A group of preschool age children play in a brightly colored daycare classroom

Child Care Business Lab: FAQs

Have questions about the Child Care Business Lab or the application process? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions below:

What is the Child Care Business Lab?

It is an intensive group-based program designed to help entrepreneurs start child care businesses in the following counties: Aroostook, Franklin, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Washington.

The first group will begin learning about how to start a child care business at the end of February 2020 in anticipation of opening their businesses by mid-August 2020.  The program consists of four in-person weekend sessions in Waterville*, online learning sessions, one-on-one in-person or telephone meetings with a business advisor and individualized in-person or video coaching sessions with a child care mentor.

Participants will also be eligible to apply for special start-up child care business loans.  

The Child Care Business Lab is a five-year program; the second group is expected to start at the end of 2020 with additional cohorts starting in 2021 through 2023.

What is the application process?

All applications are due by 5:00 pm on January 31st.

Applications will be reviewed immediately upon receipt and applicants will be scheduled for a 45-minute video interview within five days.

Admission is on a rolling basis and applicants will be notified of admission decisions by February 6th at 5:00 pm

Where is the Child Care Business Lab located?

The Child Care Business Lab calls Waterville home; participants selected for the program will be in residence in Waterville for four “weekends” between the end of February and the end of June*.  Additional start-up child care education will take place online.  Individual meetings with business advisors and child care mentors will take place locally in each county and be supplemented by telephone and video calls.

*In-residence “weekends” start at 4:00 pm on Thursdays and end on Saturdays at 1:00 pm.

Getting to Waterville will be difficult for me personally.  Can I call in for those sessions? 

Entrepreneurs starting a business in rural parts of Maine often say they feel isolated, which is why the Child Care Business Lab will consist of groups or cohorts of five to seven individuals learning how to start a child care enterprise together. The members of the cohort will have similar goals and aspirations and may also share the same concerns or challenges. By joining the Child Care Business Lab, you will be part of an interactive, engaging community – establishing relationships that may last for decades.  The in-person start-up education and child care management training are what differentiates the Child Care Business Lab from other programs.  Being in person for the four sessions is a requirement.

How long is the program?

The 2020 program starts on Thursday, February 27th at 4:00 pm in Waterville. The final in-person session in Waterville ends at 1:00 pm on June 27th.  See application for more detail on the Waterville dates. Online education sessions will taper off in July and August as entrepreneurs prepare to open their businesses.

Practical touchpoint sessions will be offered online on a quarterly basis to support the entrepreneurs after their business opens in August.  Sessions with business advisors and child care mentors will be at a pace determined by the entrepreneur; they are expected to continue well after the business opens.

What is the cost for the program?

There is no charge for the formal education sessions, the meetings with the business advisors and mentors or the networking events.  In addition, a $500 travel and hotel stipend will be awarded.  We can match you with a roommate if interested.

What are the criteria for selection into the Child Care Business Lab?

We are looking for people who demonstrate passion for and experience with early childhood development. Candidates accepting infants and allocating slots for children eligible for subsidy will have priority.

We are looking for people who are ready to get started, with a preference for those who have achieved the following:

  • Identified a location for their child care business
  • Worked in early childhood education or a child care business
  • Overcome obstacles to success and demonstrate a willingness to learn new things
  • Built a strong personal support network

We are looking for people who have some business know-how or have an understanding of what it takes to run a small business, including experience with the following:

  • Establishing and adhering to a budget including personal/household budgeting
  • Creating or managing a program or business process such as administrative work, customer service or homeschooling
  • Building relationships with diverse groups or populations such as youth-serving organizations, schools, or churches

We are looking for people who will be great employers and agree to the following:

  • Hire people who may not be working, people receiving public benefits and people earning low incomes
  • Provide quality jobs that pay a living wage and offer benefits, such as paid time off

Note: Maine Licensing Laws prohibit those who have been convicted of listed crimes and drug-related felonies from working in a child care setting.

What kind of child care operation is the Child Care Business Lab designed to help?

All kinds of start-ups – from family/in-home to larger center-based businesses – will benefit from the Child Care Business Lab – whether for-profit, nonprofit or a cooperative.

I am an existing child care operator. Can I apply?

Currently, the Child Care Business Lab is designed for entrepreneurs starting a new child care operation. We will let you know when we have programs available for existing child care business owners. We can, however, pair you with a business advisor who will work with you personally to provide one-one-one consultation.  If you are interested in speaking with a business advisor, please send an email message to childcare@ceimaine.org

Tell me more about the special child care business loan.  How much money can I borrow?

It depends on your projected business income/anticipated revenue and how much money you need to create a sustainable business.

Through the Child Care Business Lab, we will help entrepreneurs establish a financially viable child care business, where the invested capital (or money borrowed) enhances the opportunity for success and the monthly loan payments are affordable.

One important milestone for participants is the development of a business plan that will include a description of the service to be delivered; start-up costs to enhance, renovate or build a space and buy equipment/supplies; ongoing costs and expected revenue.  During the sessions in Waterville, you will learn the key elements of how to create a business plan, then you will work one-on-one with a business advisor to write your plan for your business. Through this process, you will be able to determine how much money you need to borrow and can afford.

What are the eligibility requirements for the special child care business loan?

Credit score is frequently one factor that is used to determine how much of a risk it will be to lend someone money. In advance of applying for a loan, you will work individually and confidentially with a certified financial counsellor who will help you review your credit report; offer advice on how to improve your credit score, if appropriate; create a budget and recommend ways to reduce debt.

Frequently, loans of less than $15,000 to buy equipment/supplies can be secured by a lien on business assets. Larger-value loan requests, such as those for new construction of a center-based child care business, will undergo a traditional loan review process. As part of the Child Care Business Lab curriculum, you will learn how to access capital and a business advisor will help you navigate the process.

Are there any resources for those not selected for the Child Care Business Lab?

Yes!  We will pair you with a business advisor to help you prepare for our next cohort and to help you start your business. We will also connect you with local resources.

Can I speak to someone directly about the Child Care Business Lab and my application?

Yes, please send an email message to childcare@ceimaine.org listing three dates and times during the next few days that you are available for a telephone conversation.  Your meeting time will be confirmed within 48 hours.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic CEI offices are closed to the public. CEI staff are 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.