Once you're beyond the baby-sitting stage, out of your home
and backyard, beginning to build a real day care facility,
you might try locating in your church or one of your area's
civic club facilities. Also, you should check out the
possibilities of renting or buying a vacant house. A large
ranch-style home with a large backyard would probably suit
your needs at this stage. But be sure you have zoning
approval from your city council before signing a rent lease
and finalizing your plans.
You might find, if you have your business plan in order,
that a church or labor union will sponsor your business, or
even offer financial backing. Arranging some sort of
partnership or sponsorship agreement with an established
local organization will solve a lot of problems for you, not
only in the area of space but in assistance with start-up
costs and city-father approval.
Incidentally, a day care center is perhaps the ideal
business for absentee ownership or a group of professional
investors. Keep this fact in mind as you organize your plan
and seek financing. See our business report, How To Raise
Money For Starting Your Own Business.
Generally, a "shoestring entrepreneur" in this business will
do very well to locate in a vacant convenience store, or
even a vacant grocery store in a larger shopping center. The
zoning will be in your favor, plus you'll have adequate
parking space, and less expense in partitioning or
remodeling the building to suit your needs.
Ideally, your day care center should be located on a main
thoroughfare, with the building set back from the street.
You should be on the right hand side of the street as the
traffic heads towards the major business or industrial areas
of your community. In larger metropolitan areas, this would
be on the city-side of the "bedroom" communities. In smaller
communities, you can locate just about anywhere except in
the downtown area.
If at all
possible, you should plan your facility similar to a
hospital or motel entrance. This would be a driveway from
the street to your door, usually under a covered drive-thru,
with the driveway continuing back out to the street. Your
long-term parking space would then be located in the center
of the "U" or between the driveway and the street. You want
to strive for the convenience for the parent in being able
to drive right up to your door. She can drop off the child
with only a few steps into your facility and easy access
back onto the main thoroughfare.
Depending on your city sign ordinances and your finances, go
all out with your sign. Advertise the name of your day care
center, the hours you're open, whether you accept drop-ins,
overnighters, or weekenders, and of course, your phone
The sign makers and advertising people may strongly advise
you against so much wording on your sign, but in this
instance, don't listen to them. Your sign should state all
essential information, and serve to convince passers-by that
you can handle their child- care problems whenever the need
initially locate in, or through the sponsorship of a church
or labor union, these people can assist you tremendously by
including a mention of your services in their membership
bulletins, and by passing out circulars or flyers.
You'll need to decide on your regular day care hours.
Generally, these are from 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. You'll also
need to decide whether you want to offer breakfast for the
children. If so, you'll have to plan for a cook and food
supplies for morning meals. We'll discuss kitchen facilities
and kitchen help later, but the first decision must be if
you will include breakfast. You'll already be set up with
kitchen facilities and a cook because you will be serving a
noon meal. If you do decide to offer breakfast for those
parents not wanting to feed their children at home, you'll
be able to add $8 to $12 per week to their billing. By
buying your food supplies in bulk, you'll probably be able
to realize some savings in overall food costs.
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are required in some
states, but even where they're not required, they are pretty
much standard fare in most day care centers. Fresh fruit,
cookies, and juice are the usual snack foods served in most
day care centers.
As mentioned earlier, you'll definitely be providing a hot
meal for the children at noon. This entails a cook, dishes,
planned menus, food supplies in bulk, and perhaps even small
size table and chairs. You'll also have to have kitchen help
and facilities for washing the dishes.
These are just some of the important overhead costs you must
plan for, and of course you will work to keep them as low as
possible. As you should know by now, the greater your
overhead, the more children you're going to have to take in,
and the more children you take in, the greater your space
All profitable day care centers operate according to planned
routines. The day is broken down into one-hour segments,
with pre-planned curriculam, much the same as classes at a
A typical day begins with a play period from whenever the
children arrive until about 9 o'clock. For this, you'll need
indoor sand boxes, toys and perhaps a family-sized
television set. From 9 to 10, the children are separated
into groups - generally by ages - and you hold a reading or
story-telling session. The mid-morning snack time is
scheduled sometime between 10 to 11. For the younger
children, this might include a mid-morning nap. After snack
time, a learning session is usually held. Typically, this is
the time when guests are invited in to speak or entertain
Work with your Chamber of Commerce, civic clubs, and city
administration for guests. Children will especially enjoy
visits by policemen, firemen and others who talk to them
about citizenship, show films, and teach them about the
things they do in the community.
You can also get upperclassmen at your local colleges to
visit and demonstrate such things as drawing, working with
clay, building with wood, making things out of paper, and
hundreds of other talents or skills they might be learning.
thing is to bring "outsiders" in to talk to the kids about
what goes on in their world.
Noon to 1 o'clock is generally lunch time, and from 1 until
2 is another learning session. During this afternoon
learning session, you might offer the rudiments of reading,
writing and arithmetic. These teaching chores can be handled
by college students studying to be teachers, retired
teachers, or unemployed persons with teaching certificates.
