Jessica Johnsen is a child development expert and the chief executive officer of Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center, a chain of childcare facilities with locations in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. Ms. Johnsen stepped into the role in 2019 with more than 15 years of experience in early childhood education and business development. She was drawn to her field while studying marketing and management at Colorado State University after learning that less than 10% of children in the United States receive age-appropriate, high-quality childcare and remained in school to pursue an additional four-year program in child development, graduating in 2009. She remained with Colorado State University after graduation and pursued her passion for education by becoming a preschool teacher at the Colorado State University Early Childhood Center. Before her departure in 2013, Ms. Johnsen had risen to become the center’s assistant director.
Between 2012 and 2014, Ms. Johnsen was a sales manager and CRM specialist for Child Care CRM, and she spent the next three years as a sales manager for Childcare Marketing Solutions. In 2017, she joined the Georgetown Hill Early School as a director of special projects. Ms. Johnsen was working with Georgetown Hill Early School when she was approached by the founder of Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center with an offer to become the company’s chief executive officer. At the time, the company was in the early stages of a rebranding effort caused by the founder’s deteriorating relationships with staff and clients. Ms. Johnsen’s reputation as a rising star in the field of child development and early childhood education made her an ideal candidate to take over the company at a pivotal time, and she accepted the position in 2019.
Under her guidance, Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center manages 14 facilities across three states under three brands, including traditional and Montessori-style schools. As chief executive officer, Ms. Johnsen oversees all aspects of brand and business development, including staff training and hiring, building relationships with investors, marketing, and financial management. The company has acquired numerous facilities, and Ms. Johnsen is instrumental in helping each new acquisition through a standards compliance and rebranding process as they become a part of the Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center brand. She strives to remain a hands-on leader as the company grows and manages with a focus on sustainable expansion to avoid losing her personal connection to all parts of operations.
Ms. Johnsen is proud to have led Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center through expansion during COVID-19-related shutdowns and made the challenging decision not to close schools or lay off staff during this period. Despite the difficulty of remaining in business during an uncertain time, the company has become stronger, and Ms. Johnsen is confident that continuing with a growth mindset in an uncertain time was part of their success. In recognition of her outstanding rise as a young business leader, consultant, and innovator in the childcare industry, Ms. Johnsen has been featured on the cover of Beyond Women Magazine and CEO Magazine, and she was named a 2022 Influential CEO Of the Year by Acquisition International.
Ms. Johnsen attributes her success to her family and to the staff and leadership teams at her companies, who have inspired and supported her during a period of rapid growth. She is motivated by the desire to provide high-quality and enriching care for children in an environment that is respectful and supportive of educators and looks forward to continuing to expand her reach in the coming years. Ms. Johnsen hopes to continue to consult and speak in her field in order to help change the way that providers, investors, and the public think about childcare and early childhood education. In her personal time, she is an active supporter of numerous local charities, including the Harrison County Humane Society, the SEED Foundation, and programs supporting food and housing equality.