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How to Start A Daycare: The Ultimate Guide

Starting your own daycare center can be both exciting and daunting. Many of those who choose to pursue this step in their career do so out of passion for helping children develop and reach their full potential.

While passion and child care experience are musts when opening a daycare, it cannot be overlooked that child care and daycare centers need a solid business plan. Therefore, the opening of your daycare center must be approached with a careful strategy in place to ensure success in the early make or break years. This combination of a clear mission and a carefully constructed business plan will greatly increase the success of your child care business.

At Procare, we want to encourage and enable child care professionals with all of the tools they need to enrich the lives of their students. That is why we have created this outline of important business needs to consider when starting a daycare center. The following information will provide aspiring daycare owners with direction throughout this challenging process.

Daycare Center

The “Why” Behind Opening Your Daycare Center

Starting a business, especially one as demanding as child care, is a huge time and financial commitment. It’s a good idea to examine the reasons driving your decision to open a daycare center, or “your big why.” Make sure you have a clear understanding of the time you will be required to devote before and after opening.

You should also consider your previous child care experience. If you have been in this field for years and know it is what you want, then you can move on to the business planning stage. However, if you have relatively little experience in the field, it might be prudent to gain more experience at an independently owned center or even franchise. Think about why you want to open a daycare and the specific attributes that make you uniquely qualified for this filed.

Assessing Your Market

Once you are committed to opening your own daycare center, you will have to do research to determine how competitive a marketplace your community currently is, and how sustainable an environment it will be for your business in the future.

First, are there already daycare centers open in your community? If so, you will want to look at things like:

  • What kind of center are they?
  • What age groups do they accept?
  • Where are they located?

Another good indicator of the need in your community is whether these child care centers have waiting lists. This information can help you determine if there is enough demand in your community to open you center there.

Another research strategy is to look at the current demographics in your neighborhood. If there are a lot of young families or newlyweds, this indicates that there will continue to be a need for your services in the future.

Differentiating Your Daycare Center

Once you are familiar with the current child care landscape in your community, you have to think about how you will differentiate your program to fill a need not currently being addressed.

Look at the hours of operations for the other centers in your community. Perhaps there is a timeframe early in the morning or late in the evening during which these centers are not open. Filling this need could make your center a valuable resource for parents.

Additionally, if there is an age group that is not being served, such as daycare for infants (newborns to a year) or after school programs, your center could establish a foothold by filling these needs.

Bonus Tip: Talk to parents in your community to find out what they need most from a daycare, and aim to address these needs at your center. 

Business Planning

Business Planning

Once you have done this initial research into whether your daycare business will be viable in your community, you have to begin compiling a comprehensive business plan that maps out your objectives and the strategies by which you will bring them about.                                              

Child Care Center Business Plan Checklist

Here’s a checklist recapping some essential steps of putting together your child care business plan:

  • Competitor matrix
  • Financial Planning: Funding and budgeting
  • Location of your business
  • Staffing needs
  • Licensing requirements
  • Materials, equipment, and program agenda

Bonus Tip: As you go through creating your business plan, it is a good idea to mark down important deadlines and milestones on a calendar. This will ensure you have an accurate timeline for how long planning and preparations will take, and a strong estimate for when your business will be able to open.

Licensing Requirements

Child Care License

There are many legal regulations to consider when opening your center. License requirements are typically determined by states, and therefore will vary based upon where you live. You will have to make sure your business is in compliance with these regulations by acquiring the proper licenses. Child Care Aware offers a licensing resource that directs you to the proper licensing authorities by state.  

It is important to note that child care licenses and business licenses are not the same. You will likely have to acquire separate business licenses and child care licenses to legally operate your business.

Financing

Financing Your Daycare Center

Starting a business is financially demanding. For your endeavor to be successful, it is essential that you accurately assess how much it will cost for you to open the center, determine where that money will come from, and then budget and plan to ensure your financial structure will sustain your business as it gets off the ground.

