Feb 16

It’s a big decision to go into business for yourself, and when it’s a child care center you’re considering, it doesn’t take long to realize how much goes into setting up shop. Below, we’ve put together a few key considerations as you embark on what’s sure to become a very fulfilling venture.

Be sure you know your community’s needs! Too many times, child care providers move forward, unsure of what the needs are in their respective communities. For instance, do the school doors not open until 7:30 a.m., but many parents need to be at work by 7 a.m? If so, it’s crucial you provide a solution for these parents. Ask around – you’ll be surprised at what you can discover.

How about your fees? It’s important that you find that happy medium between charging too little and charging too much. You want families to be able to afford your services, but charge too little, and they may believe your low prices have something to do with what you’re lacking. Check around and then price appropriately. Also, every child care provider we’ve ever spoken to says to avoid the flat rate weekly fee. Infants require much more than older children; it’s absolutely appropriate to charge according to age.

Never underestimate the importance of documenting everything. We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: contracts, policy manuals, expectations, revisions, changes – put it all in ink. And then get it signed and ideally, notarized.

Another key issue many underestimate is the power of marketing. Rest assured, there are many ways you can easily and successfully market your business without blowing your budget. This previous post goes a bit more in-depth with some of the tried and true ideas.

Also, and this is a new tip for us, many day care providers will contact the local schools and will prepare a brief package that introduces the facility. In it, business owners might provide copies of all the appropriate licensing information, testimonials of satisfied parents, contact information and sometimes even a pricing sheet. This way, parents who approach the school’s office in search of suggestions for a reputable child care provider, the school need only provide your packet (if, of course, you made copies for the school to give out).

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important aspect of starting your new business. You must ensure the employees you hire are worthy of working with children on a daily basis. Do your homework and be sure appropriate background checks are conducted. This is one area you simply cannot afford to cut corners on.

Have anymore great ideas for new child care business owners? If so, drop us a line or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

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Sep 10

In our last article, we spoke of really affordable ways to market your small business, and specifically, your small child care facility.  Here at Alpha Cares, we’ve been doing our research and have come up with some great ideas for those who might have bigger budgets.  You’ll discover several tried and true methods that have served the needs of many who have successfully chased their dreams of becoming a business owner.  It’s not really feasible to provide dollar figures because there are so many variables such as the region of the country you’re in and of course, the economy itself can make providing these hard numbers a bit tricky. Still, you’ll be able to glean a lot of information here and figuring the costs shouldn’t prove difficult.

A promotional event is an effective way of introducing you and your business to others in your community.  It’s also a golden opportunity to take that block of time during the event itself and pass out business cards, flyers and even promotional give away items if you have them.  We all know promotional items, such as tees and ball caps with your company logo can be a bit costly, but it’s always worth the investment.  Alternatively, you can have a drawing where there’s one or two prizes to the lucky winner.  Some items that have worked well in the past include a software package geared for children – parents love these because they provide an educational opportunity as it also helps their young children become familiar with a computer.  Another good idea, says the Arthur Chong, founder of Alpha Cares, is a fuel card from a local gas station.  We all appreciate a tank of gas!

Of course, you want to dedicate a certain percentage of your budget to your advertising efforts.  A television commercial might not be in that budget right now, but you can do a lot with your local newspaper.  Consider a “Player of the Week” for your community’s high school football, baseball or basketball star.  This shows your support for your local teams and is a great opportunity for a photo op with a “Sponsored by” byline.  A photo with you next to this week’s star player is the perfect finishing touch.  You may even be able to negotiate a better price for the block ad if you commit to it for an entire season.  If it’s a bit out of your budget, consider teaming with another small business in the area; perhaps a pharmacy or local grocer.

Finally, and we can’t encourage this enough, be sure to build a solid online presence.  A nice website is actually quite affordable – especially if you design it yourself.  Social networking sites are a must.  A Facebook page allows you to update it a couple times a day with what’s going on in your daycare.   Mom and Dad will appreciate the sense of connection throughout their workdays and it’s superb advertising that costs nothing.  A word of caution: photos are excellent – especially if you’re able to post them as the finger painting session is happening – but don’t assume every parent wants photos of his or her little ones on the internet.  Be sure to have parents sign a permission form and honor those requests from parents who do not want to see their children online.

