So, that sketchy little idea of starting your own daycare business has finally sprouted wings and bursting to call itself a plan? As exciting it is to transform your passion into a successful business, the road to entrepreneurship will have you dip your toes into quite a few areas that might be out of your realm of interest or expertise. And the best way to embrace the journey is to do your homework and layout a structured plan to guide you through the unknown.
Here’s a checklist of areas to tick off before you set out.
1. Size up your competitors It is crucial to have a clear picture of the market you are entering into when you set out to invest your passion, time and money into a new venture.
Draw up a list of nurseries and childcare providers in your area, visit them if you can and find out the number of places they offer, their prices and if they follow any specific educational philosophy or theme, say, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, Montessori or a nature-centred curriculum.
This will help you develop a clearer picture of how to position yourself in the market and arrive at a suitable pricing model.
2. Write a business plan
If you are planning to start small and not looking for external funding, it might seem tempting to skip the business plan part, calling it one of those pointless theoretical exercises that will end up gathering dust in your corner shelf. But trust us, the task is well worth the effort.
Writing a business plan will allow you to refine your idea, forcing you to think about aspects of your business which you had not even considered before. It will help you look at the business side of things with more clarity and shine the light on the practical nuances of turning an idea into a full-blown business. And, more importantly, it will draw your eyes to all the unsavoury numbers and figures that you might have accidentally (or conveniently) swept under the carpet.
3. Register your business
Registering your business can be a long-drawn-out process, and it could be months before you have the registration documents in hand. As the regulations and compliance requirements vary from one region to other, make sure you check the website of your local regulatory body and draw up a complete list of the compliance requirements you will need for the process.
For instance, if you are registering your childcare business in the UK, you will need to register with the Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted). The regulatory requirements for the Ofsted start with a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Services Check for previous criminal convictions) and health declaration forms to compliance documents for staff training, the safety of premises and fire safety, to name a few. You can check out the Early Years and Registration Handbook by Gov.uk for more details.
4. Build your team
Write out the ads, get in touch with the recruiters, schedule the interviews and start building your team in good time as each staff member will have to go through rigorous checks for their suitability to work with children before you can get your business registration complete.
5. Find the premises
This is a step that requires considerable thought and planning as it is not the easiest of tasks to uproot and move once you have set base. Whether the plan is to buy, rent or build, make sure you consider the government regulations for the minimum space requirement for each child when working out the size of the property you’ll require.
And don’t forget to factor in the fire safety standards, the security of the building and the time required to acquire planning permissions, if the idea is to renovate and convert your home or an existing property.
6. Draft your policies, procedures and contracts
Drafting out formal policies, procedures and contracts are mandatory not only to operate your business smoothly but also to ensure the welfare of everyone at your setting and provide legal protection for you and your business. From policies on handling accidents and emergencies, fire prevention and evacuation, the late collection of children, medicines and nappy changing to anti-bullying policies, a wide range of templates for nursery policies and procedures are now available online.
Make sure you strike the balance of keeping the documents practical and reasonable while covering all legal, compliance and best practice requirements.
7. Get the word out
Writing your business plan would have got you to identify all the possible channels to market and promote your childcare business and devise a marketing strategy. Get started with the rollout of your marketing plan, create a website and social media accounts and get your business listed on the relevant business listing websites well in advance of the opening date to make sure your potential customers can easily find you online.
If you are planning to use a childcare app for taking your bookings, get the word out by posting about it on your social media platforms and your website and encourage parents to download the app on their phone, and get the enrolment rolling.