During this process, you should consider initial expenses, and how much it will cost to run your business on an annual and monthly basis. Consider how much you will pay your daycare staff, what your tuition structure will be for parents, how late fees will factor in, and how much property rent / cost is in your community.

Potential Costs of Opening a Daycare Center

A few examples of the costs associated with opening a daycare center are:

  • Property renovations
  • Insurance
  • Materials
  • Staff
  • Marketing

Funding

It is important that you don’t begin the business process until you know how it will be paid for. This is money can be accrued from a variety of sources including your personal savings, loans from friends, loans from the bank, government programs, or grants.

Financial Tracking

It is important that you keep track of your expenses and cash flow for multiple reasons. First, it will help you to track and pay back any loans in accordance with the agreement you made with the lending party.  

Second, tracking cash flow ensures that you don’t overspend, or create a payment structure that will jeopardize the financial stability of your business on a month-to-month basis.

To be aware of when money comes into and leaves your center monthly, you should be tracking: the number of tuition payments you get per month, how many times a month your center pays employees, how many enrolled children you are permitted to have, and how many of those slots will be filled.

Bonus Tip: Doing these calculations by hand leaves room for error, so we recommend a child care accounting solution that will track financial information for the center and the families you serve, as well as tracking bookkeeping, tuition payments, and cash flow.

Choosing a Location

Daycare Center

The first thing to determine when choosing a location for your daycare center is if you want to run the center from your own home, or in a commercial space. This will affect your expenses and licensing requirements.

The location of your daycare center will be subject to many licensing regulations, including building safety, zoning, physical space requirements, emergency preparedness, and more. Many of these are to ensure that the environment in which you run you center is healthy and secure. This includes things like proper waste removal and having fire alarms. 

Two important location licensing requirements to keep in mind are zoning and physical space requirements. Zoning refers to a permit from the proper authority that allows you to run a business, or be zoned for business. The physical space regulation refers to the requirement that child care centers must have 25 square feet available per student. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that the size of your space will determine how many students are allowed to enroll.

Staffing

Daycare Staff

For parents to feel comfortable leaving their children at your center and confident that they will get the developmental stimulation they need, you staff has to be well trained and experienced. Additionally, you must have enough instructors to provide quality group and individual care, as well as meet ratio requirements.

When hiring staff for your center there are three key features to keep in mind:

  • The student-to-teacher ratio
  • Licensing requirements
  • Training

Student-to-Teacher Ratio

The student-to-teacher ratio refers to the number of instructors that must be present based on the number of and age of the students. The National Association for the Education of Young Children provides recommended ratios based on age and group sizes.

Staff Licensing Requirements

Professional certification requirements and licenses vary by state; however, child care providers are often expected to have a high school degree or secondary degree. Common certification requirements are the Child Care Professional certification and the Child Development Associate certification. These require a certain number of hours of experience in different child care fields.

Staff Training

You should also make sure that your staff has training in safety courses such as CPR and first aid, as well as how to asses and document child development to report to parents. Child care instructors can provide important information to parents about where their children are developmentally, and where they may need individualized attention. That is why it is important to have reporting and parent engagement processes defined at your center, to simplify communication between caretakers and parents. 

Bonus Tip: The interview and review process to find the perfect candidates for your center can be time consuming, so you will want to start the hiring process at least two months prior to the opening of your center.

Last Steps

With financing, licensing, location, and staffing researched and prepared, you are almost ready to open your child care center. Final steps will be getting the necessary equipment and supplies, and setting an agenda for your daycare programs. You will need kid sized tables, furniture, and cots, as well as toys, crafts, and games. You will also need cleaning and administrative supplies.

When setting the agenda for your program you will want to establish routine daycare schedules for each age group. These schedules should incorporate activities that promote early child care development in major areas such as cognitive, emotional, and physical development.

