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January 21, 2022

Applications Now Open for CEI’s Child Care Business Lab

Training for people who want to start a child care business in rural Maine

January 21, 2022 (Brunswick, ME) – To address the shortage of child care providers in rural Maine, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) is offering its Child Care Business Lab starting in March 2022. CEI is currently accepting applications for the 2022 Child Care Business Lab for people living in Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Washington counties. Applications are due on February 18, 2022, at 5:00 pm. The application and more information are available at Child Care Business Lab | CEI ( A French language application for immigrants living in Lewiston will be available soon.

“People across Maine are expressing an interest in starting a child care business and a passion for early child development,” said Cynthia Murphy, senior program director of workforce solutions at CEI. “But they need help with business planning and implementation, including how to set fees, hire staff and find the money to get started. They’re also asking to be coached through the licensing process.”

The Child Care Business Lab is an intensive cohort-based program that provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to start a successful small business. As part of the program, instructors help participants refine their child care philosophy and guide them through the licensing process. Designed as an experiential leadership opportunity, the Child Care Business Lab offers a blueprint for a financially viable nonprofit, for-profit, co-op or shared model child care business.

The six-month program consists of 10 two-hour workshops conducted live via Zoom, three in-person sessions (pending COVID-safe circumstances), six 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.  During the six months, participants will complete all of the requirements to be licensed.

The program is offered free to all participants, thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation and the John T. Gorman Foundation.

Building on decades of experience

CEI designed the Child Care Business Lab with help from Maine Roads to Quality, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child and Family Services Children’s Licensing and Investigation Services, and the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. During its 44-year history, CEI has advised and/or provided over $14 million in financing for 179 child care business owners, helping to create or preserve 6,850 child care slots. Since the launch of the Child Care Business Lab in March 2020, 11 new businesses with 144 child care slots have opened and several more are in the final stages of being licensed, with another 100 child care slots expected in the next six months.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Child Care Gap Analysis Project revealed a 9.2% gap in need versus access for children under the age of six in Maine with working parents. Rural regions of Maine have the most significant need for child care.

Creating good businesses that are good for families

Participants in the Child Care Business Lab are motivated by a variety of factors. Some, like Miranda, Taylor, in Canton, Maine, are moms who want to create a good job that blends their professional experience with family life. “It was always a dream of mine to have my own daycare after working in a preschool for six years. CEI’s Childcare Business Lab prepared me for the licensing process, to get a business loan and build a daycare addition on to my home,” said Taylor. “Months later, I now have my own successful business which is filling a need in my community. I am able to walk down the hall to work every day with my daughter.”

Others are grandmothers, including Tabitha Bennett, who commented, “When my first grandchild was born and my daughter wanted to return to work, she couldn’t find child care. The solution? I opened Little Bird Child Care in Pembroke in 2020 and now we are very busy. Taking care of the kids is the easy part. Managing the business and getting all the ducks in the row – CEI had that all laid out in a step-by-step fashion, which was really helpful.”

Nonprofit organizations, such as Mano en Mano in Milbridge are also adding child care programs aligned to their mission.  “We were already working with migrant children during blueberry season, so it was natural to create a child care program. I really liked being in the Child Care Business Lab with others around the state, and then having a business advisor for our unique situation,” said Juana Rodriguez-Vazquez, Mano en Mano’s Interim Executive Director.

The Child Care Business Lab can also help people who have a babysitting side hustle become licensed and earn more money.

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. For more information, visit

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