In this episode of The Preschool Podcast, HiMama chats with Dani Christine, Multi-Site Child Care Business Owner, Consultant, and Digital Content Creator of www.ChildcareSites.com. on how to get started with creating your own child care business. Dani dives into the steps on becoming a child care entrepreneur, how to increase enrollment in your child care center and discusses why now is the best time to start your own business more than ever.
Dani’s top tips when opening your own child care center:
- Consider your why. This is a crucial question to ask yourself when starting any project. Ask yourself why you want to start xyz. Does this align with your values and goals? By getting to the core of your why, every action you take to begin your business will align with the why behind your business decisions.
- Look into the legal aspects of opening a center. Often times this aspect can be overlooked. Think of it this way- you’ll be taking care of families’ most precious gifts…children. It’s important to make sure you have considered everything in the legal realm of things.
- Consider hiring a consultant/coach/mentor. Consultants, coaches, mentors…they’ve seen it all! Consider working with one and have them help you fill the gaps you may have missed when opening your own child care. Bonus: They may be able to introduce you to a whole network of other child care owners who can provide support.
- Do your research. The research stage is ongoing. Things are always changing, especially now in COVID-19. Dani suggests keeping on top of child care trends and new rules and regulations in your area to ensure you’re adapting your center as needed.
Dani outlines a few things to consider if you’ve been in the business for 15 days or 15 years and that’s pivoting to your families’ needs:
Pivoting to your families needs:
- Listen to the demand from your families and respond to it.
- Adapt to your centers’ needs– consider virtual preschool for educators and families who are not comfortable coming into the center. This could be a whole new program to share with new families!
- Put yourself in the shoes of your families and think of what they need.
- Better yet, ask your families what they want/need! Provide them with space and resources to vocalize their wants.
Dani also outlines a few ideas to consider when dealing with a decrease in enrollment at your center:
- Highlight all the things you’re doing to reduce risk spread of COVID-19 in your program. Consider creating a page on your site, a post on your social media and outlining this in your center handbook.
- Highlight all of the things you do in your program that families might not be aware of- think extra curricular activities, program enhancements, learning and development stories, etc. Share this information with your current and prospect families through social media, website ads, newsletters etc.
- Take advantage of social media, optimizing your website and, referrals for families to spread the word about your center to new clients,
Looking for more resources on starting your child care business and growing your enrollment? Check out our Webinar with Dani Christine and How to Use Parent Testimonials & Reviews to Promote Your Child Care Business
Episode 241- Transcripts
Now we have a chance to sit down and look at what has been working for us well, that we were able to prevent this for about a year and what we could do better moving forward.
Dani, welcome to the Preschool Podcast.
Thank you for having me, Ron, I’m so excited to be here!
Our pleasure. For our audience: we have with us today Dani Christine. She’s a multisite childcare business owner, a consultant and a digital content creator. And we’re going to talk to her about starting your own centers. She’s decided to do some consulting work. And so she’s really taken that entrepreneurial route, which is something we love to see in early-childhood education as we move things forward.
Dani, let’s start off learning a little bit about you. What inspired you to start your own childcare business, a big decision?
Oh, that’s a good question. I feel like, as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to start my own childcare business. And it never really seemed like a reality to me until a couple years after I began working in one myself. I started working in a daycare in my hometown in 2010 as a assistant teacher. And I worked there for a couple of years [during] my senior year of high school and then pretty much most of my college years.
And then right before my senior year of college, I got interested in figuring out exactly what it would take to start a childcare center. I didn’t know things like you needed a license or how to register a business name or anything like that. So, I just began doing research.
And I remember – and it is like me, when I get interested in something or excited about something, I’m constantly researching and looking at different things. And I remember that’s what I did. I was kind of obsessing over it and talking about it to my dad at the time and some of my friends that I worked with at the center that I was working in.
And one of my friends in that center mentioned she had thought about opening a home daycare. And I had no idea what a home daycare was. I didn’t know that you could do that. So, I started looking that up and found that that is something that was realistic for me that I could do at that moment and in that time. So, a couple weeks before my final year in my undergraduate program, I rented out a house and I started my first home daycare.
So, I’ve always been interested in working with young children. That’s what I went to school for; that’s what I enjoyed doing in high school. I was a baby sitter, then an assistant teacher and a tutor. Working with kids was always an interest of mine. And when I realized that I could do it on my own, as an entrepreneur, it became even more of a passion to me. So, that’s kind of how I got started.
Very cool. And I’m curious to know because a lot of people want to maybe start their own business or start something new or do something different. But oftentimes the hard part is the actual “doing” part. And you mentioned when you’re sort of finishing out your college program, you started doing some research and you started investigating. You started doing more things to move that idea into a little bit more reality. I guess looking back at the time, like, why do you think you were able to take that next step that a lot of people don’t get to, to transition from that idea to actually starting to do the research?
I think it helps to have support and people that you can talk to about it, not necessarily to hold you accountable but that would actually be able to at least keep conversation with you and keep reminding you – it will help you to remind yourself that this is something you’re serious about and interested in doing.