As you get to know your students better, you will be able to cater the activities and learning programs to their specific interests.

Final Thoughts

The processes and planning that go into starting a daycare center can be overwhelming. However, with a defined mission and strategic business plan in place, it can be a successful and worthwhile endeavor. Following the guidelines above will give you the structure you need to build a thriving daycare center with an environment that fosters healthy, happy kids.   

Looking for ways to automate and organize administrative and business functions at your daycare center? Learn how Procare can help!

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Managing Your Child Care Waiting List

Waiting in line can be a hard thing to do, especially if you’re waiting for something important to you. For children, that might be as simple as waiting for lunch on pizza day. For their parents, it might be waiting for an opening at your child care, daycare or preschool. For you, as their provider, it might be waiting for the official pre-registration payment to hold their slot.

To make sure that families on your child care center’s waiting list actually enroll, it’s important to keep in touch with them through the process. Luckily, for child care administrators, it’s easy to create a contact list of parent names, phone numbers, and email addresses for your wait list families. By using a child care management solution like Procare Software®, you can create a printed list or choose to email or send text messages to selected families all at once.

Child Care Management

Wait List Directory

It’s easy to get a list of everyone on the waiting list with parent contact information. Start with the standard “School Directory II” report (found under Reports > Standard Reports > Family Data > Filtered Reports) and use the Filter button to include only children whose enrollment status is set to “Waiting List”. See Sample: Wait List Directory 

Customized Wait List

With the Procare Data Viewer you have more control over how the information is laid out and can include other fields, such as the date they got on the waiting list (the Status Date). Start with the Child Relationships view and add the fields you want like Primary Classroom, Enrollment Status, etc. See Sample: Data Viewer Wait List  

Use the filter icon (funnel) on the Enrollment Status header to include only “Waiting List”.

To group the report by classroom, drag the Primary Classroom header into the gray area just above the other headers.

You may also want to remove the page break so you don’t get a separate page for each class. Right-click the gray area next to Primary Classroom and uncheck Insert Page Breaks.

Then you are ready to Print or Export to another format, like a spreadsheet, PDF, etc.

Email or Text People on Your Wait List

To begin, use the Select Filter to include only families with children whose enrollment status is “Waiting List”. Then you’re ready to Email the Families or Send Text Messages to the people of your choice. You can even use the built-in Letter Merge to automatically fill in certain fields, like the name and address of each person, etc., and email (or print) the letter.

Final Thoughts

As you get under way for the year at your child care center, it can be easy to lose track of the families on your waiting list. However, though your classrooms might be too full at the moment, at some point you will have space to accept new students.

It is important that you have family contact information for those on your wait list, and are keeping in touch with them regarding their status. Using child care management software, it’s easy to manage your child care waiting list to ensure a positive relationship with prospective parents and simplify their enrollment process.

Learn more about how Procare simplifies family data management at your child care center.

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Mobile Apps for Child Care Management

Roads are wonderful metaphors. They can represent links between time and place, ways to get from here to there, and anticipation of what’s coming around the bend. So, what might that road look like between technology and your child care business?

Well, there’s a good chance you have some kind of mobile device, perhaps more than one. You may own a smartphone, iPad, or similar tablet or Android device. If so, you’re familiar with the dazzling array of apps available to do anything from teaching kids the alphabet to checking your bank balance and everything in between.

Mobile child care

Apps for Child Care Management

At Procare we know that daycare instructors and staff are always on the move with their active students, and therefore need to have access to their business and student information from many locations. That is why we offer mobile child care apps that give instructors the ability to view reports and account balances, see who has checked-in, and more from their mobile devices through the Procare Cloud. To give you a better idea of the capabilities offered through our apps, let’s take a road trip through the Procare Cloud Web Apps, and their functionality.  

Should I pack my iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows Mobile Device?

