As more families with young children have both a mother and father working full-time, the need for high quality daycare and childcare centers has increased. Starting your own daycare business can be a rewarding and lucrative career, but it does require both childcare skills and business acumen.
If you love children and the idea of starting your own childcare center sounds like your dream job, don’t be discouraged by the process of getting off the ground. With some planning and hard work, your dream can become a reality.
Here are some tips for getting started:
Tip #1: Think Like A Parent
When you’re starting a childcare business, it’s natural to focus on offering the best quality care for the children. That’s a good thing! But remember that the children aren’t actually your clients – their parents are.
When setting up your business, try to put yourself in the shoes of a parent. Apply this logic to the physical space, hours of the center, and philosophy of the center. What would you want your child’s daycare to look like? What would make it convenient for you? What style of daycare do you prefer – learning-based or play-based? What policies would you like to see in place to protect your children and foster their growth? It’s not just about providing an environment the kids like. It’s about providing an environment that suits their parents.
Tip #2: Childcare Is About Kids, But It’s Still A Business
This venture is about children and their care, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that you’re running a business. You’re going to need solid business skills to stay afloat.
If you’re not familiar with the basics of accounting, marketing, management, taxes, operations, and the other skills you need to run a successful business, you may want to consider taking a basic business course to get up to speed. As with any other business, you’ll need to start with a thorough business plan and budget to get yourself on the right track.
Tip #3: Get Accredited
You’ll want to earn your CDA (Child Development Associate Accreditation) before opening your center. This national credential is widely recognized in the childcare industry as a marker of competency in early childhood education.
This professional development course teaches how to appropriately educate children during different developmental stages. In addition to education, the CDA Credential opens the networking door to over 370,000 educators who’ve also earned this distinction.
You can learn more about the CDA process and FAQs here.
Tip #4: Get Licensed
Each state requires you to be licensed in order to legally operate a daycare. The specific requirements vary from state to state. Before you commit to your business plan, you’ll want to ensure that you can obtain the appropriate childcare licensing.
For an interactive real-time list of licensing requirements in your state, visit this resource.
Tip #5: Safety Is Key
One of the most important parts of the childcare licensing process is the safety inspection of your facilities and background checks of your staff.
You’ll need to have safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and first aid stations. Depending on the age of the children you’ll be caring for, you may also need child-specific safety equipment like child locks and barrier gates.
Your staff will need to be trained in basic first aid and pediatric CPR – make sure you keep their certifications current! Some larger centers will also employ a nurse on staff to administer medication and deal with any urgent injuries.
Tip # 6: Curriculum Matters
Parents like to see their children thriving and learning. Preparing a curriculum for even the smallest children lends structure to their time and gives parents peace of mind that their children are growing and developing during their time at your center.
Tip #7: Be Professional
Even though your business requires you to be on your feet, you should still strive to be professional when you’re dealing with families. While your attire can be casual (nobody expects you to run childcare in a 3-piece suit and heels!), make sure your overall business projects an air of professionalism.
Professionally-designed signs, business cards, and business materials go a long way toward establishing authority and building trust with your clients.
Tip #8: Invest In A Website
In 2016, no parent is going to choose a childcare center without some background research. That means they’ll be checking out your website. It may be the first impression a potential client gets of you and your business, so you’ll want to start off on the right foot.
If you have the budget, it’s worth paying a designer to set up your website to be the best it can be. Your page should be attractive, well-laid out, and mobile-friendly. Make it easy for parents to contact you and set up an appointment or a visit. You can also use the data your website gathers to help target your marketing efforts.
Tip #9: Spread The Word
In addition to traditional ads, social media platforms can help you share the news about your childcare center and meet prospective families. Set up social media accounts for your business and use them to engage with people in the community. There are also a number of websites, such as Care.com, that collect listings for childcare providers, so make sure your business is included in those directories.
Tip #10: The Price Is Right
Starting up and maintaining a high-quality childcare center is costly. You want your focus to be on quality, not price. Try to determine the fair market value of the local competitors when you’re setting prices for your center. Parents are willing to pay for quality, so don’t feel as though you need to be cheapest option out there, even if you’re new to the industry.
Starting a childcare center can be a dream job if you love children, but it’s still a business. Make sure you learn basic business skills and perform your due diligence with licensing, safety requirements, and pricing so that you’re providing both high-quality care for children, and a high quality business for their parents.
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