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

Groups begin learning how to start a child care business in March in anticipation of opening their businesses by mid-August.  The six-month program consists of ten live in-person 2 hour video workshops conducted via Zoom, 3 in-person sessions, 6 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 and we will help with grant applications.

How do I get into the program?

Submit your application by February 18thClick to apply.

When is the first session and What can i expect?

The first session is March 11th in Bangor starting at 3:00 pm, where we will be asking each person to talk about their dreams and their vision for their child care.  Before that session, we will mail you a kit to help you create a “vision board” or poster that describes your child care service. We’ll have dinner as a group and stay in a hotel. Expenses for the hotel room and food are covered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On March 12th, from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm we will become certified in First Aid and CPR for both children and adults.  This is required to be licensed as a child care provider. (Anyone holding a valid First Aid and CPR certificate does not need to stay for the Saturday session.)

Where is the Child Care Business Lab located?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most Child Care Business Lab workshops will take place via video calls using Zoom. We have 3 in-person sessions planned in Bangor. March 11th, March 12th and May 7th.

Individual meetings with business advisors and child care mentors will take place in whatever environment each pair deems appropriate – either in person or via Zoom.

How long is the program?

6 months.

The first session is live in person in Bangor on Friday, March 11th from 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm followed by a group dinner. Hotel rooms are paid by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The second session is the next day from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. 

Starting on March 15th, workshops are held every other Wednesday from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm via Zoom through June. One additional workshop will be held in July as you prepare to open in mid-August.

We also have a live in person session in Bangor on Saturday, May 7th from 9:30 am– 1:00 pm.

Sessions with business advisors and child care mentors will be at a pace determined by you. The most successful past participants in the Child Care Business Lab scheduled them every other week from March through July and then more frequently in August.

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

Participating in the video and in-person sessions during the six-month program is a requirement.

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. 

I would like to find a low-cost laptop with a camera to use for the Child Care Business Lab and for my new business. where should i start?

Check out this Waterville-based nonprofit called give IT get IT to shop affordable refurbished computers

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 children. 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 thought about what it takes to run a small business, including those who have one of the following experiences:

  • Establishing and adhering to a personal or household budget
  • 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: Background Checks are required by the Department of Health and Human Services for all child care workers.

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?

The Child Care Business Lab is designed for start-ups. If you are already open,  The CEI Women’s Business Center has business advisors who can work with you individually.  (After clicking the The CEI Women’s Business Center link, select the blue Request Advising button – about half way down the page.

If you’d like to work individually with a child care mentor, click Meet the District Coordinators | Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (mrtq.org) and then send an email to the person located in your county to set up a meeting.

I heard that the state has grants available for child care businesses.

Yes! This is a great time to start a child care business because there are several state grant programs available. We will help you through the application process.

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

It depends on your projected business income and how much money you need to start and run your business.

Through the Child Care Business Lab, we will help you establish a financially stable child care business, where the money you borrow enhances your 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 Child Care Business Lab workshops, you will learn how to create a business plan, then you will work one-on-one with a business advisor to finetune your plan to meet your needs and the needs of your community. 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 $50,000 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, we’d love to talk with you! Please click to book a meeting with us.  You will receive a telephone number to dial for the meeting and an identification number to key in after you dial the number.  The telephone number is 207-504-5929 and the identification number is: 993510.

Our offices remain closed to the public, but we are hard at work!
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