Sure, it’s good to plan ahead for your trip. There’s no reason to pack something you’ll never use. But the road ahead is easy in this regard. The Procare apps are be web based, so you only need access to the browser built into your device to use them. That means the operating system of your device (iOS, Android, etc.) won’t matter, the applications run seamlessly on all of them.

The First Leg

As we already mentioned, Procare’s applications are web based. This means you do not have to download or install a separate application to your device. All you have to do to have regular access to your child care app is bookmark the Procare web apps page on any device or tablet.

A Few Miles Down the Road

Within the child care app, instructors can get real-time reporting, a great functionality while in the field. This allows them to see who has checked in for the day, who owes money, review revenue, and look up bank statements. Instructors can also look up important student information such as emergency contacts and phone numbers. They can then call or text parents or guardians directly from the application.

 

Emergency contacts by classroom [Click images to enlarge]

Mobile App: Classroom Contact List

Open a class to see individual contact people with instant call/text options

Mobile App: Child Emergency Contacts

Children currently checked in

Mobile App: Children Checked In

Family balance due

Mobile App: Child Care Balance Due

Recent charge, credit and payment totals

Mobile App: Child Care Revenue & Payments

Bank account balance

Mobile App: Child Care Bank Balance

A Longer Journey

Our apps run through the Procare Cloud, allowing child care instructors to view and update their business-critical information from any computer with internet access whether at home, the office, or working remotely. The Procare Cloud offers a host of features that simplify administrative work for child care professionals. Aside from the mobile apps, Cloud users get automatic free updates, ensuring they always have the most up-to-date software and features.

The nightly backup service stores user data automatically, ensuring that any technical difficulties do not result in complete loss of information. Procare Cloud users also get access to the MyProcare Parent Portal, which allows parents to be more engaged and active in planning their child care. For additional communication and engagement, the Procare Cloud also integrates with KidReports classroom management and parent engagement. This allows daycare providers to seamlessly communicate with their parents on-the-go using SMS, video, and daily sheet updates. Finally, the Procare Cloud is secure, meaning private information is only available to you, or other authorized users.

Mobile App: Child Care Check In

Final Thoughts

Modern technology gives us the ability to be more efficient in every aspect of day-to-day life, including child care. With mobile child care apps and automated updates and backups in the Procare Cloud, you can focus on collaborating with parents to give your students the highest-quality care, rather than printing out and filling in check in sheets by hand, or worrying about technical maintenance.

What’s Your Destination?

Wherever your child care business is headed, Procare will keep working hard to deliver the best solutions in child care management. If you have ideas for mobile web-apps you’d like to see, please leave a comment below.

Looking for more information about managing your child care business on the go? Learn how Procare can help.

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Summer is here! Summer is here!

Now is the time to streamline
pre-registration, scheduling and forecasting of your enrollment and revenue.

If there were a town crier, he’d be excitedly running through the streets yelling, “Summer is coming! Summer is coming!” And it is… finally! We are beginning to see it everywhere: longer days, brighter skies, blooming flowers and for us in childcare, the management of summer and fall pre-registration.

For all of us in the child care industry, we are consistently preparing for the season ahead. Managing what’s going on now while predicting what will be coming up is a tall order and it certainly keeps everyone on their toes this time of year.

Procare Software® offers exciting new features designed to help early childhood administrators improve and streamline the process of pre-registration, scheduling and forecasting enrollment and revenue for future sessions so that centers can run profitably at full capacity. Continue reading

Daycare Software – What size fits your Child Care Center?

As a daycare provider it’s important to choose management software that suits the needs and size of your child care center, preschool or similar place of early learning. With that in mind, ProCare Software offers a modular Daycare Computer Program so you choose only the components needed to manage your child-centered business in the most efficient and cost effective way. For smaller and home based daycare centers Mini-ProCare offers the same rich selection of features with affordable pricing and convenient payment plans. 

So what exactly is Mini-ProCare and how do you know which solution is right for your business?  Continue reading

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