Jay and Nina Parrish

Jay and Nina Parrish own and operate Parrish Learning Zone, which offers customized tutoring services for students K-12 as well as preparation for the SAT.


FAMILY: Jay and Nina live in Spotsylvania County with their almost 2-year-old daughter, Alyssa.

EDUCATION: Nina: bachelor of science in psychology from Mary Washington College; teaching certification in K–12 special education—SLD, ED, MR from North Carolina A&T; master’s of education in school counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University

Jay: bachelor of science in business administration from Mary Washington College

Jay took part in the Career Switcher Program with Spotsylvania County Schools and is a business and marketing teacher at Spotsylvania High School.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP? As a child, Jay wanted to be an NBA basketball player. He was always very athletic and played basketball at Fairfax High School and Mary Washington. Nina knew that she wanted to work with children. As a child, she was always forcing her little sister, Amy, and whoever else would participate, to play school using her mom’s old college textbooks.

FIRST JOB: Jay’s first job was mowing lawns. At 14, he started his own business, mowing lawns in his neighborhood. Nina’s first job was as a server at a nursing home, when she was 16.

WORST JOB: We have both had a variety of jobs and have learned something from each experience. One of Jay’s most physically challenging jobs was working for a moving company during his sophomore year of college. He had to work 12 to 14 hours a day during the summer doing manual labor. This gave him motivation to work hard in college. Nina worked as a server at many different restaurants throughout high school and college. This taught her the importance of good customer service.

HOW DID YOU END UP OWNING PARRISH LEARNING ZONE LLC? Nina and Jay decided to start Parrish Learning Zone shortly before their daughter, Alyssa, was born. At the time, Nina also worked as a teacher in Spotsylvania County. Nina loved working with students and wanted to continue teaching but at the same time had a desire to stay at home with Alyssa. So, Nina and Jay started Parrish Learning Zone to offer customized tutoring services to the community, and began hiring other certified teachers to provide tutoring once the word spread.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DECISION YOU’RE WRESTLING WITH NOW? Our biggest business decision right now is coming up with a strategy to expand and make more people aware of our tutoring business while maintaining a superior level of quality and service.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR JOB? Nothing at all! We love our job, but we wish that more people knew about the affordable K–12 tutoring and SAT prep services that we offer.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB NOW? We absolutely love running our business and having the opportunity to help students who are struggling in school experience success. It is the best feeling in the world to “see the light bulb go on” and know that you have helped a child to understand something that previously had frustrated them. We really enjoy meeting new families and designing a customized plan for each student to help them experience success in school.

WHO WAS AND IS YOUR HERO? As a child, Jay’s hero was Michael Jordan. Now his hero is his dad for showing him what it means to be a good father, and how to balance having a family and running a business.

WHAT ARE THE BEST LOCAL RESOURCES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES SEEKING ASSISTANCE IN GETTING STARTED OR EXPANDING? The Small Business Association at the University of Mary Washington gives free help to small businesses.

HAVE YOU EVER WORKED WITH A NOTABLE PERSON OR CELEBRITY? IF SO, WHO? Nina considers her mom, Ellen Van Velsor, to be a notable person and a mentor. She taught Nina how to balance work and motherhood with grace and dignity. Somehow, she managed to never miss an event that was important to Nina, however small, while at the same time managing a successful career as a teacher, researcher and author.

WHO WOULD YOU RATHER SPEND TIME WITH, WARREN BUFFETT, DORIS BUFFETT OR JIMMY BUFFETT? Jay and Nina would love to spend a couple of hours with Warren Buffet because he is an outstanding investor, philanthropist, and business owner. He obviously knows what it takes to run a successful business.


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