Day care buddies become day care business partners

Longtime friends Jessica Dixon left and Alli Drinkard met as toddlers at an Island day care and have now opened their own place for kids.  - Contributed Photo
Longtime friends Jessica Dixon left and Alli Drinkard met as toddlers at an Island day care and have now opened their own place for kids.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

From the age of 3, best friends Alli Drinkard and Jessica Dixon were on a mission. Since meeting at a Mercer Island home nursery school, the two tykes have been confident that they would grow up to be ‘Daycare Ladies’ together.

Fast forward about 20 years, and it is clear that their prediction was surprisingly on point. Their childhood dream has more than stood the test of time. The two are now partners in a home day care named “The Growing Tree.”

“We had such a wonderful experience that we’ve always been motivated to start our own home day care,”  Drinkard said.

Growing up together on Mercer Island, the entrepreneurs both attended Mercer Island High School. Drinkard and Dixon participated in the drill team and cheer squad, respectively, and both joined the National Charity League, the SAVE project (Students Against Violence Everywhere), as well as Island Chorale Experience before graduating in 2008 and 2009.

During their school years, the two singled out teachers Julie Langley of West Mercer Elementary and Marlene Liranzo of Mercer Island High as having a positive impact on them both.

To this day, the two friends are practically sisters, and describe their Mercer Island upbringing as full of fond memories.

“We grew up on the same street; we were a part of the same neighborhood gang. We have a lot of good memories building our forts and clubhouses.”

The two both attended Washington State University and joined the same sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. Both earned degrees focused on Early Education and Child Development.

Describing their philosophy on the company website, the business partners emphasize a goal to foster the traits of compassion and kindness, as well as facilitate a child’s development with positive self-concepts.

Drinkard and Dixon believe they owe their optimistic outlook to their good experience at the day care they attended as toddlers.

“Our day care experience really shaped us. Especially as an only child, to be able to make friends that became a part of my family, was very important to me,” Dixon said.

The ‘Daycare Ladies’ now aim to provide a similar experience for children at The Growing Tree. “We want to give these children a home away from home, where they feel loved and special.”

The Growing Tree will cater to infants and children up to 5 years of age. Drinkard and Dixon said they will focus on in fostering self-confidence, individuality, and positive relationships between students. Their day care will emphasize one-on-one interaction with students, ensure stability and an engaging learning environment.

Located in Bellevue, The Growing Tree is a play-based preschool, offering daily lesson plans, arts and crafts, and recreational activities such as singing and dancing.

For more information, or to get in touch with the Daycare Ladies, visit


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