It's not so much a session to teach proficiency as a time to
stimulate interest in formal education. The basic goal of
most day care centers is to instill within each child a
desire to learn more about the world in which he lives.
Thus, each child should be full of plans for "when I get to
be six years old and start school, I'm going to..."
About once a week, your afternoon learning session should be
a tour or a trip to some place that might be interesting as
well as educational for the children. Again, you're making
the idea of learning not only interesting, but an exciting
ad venture as well.
These trips can be anything from a walk in your immediate
neighborhood to loading all the kids into cars or onto buses
and taking them to the zoo. Check it out first, but on the
whole, you'll find most businesses in your area will welcome
opportunities to show the children around their offices or
factories. The same thing quite naturally applies to your
city offices, fire department, police department, and radio
or television stations.
On days when you don't have a trip scheduled, your "learning
session" might be a film or program related to nature,
particularly animals. The advent of the Video Cassette
Recorder has opened endless possibilities in this area. Nap
time and snack time will fill a period for younger ones, and
books and quiet games will occupy older children who do not
take a nap. When the nap period is over, they're allowed to
play until their parents come by to pick them up.
Whenever possible, you should encourage the children to be
outside during play periods. If you have lots of playground
equipment, you won't necessarily always have to have
organized games, but you will have to have a playground
supervisor - someone to watch the children and see that they
don't get hurt as they play. You can hire part-time help for
this chore, perhaps from the local colleges, for minimum
wage. If your city ordinances do not cover the specific age
requirements of a playground supervisor, you might be able
to hire students from your neighborhood high school. Select
all the people you hire relative to their affinity with
children and their dependability. Be aware of today's
climate of extreme concern in protecting children in day
Your playground will require a fenced-in area. Drive around
and look at the playground equipment in the play yards of
your public schools and at day care centers in your area.
You should have the basic sandboxes, swings, slides and
jungle gyms but in this area you can be creative and
original, provided your equipment meets safety standards.
Some states require that you have a registered nurse on the
premises, but generally, the main things needed are medical
information from the parents and a written procedure to
follow in case of accident or illness. Basically, when a
child is injured
or be comes ill, you should take him to the nearest medical
center, while another staff person gets in touch with the
parents, and explains what happened. If the parent cannot be
present at the medical center, all information should be
passed on to him/her immediately as it is available.
It's a good idea to have all your helpers indoctrinated with
basic Red Cross first aid knowledge, and have a
well-equipped first aid kit on the premises. As for any
requirements relative to a full-time nurse, you should be
able to hire registered nurses who are either not working or
looking for extra income. You might be able to "hire the
license" of a registered nurse. You pay a small fee to hang
her license in your office, and she agrees to be available
to serve your needs when you call.
Most day care centers are currently charging from $35 to $65
per child for a five day week, plus $5 to $10 more for the
inclusion of breakfast, with another $l per meal when they
serve an evening meal to the child. If you do not receive
pay in advance, you can very quickly get "in the red." We
strong suggest setting up your financial structure and
clients' payment schedules with this in mind.
By having your customers pay in advance, you'll eliminate a
lot of bookkeeping chores and time, the problems of
collections, and you'll have operating funds with which to
run the business. A point to stress when asking for payment
by the month, in advance, is that because monthly payments
are based on only four weeks of day care, they'll be getting
a week of free service every three months.
Every profitable day care center requires a sharp manager or
director. This person might be yourself, or someone you hire
for the job. Regardless, this person will be the key to your
success. The director should have an empathy with people, be
an excellent judge of people, be sales oriented, and have an
outgoing personality. As much as anything else, this person
must have the ability to listen to, and really hear what
other people are saying without the influence of
preconceived opinions, or making snap decisions. This person
has to have the success of your business in mind at all
times, which means building and maintaining an impeccable
Your director will be responsible for the hiring and
supervision of your other help and the budgeting, scheduling
and overall day-to-day operation of the business. It is
imperative to the success of your business that you have the
very best person you can get in this position, regardless of
the cost. A good director for a day care center will command
a salary equal to teachers in your public schools, plus
fringe benefit allowances
such as free enrollment for their children and perhaps
medical and dental insurance if you choose to provide group
When a prospective client calls to ask you about your
services, you should explain how you operate, and emphasize
your invitation for them to bring their child in so that the
two of them can be taken for a tour of your facilities.
Once in the center, your manager or director takes the
parent and child on a tour, all the while explaining to
parent the advantages of the center's structured learning
and play program as compared with everyday run-of-the-mill
baby-sitting services. It's important to have the child
along, because as he sees the other children at play, he
will be drawn to them, and this will greatly influence the
parent in deciding that your center is the right place for
After the tour, steer the parent back into your
administrative offices and propose enrollment of the child.
Begin by asking where the parent works, what hours and if he
or she ever has to work overtime. You then ascertain the
hours they'll want to drop off and pick up their child.
