So, you think you’d like to start a day care but where to start? Let’s assume you know nothing about the industry except that it involves children!!! That’s pretty much the position I was in when I started my day care 10 years ago and I spent a year and a half researching and learning before I got going. Before you go running for the hills in dismay allow me to cut short the research time a little with some pointers on how best to prepare for the exciting adventure that is ‘Starting a daycare business’.
Your first port of call should be your business plan. Every successful business starts with a well thought out version thus enabling the entrepreneur (you) to get a clear, overall picture of what your business will entail. Many people get to the business plan stage and no further due to a realisation that the project is unfeasible for whatever reason. Better find out now than after you have ploughed a lot of time and money into starting a business going nowhere.
The business plan covers all vital elements of starting and operating a business – introduction / description, benefits, market research, key financials and conclusion. I found it to be a great ‘checklist’ of things to do as I worked my way methodically through each of the required steps. It forced me to consider, research and document every aspect of my potential business, propelled me to analyse in detail areas I might otherwise have glossed over (or ignored completely). Like a good teacher it provided the questions and ensured I filled in the blanks. There are many great business plan templates out there and I have listed some that I particularly like below:
Next, talk to the experts. Arrange a meeting with your local licensing representative, have them visit your premises and find out what they will be requiring in terms of premises layout, contents, play area and general health and safety issues. Get them to give you guidelines and tips on policies and paperwork. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – remember this is the expert, the person who will be granting you a license so best to have a heads up on what they will expect from you. Prepare in advance of this meeting and come armed with a list of comprehensive questions so you don’t waste a great opportunity to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
An invaluable source of information on setting up your day care is existing daycare owners. When I was researching my business I received some of the best tips, hints and advice from other providers, in fact, I still make ‘information gathering visits’ once a year and learn something new everytime. Call up a couple of established providers (preferably not too close to your proposed venture – they might not be too enamoured of the impending competition!), explain your situation and set up a day to go visit. Most people are delighted to mentor a budding entrepreneur and proud to showcase their business. Become a sponge for that day and absorb every tidbit of information available.
Take a pen and paper for notes, ask questions, listen and observe. Notice daily routines, room layout and equipment, methods for dealing with behaviours, staff and child interaction, health and safety procedures, hygiene practices, peruse paperwork (ask for copies of the paperwork to help guide you when formulating your own). Get tips on advertising, pricing and suppliers. Try to speak with the owner or manager, the staff and the cook and get a feel for each unique role. Ask questions like ‘What do you feel could be improved?’ or ‘If you were starting out what things would you do differently?’. These open questions will provide you with an immense wealth of knowledge, all of the practical, hands on variety.
These are just three steps you can take in pursuit of your dream to start a day care business and they will provide you with a tremendous amount of information and guidance. Your confidence in yourself and your ability to achieve your vision will peak and you will be propelled into further positive action. It costs nothing but time and if you can get yourself to this point there’s no looking back. What are you waiting for?