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?

The 2021 class is an intensive group-based program designed to help entrepreneurs start child care businesses in Lewiston and in the following counties: Aroostook, Franklin, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Washington.

Groups began learning about how to start a child care business in March 2021 in anticipation of opening their businesses by mid-August 2021.  The six-month program consists of ten live in-person 2½ hour video workshops conducted via Zoom, 25 hours of on-demand online learning sessions, bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with a business advisor and personalized coaching sessions with a child care mentor.

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

What is the application process?

The 2021 application round has closed. CEI will be accepting applications for the next cohort in 2022.

Interested in applying for a future cohort? Sign up to be notified of future applications below:

Childcare Application Interest

Where is the Child Care Business Lab located?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Child Care Business Lab workshops and individual meetings with business advisors and child care mentors will take place via video calls using Zoom.

How long is the program?

Workshops are held every other week over a six month period starting the week of March 1st . A final workshop is scheduled during the week of July 19th as entrepreneurs prepare to open their businesses in August.

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.

Participating in weekly workshops via video call will be difficult for me personally.

Entrepreneurs starting a business especially 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 ten to fifteen individuals learning how to start a child care business together. The members of the group 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 ten sessions over the six-month period is a requirement.

What is the cost for the program?

There is no charge for the formal education workshops, the online training sessions or meetings with the business advisors and mentors. Participants need a laptop or tablet computer plus an internet connection.

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 and people receiving public benefits
  • 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 money you borrow (sometimes called invested capital) 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 workshops, 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.

Sharia-compliant financing is available.

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, such as playground equipment. 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 class 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.

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.