Relocating to Tampa from Dallas almost 15 years ago, Jana Radtke made a career change on a leap of faith. After more than 20 years as a chief executive officer, chief information officer and chief operating officer with major financial and insurance companies in Texas and Florida, she went in a new direction. Confronted with the reality of finding trustworthy child care and long waiting lists for high quality options, she built her first Primrose School in 1995 in Texas.
“Like all parents, I wanted my children to have the best possible experience and one that focused on early education in a warm, nurturing environment,” she says. Opening our Primrose School “was absolutely terrifying, but the best decision I’ve ever made! We sold that school when we relocated to Florida.”
But early education was in her blood. She now owns several Primrose Schools in Florida, including in Cross Creek, Tampa Palms and South Tampa. Husband Richard is a commercial general contractor and builds all of the schools and handles the business operations and facilities maintenance. The entire family (five children and four grandchildren) is involved in the family business. “Each has in some way contributed to the success of our schools,” she says.
What is the secret to your family’s success?
It’s a balancing act! We live together, work together and play together, which can be hard but is also rewarding. Our whole family has made preschool education a way of life. We have learned to shut off business discussions after working hours so that we can find that separation of business and family. We have a no business allowed rule when our whole family visits our condo at Treasure Island. And my grandchildren live in the same neighborhood so it’s always fun to hear them in the pool on weekends.
What is your biggest fear?
I always worry about whether I’ve been the best mom I could be. Being a mom is the most important job I’ve ever had. While each one of our children is successful, I hope that I’ve given them the foundation to balance happiness, family, marriage and careers. I’ve tried to instill in each of them the right values, character and work ethic. I’ve tried to teach them that it is not just about the destination but the journey. But I wonder if I could I have done more.
What advice would you give to other women?
It is possible to have it all — family and career — but you have to work hard at balance. There have been times when the quantity of time I’ve spent with my family and children was less than I wanted, but I learned to make the time we had together absolutely the best in quality. We’ve learned, with our children scattered from Boston to California to Miami and even one in China, that family holidays and a family vacation every couple of years is time that really matters to us. We get away to meet somewhere and spend a week just doing nothing but having fun and going on adventures.
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment happens every day when I see all of our Primrose children arriving with excitement and anticipation of what they’ll do and accomplish each day. It’s also those times when a parent expresses a heartfelt thank you for giving them peace of mind. That’s when I know that 18 years ago, I made the right decision with a major career change.
What is your biggest achievement?
I hope I haven’t had the “biggest achievement” yet! I feel that my biggest achievement thus far has been reaching the point of being able to balance life, family and my passion for children’s education during their early years. I am proud that we are able to provide peace of mind to parents, a fabulous work environment for our teachers and to contribute to our community. It feels good to positively touch so many lives.
What makes you happy?
There are so many things that make me happy — a weekend at the beach wiggling my toes in the sand, spending alone time with my husband, our family barbecues and holidays when everyone comes home, waking up with new goals and dreams about something small I can do to make someone else’s life a little better. I just try to find joy in every day.
How do you relax and take time for yourself?
I don’t! Actually, I have to work at being able to really relax and take time for myself. Usually I can unwind at the beach, shopping with my daughter and granddaughter, or just getting away with my husband for a long weekend. We are looking forward to semi-retiring in the next year and traveling more!
What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?
You can have it all but it takes work. Don’t hesitate to call on your family and friends for small things they can do that help you find balance. We like to think that we can do it all (and we can) but it sure is easier when you realize that it’s really OK to ask for help, support or feedback (and it doesn’t mean you’re less than perfect).
How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?
I love to read. I’m constantly in search of anything related to early childhood, children’s growth and development, community service activities and events and family values. I always find resources and articles in Tampa Bay Parenting that give me inspiration, new ideas, philosophies and encouragement about ways to become more involved in anything that improves quality of life or our communities in the greater Tampa Bay area.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa?
When our children and their families come home for holidays, we always book a group event to see Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays and/or Bucs games. We’re a big sports family. We also love going to the beach and family barbecues — anything that gets us all outdoors.
Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
My mother was always my biggest inspiration. As a single mom, she instilled in me and my three siblings a work ethic, deep family values and social responsibility — giving without expecting. She modeled enthusiasm, a positive attitude and approaching each day with joy.