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January 15, 2020

CEI Launches Child Care Business Lab

First cohort of entrepreneurs begins class in February

January 14, 2020 – CEI today launched the Child Care Business Lab, a five-year program designed to grow new child care enterprises in underserved areas of Maine.

Child care providers contribute to a healthy economy in three ways: they deliver education and enrichment to Maine’s future workforce, eliminate a barrier many parents face when they want to work, and provide job opportunities to child care workers.

Yet, data show that the unmet need for child care is significant: across Maine, only 26.5% of children up to 14-years-old (55,000 children) are enrolled in paid child care. Parents who want to be in the labor force are unable to participate because they don’t have child care options; many in rural communities either work part-time or not at all. Compounding the challenge, the number of family-based child care businesses (the predominant offering in rural areas) has declined 28% in Maine from 2010 to 2016.

The Child Care Business Lab is designed to address this gap by giving entrepreneurs the tools to start a sustainable operation, with industry-specific knowledge about child care and early childhood education. The curriculum has four core areas of focus:

  • Specialized Child Care Business Knowledge. Understanding the Maine rules for licensing, teacher qualifications and staff-to-child ratios is just the beginning of what child care business owners and directors need to know to comply with state laws. From employee criminal background checks, space and equipment minimums, to lunch nutritional requirements, individuals operating child care centers must know and establish the policies and procedures required by law.
  • Access to Capital. Many homes and buildings require renovation to meet local zoning ordinances and/or Maine child care quality standards. Other upfront costs include furniture, education supplies, games and playground equipment.
  • Increased Business Acumen. The curriculum addresses the economics of a child care operation, considering headcount, wages and state regulated child-to-staff ratios. Frequently, the ability of parents to pay doesn’t match the cost of providing quality child care. In an effort to charge more affordable rates, many business owners pay their staff low wages, giving rise to employee turnover and increased costs.
  • Achieving and Maintaining Financial Stability. New child care entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges and risks that other small business owners encounter, with the added complexity of operating in a highly regulated environment. Entrepreneurs will learn how to identify potential challenges and resources in the planning stages to help them increase financial stability in the long term.

“Access to quality child care is a key piece of building an economy that works for everyone,” said Cynthia Murphy, Senior Program Director for Workforce Solutions at CEI. “Since the 1970s, CEI has provided financing and/or advice to over 150 child care businesses and nonprofits in Maine. We’ve used that experience to design the Child Care Business Lab, giving prospective child care providers the tools and networks needed to successfully launch and sustain a child care enterprise.”

Applications are being accepted for the inaugural cohort which will start the program in February. For the first year of the initiative, CEI’s goal is to help launch five quality child care enterprises, prioritizing 40 percent of the newly created child care spots to families with low incomes. More information is available at

About CEI
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at

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