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Aug 21

We all know how marketing efforts can easily eat up a small business’s small budget.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for many who are considering going into the child care business to think twice once they realize the importance – and costs – associated with getting the word out.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  In fact, many small businesses have successfully marketed their companies with little cost.  Here are a few ideas that you might not have considered, but that will get you and your efforts noticed.

The first, and most important, marketing tool you should employ is yourself.  You are the “face” of your business and as such, you need ensure that face gets your message across.  Be ready to answer the necessary questions.  You’ll discover at some point, whether it’s a Wednesday afternoon at the supermarket or a Friday night cocktail party, you’re going to be asked specific questions about your daycare business.  Be ready to provide those answers minus any hesitation.  “Yes, I am a business owner.  I have a daycare center in the historic district and right now, we have close to twenty children enrolled”.    It’s going to sound far more confident than someone having to ask you a series of questions and then wait uncomfortably as you stumble for the right answers:

Interested party: “So I hear you own your own business?”

You: “Yeah, I do.”

Interested party:  “What do you do?”

You:  “I have a daycare”

Interested party: “Oh.  OK.  Well…uhm…yeah…I hear you have to really appreciate kids in order to care for them every day.”

If you’re generally reserved in social settings such as cocktail parties, there’s no reason why you can’t polish your conversational skills.  A confident business owner is a successful business owner.

Another important tip involves all things related to marketing  is design and computer savvy.  If you can’t design an impressive logo – consider hiring a free-lance designer. Then think ahead – for your letterhead, consider asking the neighborhood kid who’s a whiz on a computer to tackle the project.  You want an identifiable letterhead that seamlessly transitions to your business cards, your signs and even your fax cover sheets. These  marketing assets (in digital format) are to be used for both your print and online materials.

Getting involved in the community is another important tip.  Join the Chamber, attend meetings that involve children in the community, such as town hall meetings where new playground equipment is being considered for the neighborhood park.  This is where you’ll meet parents.

Offer to host the neighborhood Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts for a few of their meetings.  You can easily open up your daycare center one or two evenings a month so that they can have their meetings.  If possible, set up a table with punch or juice and perhaps pretzels and/or fresh fruit.

These are just a few of the many ways you can affordably market your child care facility.  In such an important sector, it’s crucial your community knows who you are if you expect them to trust you with their children.  These tips will ensure you meet that goal.

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Mar 16

Ah, the beauty of Spring! Somehow, those warmer afternoons seem to renew our faith.  We eagerly anticipate the scent of fresh cut grass and that sweet scent of gardenias.  We all have those special things that we look forward to around this time of year.  Our little ones are surely feeling cabin fever by now, too.  While the time of the year is perfect, we do have those spring showers that threaten to keep us at bay during March.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of fun things to do.  Your child care center doubles as an artist’s retreat year round – and this time of year is nothing short of inspirational, courtesy of Mother Nature.  So set the logistics of running your child care business aside for an afternoon and lead the way for sunshine, fresh air and all the creative talent your little ones are capable of!

While many child care centers opt to not participate in religion-specific holidays due to the different faiths of their families, there are still themes that kids relate to this time of year.  Arts and crafts projects that are colorful and incorporate a myriad of supplies with different textures are a great way to help those left in your charge to use all their senses – touch, scent, taste, etc.   Feathers, cotton and even paper towel tubes make perfect supplies for the little ones to really stretch their creative senses.  They’re great for those rainy days and are a perfect distraction.

For those days when the weather is cooperating, turn the outdoors play area into a shopping mecca.  Hide “groceries” around the playground and encourage the little ones to use their imaginations while “grocery shopping”.  The winner gets to “stock” the grocery store next time.  This is a great way to include all your age groups.

If you began a project of planting bulbs or seeds in the past few months, they may be springing out of the soil.  Kids love to see the results of their work.  Ask Mom and Dad to bring a change of clothes and then dig in – allow children to dig their own special place in a flower bed to transplant their bulbs from the small planter to the bed itself.  Teach them how to nurture their plants and how to water and feed it throughout the season.

Before long, those summer months will be here and then once again, we’ll be waiting for Old Man Winter to make his appearance yet again.  For now, all here at Alpha Cares look forward to you making the best of this incredible time of year.

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