Strict procedures are absolutely essential regarding the
pick- up of any child. Frightening as it may be to
contemplate, we have all read accounts of strangers (or
non-custodial parent) kidnapping a child. Printed forms must
be provided, and authorization signatures must be compared
when anyone other than the legal guardian takes a child from
your care. You will learn these requirements from your
licensing office. Our advice to you is to follow them
You should have a slickly printed, quality brochure showing
your rates, your services, an outline of the curriculum, and
a statement of your benefit goals for the children.
Check with a legally qualified person about the need for a
contract. The parent will probably simply fill out a
questionnaire-file card giving address, place of employment,
medical information about the child, and place he or she may
be reached in case of emergency.
Most day care centers accept all children between two and
six years of age. And there are many nowadays who take
infants from six weeks. Of course, your personnel in this
situation will be thoroughly oriented in infant care, and
you must ascertain if these babies are well when brought in
to you. Otherwise, you put yourself in the position of
"hospital" care instead of day care.
Generally, children aren't allowed to bring toys from home.
You may want to allow the children to bring their own
blanket from home for nap time, but if you allowed toys from
home you would be opening "Pandora's box" of possible
problems relating to sharing and ownership. In light of
this, you will want a full complement of appropriate toys
and play items in your center.
If you decide to include short-term baby-sitting services, a
good idea would be to include within the layout of your
facilities a small one-bedroom apartment for a live-in or
couple. An older retired couple would be ideal, with the
husband serving also as maintenance and handy-man.
Around-the-clock baby-sitting services, in addition to your
regular day care center, can add tremendous and immediate
cash-flow profits to your business, but correspondingly
increase your payroll for qualified personnel. Such services
would enable the parents to drop their children off in the
evening, and leave them around the clock or over the
weekend. There will generally be no need for any planned
program because these children will be sleeping during most
of the time they're in your care.
As you establish the image and reputation of your day care
center, the parents in your area will be much more inclined
to leave their children with you for baby-sitting duties.
And because you are considered tops in the area of
responsibility , you'll be able to charge the very top rate
of the baby-sitting fee structure. Keep current with fees
charged by other quality businesses similar to yours.
The demand for unplanned or emergency baby-sitting services
is very large. Not too many day care centers are aware of
this potential for extra profits yet, but the ones that are
find that their incomes can increase by 30 percent or more!
We certainly recommend consideration of this idea for anyone
involved in a day care service.
Another area that could mean enhanced profits for you is bus
or van pick-up service for the children. Of course, this
would increase your operating costs (and consequently your
fees) but the convenience of pick-up is gaining in
popularity. You'll need a custodian for indoor and outdoor
cleanup, and if you have access to a bus or van, he could be
assigned additional duties as the driver. Some day care
centers offering pick-up service for their children contract
with local transportation services to provide this service.
Be certain of the driving experience of your driver if you
contract for this transportation service.
Most day care
centers open with very little fanfare or advertising.
Generally, even without advertising most are reporting 90
percent capacity enrollment within six months.
With grand opening fanfare, and a strong advertising
campaign, you should be able to be at 90 percent capacity
within your first six weeks. In an area where a severe short
age of day care facilities exists, and with the right
advertising and promotion, even sooner.
Your first step should be the door-to-door, hand-out
distribution of a quality informative brochure. To save on
costs, you can hire students attending advertising classes
in your area colleges or even a free lance advertising
copywriter to help you with the design and writing of this
brochure. However, the bottom line should be that you have a
good commercial printer do the printing on the best paper
you can afford. All of this has to do with the image you're
wanting to create, and the quality of the service the
"buyers" feel they're getting for the prices you are
charging. Don't skimp on your brochure - you're aiming at
people looking for the best place for their children.
place at least a two-column by four-inch grand opening
display ad in your local newspapers. At the same time, you
should place similar ads in the local magazines and other
publications catering to the working mother. Send along a
group picture of your staff, and a story about your services
with your advertising order. Phone the editors at your local
newspapers, radio and TV stations and invite them out to
your grand opening.
Be sure to place a "service information" ad in the yellow
pages of your telephone directory. This should be the
largest size you can afford. And remember that you need to
make contact for a yellow page ad well in advance of the
release date of the directory.
After your grand opening, and until you attain full
capacity, continue to hand out your brochures at the
entrances to the office buildings which house companies
employing working mothers. Continue to run ads in your local
newspaper, although these ads needn't be quite as large or
run as regularly as the grand opening ads. Run an ad in the
classified section describing your baby-sitting services.
Your response will greatly increase if you can include a
address that has additional details about your
service. You can also have business cards printed with your
A business web site
doesn't have to be expensive and their are easy to use
resources available to help you create your own Internet
At your grand opening, offer free refreshments for everyone.
Coffee and punch for the adults, with juice for the
children, and cookies for everyone. You should have members
of your staff circulating among the parents to answer any
questions and hand out brochures about the center.
You can begin small, and expand in stages with your profits.
However, you must draw up a
long-range plan detailing
exactly what you intend to do, and each milestone you'll
have to pass before proceeding to your next goal. In this
way, you can succeed and attain not only the ultimate
business, but also the kind of profits planned at the start.
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The basic, and bottom line secret to success with your own
day care center will be your ability to hold your costs in
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by step guide
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forms you will
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