zawadi bryant, headshot
Zawadi Bryant, CEO and co-founder of NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care, took a leap of faith in leaving corporate America behind for a career she loves. — NightLight Pediatrics

You might not expect that a person with degrees in operations research, industrial engineering, and operations management would end up as the CEO of a chain of children's urgent care facilities. But that's exactly what Zawadi Bryant did when she co-founded NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care.

In 2006, Bryant teamed up with Dr. Anastasia Gentles to open an after-hours pediatric clinic to help parents care for their sick children, even late at night. Today, NightLight has eight locations in the Houston area and offers extended telemedicine services.

CO— recently spoke with Bryant about her entrepreneurial experience and how she helped grow NightLight from a single facility to a multi-location business.

CO—: What inspired you to apply your operations and engineering background to a pediatric urgent care facility?

Z.B.: It was a challenge to take a leap of faith and start a business in a field I knew nothing about, but I was inspired by my co-founder and her vision to care for sick kids in the community when their pediatrician is closed.

I received a lot of counsel not to leave corporate America and continue along the management track. In the beginning when times were challenging, I would second guess my decision. I learned to expect and welcome new challenges every day. Now I love it and wouldn't change a thing!

CO—: What was your experience like expanding into a multi-location business? Was it difficult to scale up and grow your staff?

Z.B.: Growing beyond one location requires you to define your culture, establish standard policies and procedures, and develop leaders. Nothing gets done without leadership and nothing stays done without management. You can’t be everywhere at one time, so you need to have a culture that inspires your team to do the right thing on their own. You need to train your team to follow the policies and procedures when appropriate, but empower them to make adjustments as necessary. You have to develop leaders who have the passion to advance your vision.

At NightLight, part of our culture is to practice joy, learn every day, do the best and blow minds. To get our employees to do and feel that, we have to talk in those terms and reinforce our values on a daily basis.

You can’t be everywhere at one time, so you need to have a culture that inspires your team to do the right thing on their own.

Zawadi Bryant, co-founder and CEO of NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care

CO—: What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the early years of your business, and how did you overcome it?

Z.B.: One big challenge was getting NightLight funded. We utilized the consulting services from the Small Business Development Center to help us finalize our business plan and find the right banking relationship. With the help of our SBDC consultant and banker, we were able to put together a business plan that was bankable. Our banker believed in our story, vision and our capability to succeed. You must have advocates in your corner to win.

CO—: What is the most important lesson about starting or running a business that you wish you had known when you started?

Z.B.: The most important lesson I’ve learned is that good is the biggest enemy to great. And it applies to everything about starting and running your business. We should erase the phrase, "good enough" from our vocabulary. Your business plan can’t be good enough. Your processes and policies can’t be good enough. Your work culture and employees can’t be good enough. Your product or service can’t be good enough. They all need to be great. Striving for great keeps you sharp, on your toes and motivated. Good makes you complacent and average.

CO—: What are your future growth plans for NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care?

Z.B.: We plan to expand to other cities in Texas. In addition to physical growth, we are growing our service lines. We added telemedicine and a membership plan, Sleep Tight Savings Plan. We want to be the leader in providing affordable and convenient pediatric urgent care.

CO—: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Z.B.: My advice is to be curious, continue to learn and grow. Read books, go to conferences and network. I also strongly advise entrepreneurs to join a peer advisory board and have a few mentors. You will need a group of sympathetic listeners to encourage you and navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Check out our interview with Zawadi Bryant below for more on on her experience as an entrepreneur.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

An interview with NightLight CEO Zawadi Bryant.
Published February 25, 2019