved thanks to people,” she says. “I thank God every day for the amazing people that have been part of the Whiz Kidz journey, from its first days in that rehabbed garage until now.”
Live to Learn
Especially as a business owner – and one in education, no less – Picciao-Mazor believes it’s important to continue evolving. “As a leader, I am a lifelong learner,” she says. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I am always seeking ways to learn, not just for the children and families I serve, but for the army of educators I lead.”
This focus on learning has also contributed to the advancement of Picciao-Mazor’s career. As Whiz Kidz Preschool started to grow, Picciao-Mazor’s need for quality staff increased as well. After noticing that other educational centers had the same need, she started Whiz Teachers On Demand, a staffing company that provides trained substitute teachers for early learning centers.
“I love serving children and their families as well as the people and professionals who are the hands and heart of early childhood education,” Picciao-Mazor says.
Picciao-Mazor, a proud wife and mother of three boys, knows that this willingness to grow, as well as the ability to ask for help, can be the key to success. After years of growing her business while supporting her family, Picciao-Mazor attributes much of her success to the people around her.
“I don’t see myself as self-made,” she says. “So many people and life lessons have helped get me to where I am and where I’m headed.”
Picciao-Mazor proves that with the power of a great support system, you can achieve your dreams, and then some. In addition to all that she does already, Picciao-Mazor is working on publishing an educator’s journal to help empower and encourage early childhood professionals.
Having felt the powerful influence of a supportive network of friends and family, Picciao-Mazor aspires to serve others with that same sense of dedication.
“My hope is to inspire others on my team and in my circle, and those that I may have the privilege to influence,” she says. “One of my biggest passions is giving others significance. Even the most successful people want to know that they are significant. At the end of my days, I want to know that I mattered and made others feel important.”
To learn more, visit www.whizkidzpreschool.com.