Child Care Business Lab: Program Overview

To help entrepreneurs plan and open a new child care service and operate it sustainably, the Child Care Business Lab integrates formal small business start-up education, guidance on how to deliver high-quality child care programming, advice on hiring and coaching through the licensing process.

This free 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, personalized coaching sessions with a child care mentor and access to capital. (Workshops for non-native English speakers will be more frequent.) At the end of six months, you will be ready to open your doors!

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 ten to fifteen individuals learning how to start a child care service 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 next cohort will begin in March 2021 to prepare for opening in mid-August 2021.

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 Maine Roads to Quality District Coordinator—a child care professional  who will provide impartial advice, assist with problem solving and offer encouragement.

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.


Apply for our next  class which starts in March 2021

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.
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