Tyneshia Perine remembers sitting on her back patio, looking up at the sky and speaking to God.
It was 2018. Perine had just lost her husband, Ronald, unexpectedly. Two weeks later, she lost her job.
Lord, I don’t know what you have planned, she remembers saying to Him. I didn’t write the story; I’m just a character in it. I need you to show me a glimpse of the next page and what you want me to do here.
Then, God spoke.
Go back to the business.
That business was Tootles Event Sitters, a company she had started years ago.
For the first year, Perine pounded the pavement — hard. She attended events to shake as many hands as possible and establish connections.
“I just hit the ground running,” she said. “I started networking and connecting with people. I started showing up more. I started building.”
Today, the business has about 60 employees, and Perine is expanding it into the Tampa Bay market.
And, oh yeah, she’s also Super Mom to her three children: Samara, 10; Josiah, 9; and Louis, 5.
All three children were younger than 5 years old when Perine’s world fell apart.
Without her husband and her job, the only income coming in was from the Social Security benefits the children were receiving after Ronald died.
Just a year earlier, the family had cleared out Ronald’s 401(k) to build their Winter Garden home.
“Everyone told me to apply for assistance from the state,” Perine said. “When I did, I was denied, because the kids brought in too much income to the house. The Social Security covered the basics of the bills, but it wasn’t nearly enough to feed our family or pay for childcare so I could go back to work.”
Perine said the loss of her husband was devastating financially — but even more so emotionally and mentally.
The hospital tried everything, but Ronald’s blood pressure had spiked, causing a blood vessel to break in his brain. Perine knew he was gone.
“I’m a very faith-based person, so I was like, ‘God, tell me what you want me to do,’” she said. “I had to sign the papers to take him off everything, because (he) and I had always had conversations about the ‘what ifs’ and the things that people don’t always talk or plan for. It was something that he was very adamant about — especially once we had children — that we needed to plan ahead for those moments. We both agreed that if we are in a situation where we are not coming back the way that is going to help the other person or anything; we don’t want to be in tubes, we don’t want things being pumped into our body. We need to make the call.”
She said a lot of people questioned if she was making the right decision, but she knew it was what he would have wanted.
God and faith is what has kept Perine pushing forward.
“I tell people, ‘Trust me: My porch has seen me shed so many tears,’” she said. “I was angry in the beginning, because I was like, ‘What did we do wrong? Why us?’ I had to tell myself it was OK to be angry, because there’s different parts of grief. Leaning on Him, talking to Him, I’m like, ‘I don’t move unless you tell me to move.’ That’s when I asked, ‘What am I doing and what do I need to do?’”
She shared the biggest thing God always offered was she needs to share her story to help others who are battling the same thing and cannot move forward.
Perine has helped a woman from her church, her best friend of 20 years and countless others to overcome the loss of their spouse. She hopes to become a guest or motivational speaker in the future.
“As women, one thing I learned is that you lose yourself,” she said. “When you become married and you have kids, you’re worrying about if everyone else has everything they need. … Then we forget us and who we are. … The more you wait and keep it hidden in your heart, the deeper you can fall into a black hole.”
Perine’s children also have played an instrumental role in her forging a path forward.
“I want them to have as normal of a life as possible,” she said. “I talk to them about and through everything. I’m very open with them, and I allow them to share their feelings in a respectful way. … My daughter told me one time, ‘Mom, when I have kids, I want to have a relationship with them just like the one you have with us.’ That was like, ‘OK I’m doing something right.’”
TOOTLES EVENT SITTERS
Tootles Event Sitters started out as a dream in 2010.
The company’s mission is to provide a safe, secure and entertaining mobile child care experience for the littlest guests of weddings, private events and corporate functions worldwide.
“Tootles is the missing ingredient in the recipe to prevent disasters at events with kids,” Perine saids. “No matter how big or small the event is, we are sure to bring ‘OODDLES OF FUN’ to the little ones. We are experts at creating an environment that’ll provide hours of entertainment for the children and peace of mind for the parents.”
When she got married in 2010, Perine said almost everyone she knew had children and they were looking for a business to come to watch the young ones for the wedding.
“I was looking for something unique,” she said. “I didn’t want a babysitter. I wanted someone who would come and really entertain the children and really keep them busy. I couldn’t find a single thing like this.”
Tootles began to grow rapidly, but Perine had to put the business on hold when she started to have children.
In 2019, Perine hit the ground running to begin to promote Tootles again. What started off as a team of about 15 has grown into a team of employees, whom Perine fondly refers to not as staff but as family.
“I tell my girls all the time that I may have started the business, but they grow the business,” she said. “My girls are out and representing Tootles the right way. I always want to know when the parents walk in the room that they’re blown away. That allows them as a parent to know that their kid is going to be entertained and they’re going to be OK, so they can go off to their event and have that peace of mind. We are entertainment sitters, not babysitters. I want people to know that we engage with the kids. We don’t hand them an iPad, or sit them in front of the TV, or hand them a crayon and a coloring book. We bring bags of tricks with us.”
Although God and her love for her children had guided her, Perine said running her own business while balancing a busy family life is not something that comes without hard work.
“My kids love that their mom runs a business,” she said. “I’m like a superstar to them. They love that I can drop them off at school, I can pick them up at school, I can be at activities that they want to go to. I have that ability, and I want to show other women they can also have that ability.”
GROWN WITH LOVE
Growing up in New Jersey, Perine traveled to Florida in the summer to stay with her grandmother and aunt, who would take care of her while her mother, who was a single mom, worked overtime to prepare for the school year.
Perine always knew when she graduated high school she wanted to move to Florida, and so she did in 2000, less than a week after walking the stage.
Perine said the family always visited Winter Garden, which was mostly orange groves at the time. She loved the downtown area and the connection and community that came with it.
“What I wanted for my kids is that family, close-knit environment,” she said. “Being from a small town in New Jersey, everyone knew each other. All the kids went to school together and grew up together. That’s what I wanted for my kids.”
Perine and her husband built their home in Winter Garden in 2016.
Tootles branched out recently into Tampa, and Perine said she is working on building clientele there and on the coast.
She hopes to offer also the business in her home state and eventually franchise it.
“I want to teach people how they can run this business and be profitable,” she said.
When she isn’t working, Perine jokes she is a free Uber for her children to theater, football, soccer, playdates and more.
She loves taking vacations with her children, especially cruises, and tries to relax with a good book.
Despite the challenges, Perine said the most rewarding part of the journey is seeing her dream come to life.
“That alone is breathtaking,” she shared. “To see this dream I had and all of the obstacles that took place, and yet here it is now. It’s a name that people know. I truly feel like I am bringing something to help the community and still being the best mom I know I can be for my kids.”