Child Care Business Lab

We see increasing access to quality child care as a key piece of making an economy that works for everyone.

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

We’re helping to make that access happen through the Child Care Business Lab, a five-year program designed to grow new child care enterprises in underserved areas of Maine.

The Child Care Business Lab is an intensive cohort-based program that will give entrepreneurs the tools to start a successful small business, provide industry-specific knowledge about child care/early childhood education and help participants build networks and relationships with business advisors and mentors. Designed as an experiential leadership lab, the Child Care Business Lab will provide participants with a blueprint for a financially-viable child care business plan.

Participants will be individuals interested in starting a non-profit, for-profit, co-op or shared model child care enterprise.

Applications for our first round class class have closed. To be notified of future application rounds, please provide your email below.

Childcare Application Interest

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 to give prospective child care providers the tools and networks to successfully launch 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 funding.

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. Frequently, the ability of parents to pay for child care is not aligned with the cost of providing quality care and in an effort to charge more affordable rates, many business owners pay their staff low wages, giving rise to employee turnover and increased costs.

Our experienced business advisors and workforce experts will share their business know-how to get you started off 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 to comply with state laws. 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 accreditation 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 negatively affects their success.

We will help you establish policies and procedures to meet or exceed State requirements, get the accreditation you need and the quality rating you want.

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 financial stability.

Applications for our first round class class have closed. To be notified of future application rounds, please provide your email below.

Childcare Application Interest

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic CEI offices are closed to the public. CEI staff will be working remotely and want to hear from you! Please reach out to your CEI contact regarding scheduled meetings and/or any questions/concerns. Click here for a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.