With over 10 early education centres (and counting), and 400 staff, Precious Cargo Education is widely contributing to the growth of Australian children. The woman behind the success is Cheryl Shigrov, a passionate teacher and mother of four who was inspired by the early works of Maria Montessori.
“Maria Montessori was definitely someone who inspired me throughout my career. She encouraged me to look beyond and to question myself.”
Cheryl first discovered her appreciation for Montessori education at age 28, when she witnessed the positive impact it had on her 3-year-old son. After devoting time to study, volunteering, assisting and co-ordinating in Montessori environments, her passion was recognised and encouraged by surrounding mentors. The birth of Precious Cargo Education was inevitable, and it quickly evolved to become one of South Australia’s most prestigious bodies in early learning. Cheryl believes that Montessori has always offered fantastic opportunities for children, and that Precious Cargo Education’s success has greatly contributed to our increased knowledge and acceptance of alternative learning methods.
“The market has become more educated, in education. People now understand that those early years are paramount.”
Cheryl’s goal was to create a caring and supportive environment for children that would encourage learning and family relationship building. Strong connections between management, educators, children and families form the backbone of Precious Cargo Education, and many are thankful for the long day-care setting that wasn’t available prior to their establishment. Something as simple as offering dinner to children before they return home is enough to restore that quality time that gets lost in the chaos of everyday life.
“As us human beings get busier and busier, we’re sometimes losing that connection with our children. I really wanted to offer support to families by giving that time back.”
Cheryl admits that ignorance outweighed the fear of founding her own business. She commends the ongoing support she’s had from day dot, which helped her through the worst financial time of her life. She also credits her transparent nature, which is one of the key qualities she’s adopted as a business owner. Honesty gave her the courage to reach out and seek help when she needed it. While some things can’t be anticipated in business, Cheryl responds to every situation with the same level of integrity and determination she started with—but with a little more logic. Her philosophy of “nothings impossible, never give up,” perfectly sums up Precious Cargo Education’s approach to early learning.
Part of Cheryl’s success as a business owner relates to a refined balance between clarity, and willingness to adapt. Her message to others is “don’t deviate from the vision, but you also can’t be arrogant because sometimes you need to evolve”. She’s also not afraid to admit that the euphoric days don’t come around without the bad ones, so resilience is key. When she’s not making waves in the early education industry, Cheryl fills her spare time on the family farm surrounded by animals, quad bikes, tractors, and her four energetic children.
Cheryl believes that society’s early reluctancy to engage with Montessori education purely came down to the way it was marketed.
“Maria Montessori was so ahead of her times, we’re just all finally catching up.”
When the market began to finally shift, Cheryl says she didn’t jump on it quickly enough, and needed a reliable team who had their “finger on the pulse” to drag her into the reality of digital marketing. She needed a company who could educate her, show her what to do, and help her establish a strong online presence for Precious Cargo Education.
After building Precious Cargo Education a new website, Cheryl described her experience with Marketing Sweet as “awakening”. She says that as a successful business owner, you let a level of complacency creep in that limits you from thinking outside of the square. It wasn’t until Marketing Sweet Director, Corie, began to pose questions that she started to reflect on the whole brand identity.
“Not only did you (Marketing Sweet) come up with a tangible solution that was the website, but you also provoked my thinking as well. I began wondering, what is Precious Cargo? Who is Precious Cargo? How are we perceived?”
Cheryl noted that her favourite part about the service was the continuous reassurance. She needed capable and educated professionals to take the task off her hands entirely, enabling her to stay focussed on Precious Cargo Education’s business operations. Her goal from here is to continue growing Precious Cargo Education to become the leader in Montessori Education in South Australia; doing what they do best, which is helping children realise their potential.