Child Care Business Lab: Program Overview

To help entrepreneurs plan and launch a new child care enterprise and operate it sustainably, the Child Care Business Lab will provide formal business start-up education, resources to support business plan development and accreditation, guidance on how to deliver high-quality child care programming and advice on hiring and operations.

This free program consists of four in-person weekend sessions in Waterville, online learning sessions, one-on-one meetings with a business advisor, personalized coaching sessions with a child care mentor and access to capital.

Learn with (and from) Your Peers

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 first cohort will begin in February 2020 to prepare businesses to open by Fall 2020.

Business Education

Formal business start-up education is the cornerstone of the Child Care Business Lab. You will learn how to develop a financial plan, build a pricing model, access capital, create a marketing plan and hire a great team. In addition, you will work individually with a business advisor to develop and execute plans that work for you and your community.

Child Care Industry Knowledge

Experienced child care professionals will impart the knowledge and skills necessary to start and run a high-quality child care business, including developing curriculum for infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers and school-aged children; encouraging social and emotional development; and establishing relationships with families.  All coursework required for licensing will be included. You will be also paired with a mentor—a child care professional – who will provide impartial advice, assist with problem solving and offer encouragement.


Networking events are planned throughout the program. Service providers, existing child care professionals, students enrolled in child care programs and the Child Care Business Lab partners will be invited to join the program participants to exchange ideas on a variety of topics, such as working with public pre-k programs, achieving work / life balance and more.

CEI will also help create connections for services, such as payroll, accounting and legal advice.

Access to Capital

Participants in the Child Care Business Lab will be eligible to apply for special start-up child care business loans to build or renovate space, buy education supplies or equipment, and to cover initial working capital. In advance of applying for a loan, each participant will work individually and confidentially with a certified financial literacy counselor who will help entrepreneurs review their credit reports, offer advice on how to improve a credit score, create a budget and recommend ways to reduce debt.

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 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.