Child Care Business Lab

Increasing access to quality child care is a key piece of making an economy that works for everyone.

Child care providers are an important part of the Maine economy for three reasons: they provide education and enrichment for our children, they eliminate a barrier many parents face when they want to work and they create job opportunities.

Through the Child Care Business Lab, we’re helping entrepreneurs start new, quality child care businesses in underserved areas of Maine.

The Child Care Business Lab is an intensive cohort-based program that gives entrepreneurs the tools to start a successful small business, helps them refine their child care/early childhood education philosophy and guides them through the licensing process. Designed as an experiential leadership opportunity, the Child Care Business Lab will provide participants with a blueprint for a high-quality, financially viable child care business.

We are working with people interested in starting a non-profit, for-profit, co-op or shared model child care enterprise.

Apply now for our next class which starts in March 2021


Expert Advice to Boost Your Success

Since the 1970s, we’ve financed or advised over 150 child care businesses in Maine and we’ve used that experience to design the Child Care Business Lab. Our goal is to give prospective child care providers the tools and networks to successfully open and sustain a child care business by focusing on four major barriers:

Access to Capital

One of the biggest challenges new start-ups face is finding sufficient capital to get their business off the ground. Many facilities require renovation to meet local zoning ordinances or Maine child care quality standards. Other upfront costs include furniture, education supplies, games and playground equipment. It can be a confusing and difficult process to find financing and secure approval especially when the founder has little prior business experience or collateral.

As a community-based lender ourselves, we know what funders and lenders want. We will walk you through the process of building a winning business plan and applying for financing.

Increased Business Acumen

Developing a business plan is an essential element of securing capital, but many who consider starting a child care business find the idea of doing a feasibility study, drafting a marketing plan and creating a cash-flow analysis daunting. It’s especially important for child care entrepreneurs to understand the economics of their business – headcount, wages and state regulated child-to-staff ratios are key.

Our experienced business advisors and workforce experts will share their business know-how to get you started on the right foot.

Specialized Child Care Industry Knowledge

Many who want to start a child care business have experience with early childhood education, but little knowledge about local, state and national laws. Understanding the Maine rules for licensing, teacher qualifications and staff-to-child ratios is just the beginning of what child care business owners need to know. From employee criminal background checks to space and equipment minimums to lunch nutritional requirements, it’s essential that child care business owners know the minimum requirements and establish policies and procedures to meet or exceed them. Understanding the steps to becoming licensed and earning a quality rating is essential for continued business success. There is a dizzying array of content and it is too easy for new business owners to misunderstand an important rule and make a decision that diminishes their success.

We will help you establish policies and procedures to meet or exceed State requirements, get licensed and earn a quality rating.

Overcoming Barriers to Financial Sustainability

New child care entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges and risks that other small business owners encounter, but with the added complexity of operating in a highly regulated environment. Child care businesses are labor-intensive, with high recurring costs driven by state regulated child-to-staff ratios. Frequently, there is a mismatch between parents’ ability to pay and the business owner’s costs, leaving both parents and child care business owners with difficult financial choices.

We will help you identify potential challenges and resources in the planning stages to help you increase your profitability.


Apply for our next class which starts in March 2021

The CEI offices remain closed to the public, but we're hard at work! Reach out or click here for a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
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