Like, for example, at that time I mentioned that I had a friend that told me about home daycare programs. And once I learned a little bit about it, I would talk to her about it, about what I planned to do. And also in talking to my dad about it, he connected me with one of his friends who owned a lot of different businesses and a lot of different property.
And I learned later that, at that time, he was trying to invest in this idea and open a commercial childcare program with me. I was not ready to do that at that time – I was only 19 years old. But I just kept talking about the business and my idea. And having the support from my family and my friends helped me. If I had someone like a coach or a consultant, that would be a good support system as well, especially someone that’s already in the field and have already done that.
Yeah, that’s interesting because it’s almost like this idea that you want the idea and the concept to sit with you for a while and spend time talking about it, kind of helps you get more comfortable with it. And I think lots of times when we want to start something new, we tell ourselves all the reasons why it won’t work.
And so a support network I can understand as being pretty key, as you mentioned, too. And since then, I understand you yourself have also started consulting with childcare providers and businesses. What inspired you to then go and help others as well?
So, you mentioned, when you introduced me, that I am a multisite childcare business owner, consultant and a digital content creator. Well, I actually started doing digital content first before both of those things. I started a YouTube channel several years ago. At this point, I think we’re going on nine years of me having a YouTube channel. In the beginning, it was mostly just things absolutely not related to childcare. I was doing a lot of beauty-related things with makeup and fashion and hair and stuff like that.
But then once I started my home daycare business, I got a lot of questions from… I mentioned it very briefly in one of my videos several years ago, when I first opened. And in that video, a lot of people were asking me questions about, “Where did this come from? How did you do that?” They were telling me that they’d like to open a daycare one day.
And that sparked, like, “Okay, let me make another video all about my experience opening my home daycare program”. And the same thing happened: that video led to a whole bunch of questions. Then I was, like, “Let me create an email address,” so I can say, “If you have questions about daycare, just email me.”
So, every couple of months, back at that time, I got a new idea about, like, how to better give guidance to people that found me and had questions or wanted to reach out to me about daycare and childcare and preschool. And that’s where it really all started, was people reaching out to me from YouTube about the childcare business. And from there, several years later, I’ve created www.ChildcareSites.com.
Very cool. And we talked a little bit about your inspiration for starting out on your own. And I think one of the challenges a lot of people face as well is just, call it “overwhelm”. Or like, there’s so many things you have to do. It’s kind of like, “Where do I even start?” And then it’s like, “Well, I might as well not even start because there’s just too much to do and to think about.” So, what’s your advice to folks out there that might be thinking about starting their own childcare program? And where do you start?
I would definitely say it’s important to figure out why you want to start one. And to be honest about that reason, sometimes… mostly I get this answer a lot when I ask my employees, when I’m interviewing them for jobs. Like, “Why are you interested in this field?” Or they might tell me that they want to start their own childcare business and I’ll ask them why. And they’ll say it’s because they love kids. And that is a great reason but it might not be the only reason or it might not be the most honest personal reason.
For me, I wanted to have my own childcare business because I do enjoy early-childhood education. But also I enjoy being able to be in control of my own time and what I do as a person. I don’t want to be anybody else’s employee. I want to be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. And being able to operate my own business, with operating my own business gives me the ability to do that.
So, I think it’s important for people to understand the reason why they want to make the choice to own their own business, whether it’s childcare or something else or whatever type of industry you’re in. I think it’s important to understand why first. And then dive into some research about how you can get started and try to see what some of [the] common, initial startup mistakes within the industry are.
And it would be helpful for you to find a consultant or a coach that is in the same field that you’re interested in to help give you guidance in that way. Or I would have saved so much time – so, so much time, so many hours and days looking up stuff on my own – had I known that there was someone available to me that I had access to, that I could just ask simple questions because not everything is easy to find online.
Yeah, that seems to be the common sort of wisdom with working with consultants or peers or other folks who have been there and done that before, is just saving time. You might get to the same answer but maybe it takes you a few weeks, a few months, or in some cases a few years and a lot of painful mistakes, whereas just asking those questions and having those conversations can really save you that time and pain.
Yeah, and mistakes are going to happen – they’re important. You should have mistakes that you can learn from and get better at. And even if you do work with someone that has been there and done that, whether you consider them a coach, a consultant or mentor or just a peer that is doing the same thing, your individual experiences are going to be different because you’re going to be running different businesses.
But it is crucial to not look at every mistake or every misfortunate event that happens as bad luck or just let it weigh down on you. But you can take it as a lesson to learn from. Like, I was sharing with you before we started this interview that right now, we’re almost a year into this public health emergency with COVID-19. And this is our first time in my centers where we had to shut down because we have a positive case. And that we had not experienced that before.
And I think that at first… it’s now Thursday when we’re recording, we found out about it on Tuesday. And on Tuesday and pretty much most of yesterday, I was so stressed, worried, anxious, scared. It was weighing down on me physically and mentally. I was worried about what all the mistakes could have been that we made when in reality, with something like this, it is not like if it’s going to happen, but when, for one.
