Meet Sarah Sagullo and Veronica Yem, the incredible Sugar Land moms behind the brand NEW Ivybrook Academy campus in Richmond (Aliana)! These dynamic mamas built this beautiful Montessori and Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool from the ground up and took time out their busy schedules to chat with us. They’re filling us in on why families love Ivybrook Academy, what to look for in a preschool and their best advice for transitioning our little ones into preschool for the first time.
Sarah Sagullo, Director of Enrollment
Veronica Yem, Business Development Manager
If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why?
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
S: I love connecting with people and building relationships, and I know that I talk too much. People usually seem surprised to find out that I am also an introvert at heart. I value my time alone to recharge, especially when I’m able to get lost in a good book.
V: Usually people are pretty surprised when I tell them I have 4 kids. But another thing people would be surprised to know about me is that I went to law school and passed the bar.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you along your motherhood journey?
S: We have a big family, and I love that my kids get to grow up with their presence and support.
V: Definitely our family! I grew up with a big family around all the time, and I love that my kids get to do the same.
Tell us all about Ivybrook Academy Aliana!
S: Ivybrook Academy is a half-day preschool with a blended curriculum that includes Montessori methods, project work inspired by Reggio Emilia, and Multiple Intelligence research. The franchise is fairly new to the Houston, Texas area, and I invite readers to visit our website to learn more about our amazing philosophy and curriculum.
Ivybrook’s discovery-based approach encourages students to explore their interests and develop critical thinking skills. Every student that will walk through our doors is a unique individual with his or her own strengths, and we honor them by walking alongside each student and creating an environment that fosters a love of learning.
What inspired you to open a new campus and how has the journey been?
S: Our family connected with Ivybrook Academy through a franchise consultant we met locally. Before we officially signed on with the Ivybrook, we visited the very first campus in Weddington, North Carolina (a suburb of Charlotte). We instantly felt a connection with the school when we walked in. Ivybrook is such a special place, and we wanted to be able to bring something like this back to our community.
Opening a preschool has been a busy learning experience that has encouraged me to grow as an owner and future leader—there is so much going on behind the scenes! We are very excited about building our own Ivybrook community of students, families, and educators.
V: My brothers and I grew up with our parents owning their own businesses. After I finished college and law school, I worked elsewhere for a few years before coming back to work with my family. But it always felt like “my mom’s thing”. With building and opening this school, we could have “our own thing”.
How do you balance mom life and running a preschool?
S: It is so easy to get lost in the details of to-do lists and obligations. I have kept my day job working in wellness while working on opening Ivybrook. My work has taught me how important it is to prioritize taking care of myself by making time for exercise, taking breaks, or making food choices that help you feel good. When I feel well, I’m able to bring my best self at home and at work.
I also make sure to spend time with my kids so that they feel connected to us. My husband and I try to be clear about communicating to the boys about our busy work days. We may be busy but time together as a family is important to us.
What is your best advice to a mom who would like to open her own business?
S: Be open-minded to learning and making mistakes. As a recovering perfectionist, mistakes sound so scary to me but they’ve also given me chances to reflect and grow personally and professionally.
V: Even though you feel like you are more than capable of doing things all on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it. I recently heard someone say, if you can accomplish your dreams on your own, you didn’t dream big enough. I think that is very true!
In your opinion, what’s the most important attribute moms should look for in a preschool?
S: There are so many great preschool and daycare programs throughout our city, and selecting a preschool can feel like an overwhelming decision. As a mom, you know your family best. Choose a program that best meets the needs of your family!
V: I think moms should look for a school where their children feel safe and loved.
Best advice for moms transitioning their children into preschool for the first time?
S: Sending a little one to preschool for the first time is a big change for the whole family, and it’s normal for parents and children to feel nervous. Focus on communication and staying calm! Communicate what’s happening ahead of time: schedule a tour to let your child see their future environment and try a practice drop-off before the first day.
When you take your child to school, wish your little one a good day and let them know you will see them after school. Children are very perceptive, so if you can maintain a sense of calm (even if you’re just pretending), it helps them to feel more at ease.
What is something you would tell the “old you” before you had kids?
S: Your journey is your own. I’m still learning this lesson! As a woman and a mother, it can be tough not to compare yourself to what you see on social media. Figure out what works for yourself and for your family.
V: Be more in the moment. Take time to enjoy things. There is no need to rush or make everything perfect.
Funniest shortcut or routine for helping you through parenthood.
S: The book Never Split the Difference changed my approach to navigating challenges with my kids when they were toddlers. It’s written by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator.
Q. How can one register or get more information on Ivybrook Academy Aliana?
S: We would love to tell you more about Ivybrook and what we can offer your little ones! Please give call me at 832-945-1642.
We love to support local small businesses. What is your favorite place in the Sugar Land, Richmond or Katy areas to:
Take your kids out for some fun: Urban Air Trampoline Park and Exploration Park
Have a date night: BlendIn Coffee Club and Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen. My husband and I love coffee! We also like Silom Station for Thai food.
Have fun as a family: Sugar Land Town Square
Get your hair done: Blo Blow Dry Bar Sugar Land
Get your nails done: Nails of America
Get a facial: Beyond Beauty Esthetics (this place is on my to-visit list but I’ve heard great things!)
Shop for yourself: Vintage Hope Boutique
Shop for your kids: Target! I know it’s not a small business but Target is my go-to for my kids.
Take your kids out for some fun: my kids love art, so we love going to The Artsy Soul to paint pottery.
Have a date night: Recently my husband and I ate at State Fare Kitchen in Sugar Land Town Square for lunch and loved it. We definitely want to go back for a date night soon.
Have fun as a family: we love watching movies together at AMC First Colony. Recently we’ve taken up Pickle Ball and love going to the Sugar Land Middle School Tennis Courts all together.
Get your hair done: Blo Blow Dry Bar Sugar Land
Get your nails done: Sweet Escape Nail Lounge