Before you start a business in childcare
Childcare centres such as pre-schools and crèches have in recent years become a thriving, high demand industry. As more and more parents have to work full time, the need for good quality childcare creates the perfect opportunity for an entrepreneur who is interested in entering this field.
There is a lot of research to be done and many factors to consider before you can go ahead and start a nursery school. Let’s look at some of the most important questions to answer.
Is this the right industry for you?
Why enter this industry specifically? Do you love children and can you picture yourself having to cope with dozens of them all at once? Do you want to create a safe, nurturing environment for children to be in while their parents are at work?
Someone working in childcare needs to be energetic, pleasant, professional and a good role model. They must be able to work with children from different backgrounds and different needs. They also need to have some business savvy and awareness of all the systems required to run a business, such as financial record-keeping, staff management and service delivery.
Where will you start?
The size of your business depends on what you would like to accomplish and how much start-up resources you have. One can start off small by opening a small centre at home with 6 children or less. This requires a lot less planning and start-up capital.
Or you may want to open a large nursery school with staff and the various facilities needed to care of a large number of children. Setting up this kind of business takes a lot of time, effort and money.
What kind of research do you need to do?
There is a lot of research to be done before you can open your business. You need to establish:
- The kind of centre you want to open; from home or from business premises.
- What it will cost to start your operation; where will the money from?
- What the various licenses needed are, what they cost and how long it will take to get them
- How many people will be in your team (based on the staff-to-child ratios) and what kind of salaries do they require
- What type of qualifications do you and your staff need?
- What legal issues do you have to comply with, such as land zoning, health and safety regulations, and so on
- Where will the nursery school be located? Can you afford this location and is there a need for your business?
- What is the profile of parent, e.g. dual-income families, single parents what kind of services are they looking for?
- What kind of equipment do you need, where will you source it from and how much will it cost?
- What types of insurance are needed to safeguard your staff, the children in your care and your business
This is just some of the research you need to before you accept your first child. Now let’s elaborate on some of these pointers:
What licenses do you need to start a pre-school?
Any school that provides early childhood development services needs to be registered with your local branch of the Department of Social Development. You will need to download and complete an application form for registration as a place of care and submit it together with the following:
- A weekly menu and daily programme
- A building plan or sketch of the building
- A business plan (if applying for funding)
- A financial report of the past year (if applying for funding)
- A lease agreement with the landlord
Once these are approved, you will be assessed by the relevant local authorities on structural and health requirements. This service is free, but it can take up to three months for the certificate to be issued. Bare this in mind when doing your planning.
What kind of services can be offered?
It’s crucial that you decide what kind of services you will provide, which can depend on:
- The number of children and their ages
- The hours of operation
- Whether food will be prepares on the premises
- What the fees and the payment policies will be
The local municipality and local health departments provide information on what is involved in providing the various services. The guidelines, requirements and restrictions differ from province to province.
The services you can offer include:
1. Fulltime care during the relevant weekday hours
2. After-school care
3. Extra hours (early mornings, evenings, overnight or weekends)
4. Drop-in or on-demand care
5. Part-time care
6. Age-based care
You can also offer certain extra services, such as a pick-up and drop-off service, or extended operating hours; things that will set your apart from the vast number of nursery schools out there and make a busy, working parent’s life that much easier.
Once you have explored your options and have a base to work from, you will have a better understanding of what you need to do to move forward with starting your business. Further articles will cover the steps that need to be taken once you have decided on the scope of your business.