And also now we have a chance to sit down and look at what has been working for us well, that we were able to prevent this for about a year and what we could do better moving forward. And there’s just different little things like that that you’ll see in the startup of your business that will help you be better.
Yeah, and it’s interesting because it almost connects back to your very first point, which is, when I asked you about starting your own childcare program, the first thing you said is to figure out why. And I think part of it is, to your point, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and there is going to be challenges. And that’s when you’re going to start asking yourself that question…
“Why am I doing this?” Yeah, absolutely, yes.
So, starting with that from the beginning makes a lot of sense, for sure. So, you touched a little bit on some of your own challenges you’re experiencing with COVID-19 that we’re all dealing with. And that’s one of the things to think about, too, is we’re all figuring this out as we go along. This is the first time we’re all dealing with COVID-19.
But from some of the things you’re seeing and experiencing, certainly one of the things we’re seeing from our end is a dip in enrollment. Any thoughts for those owners, directors out there who are currently operating childcare programs that are experiencing this kind of enrollment drop?
I would say that it’s important to just try to highlight all the things that you’re doing to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 within your programs. There’s oftentimes, a lot of us are doing a whole bunch of great things – even aside from COVID – that we’re not really highlighting that we know what we’re doing as owners of the business and our staff might know and the kids might know. But are we capturing that with photos or videos? Are we putting that out as information on our website or social media? Or are we advertising that on Google or wherever it is that you post your ads?
One thing that we did in the start of this pandemic was we created a separate webpage on our website that was all about COVID, just all the things, all the actions that we were taking, like how we responded to it, what our plan was. We put together a virtual tour – at that time, we just had one center – of that center and had the operations manager of our company walk through each room. Some of our staff were there, demonstrating how they come in with their masks on and their hand sanitizer and all the different procedures. We had it written and in video.
And we also had a form to capture, after parents saw that information, we had a form to capture their information if they were interested in registering in our program, embedded on our website. And that is the webpage that we promoted as an ad on Google and social media. Like, when we ran our ads, we didn’t send them to the home page of our website. We sent them straight to our COVID-19 information page that also had information about our program.
But we recognized that a lot of parents concerned at that time would most likely be, “What are they doing about COVID?” So, just acknowledging that you are aware, in your program, that COVID exists and highlighting the things that you’re doing to reduce the risk of spreading it throughout your center would be helpful.
And trying to pivot as much as possible. With all these words – pivot, adapt, all the words that we heard throughout 2020 – shift your services in ways that would help to get you more business. Like, in the spring and summer, we realized that our enrollment was low. So, we created a virtual preschool program where… we had two teachers that were uncomfortable working on site. We let them work from home as our virtual preschool teachers.
And we charged our parents a fee that had their kids at home but still wanted them learning. We charge them to participate in virtual learning with those teachers. And we delivered supplies and materials to our families’ houses on a weekly basis. We stopped doing that in the fall because it wasn’t much of a need anymore.
Yeah, we have now switched to doing virtual Zoom [online video conferencing] tours of our program. Because whatever it is that seems to be the highest demand in the safest way possible, that’s what we’re listening to. We’re listening to what the demand is at the time and trying to adapt our services to that.
Yeah, I love the adaptability and also just the theme of what a lot of what you’re saying is around, almost like putting yourself in the shoes of the parents and the families, which is, “What are they thinking about? What is top of mind for them?” And creating your experience and your content around that, versus from your perspective.
And the other thing, too, which is something that comes up on the Preschool Podcast quite often, is this idea of not being shy about telling the world all the great things that you do. I think, to one of the points you made earlier, a lot of folks who start a childcare program do it because they love kids. And that’s one great reason, hopefully among others. But that oftentimes, I think, also means that we’re a bit shy to tell folks what we’re good at and why they should choose our programs, even if we are doing great things, good message to reiterate.
Any final words of wisdom for our listeners out there who are maybe deciding that they should take the leap of faith that you took and take a more entrepreneurial route in childcare?
Final words… I would say that it will most likely feel scary. Taking any sort of entrepreneurial journey is a risk. There is a risk associated with starting any type of business, but especially childcare is a risky business. We’re dealing with people’s most precious packages: their children. We want to make sure we’re doing the best job, implementing best practice childcare methods as much as possible.
So, just do your research. Make sure that you’re fully aware of what your local laws and regulations are. That’s something that I love helping childcare providers with, specifically in the US. Anybody that looks me for a consultation, the first thing that I will do is open up their local regulations and go and help them to understand what their licensing process will look like and what they should be looking out for.
And our property, whether it’s a commercial space or home, because they’re oftentimes – well, hopefully not too often – but sometimes you might get caught up in a situation where you think you can use your home for a childcare business and you can’t because of the restrictions or you have to make alterations. There’s just so many details that go into what is acceptable to operate a childcare program and what isn’t.
So, it’s important to do your research for that, for the startup process, about the facility and also the regulations that you’ll have to abide by while you’re running. So, that would be it for me, to just make sure you do your research in general. And connect with a consultant or coach or mentor somebody that can help you through it.
Awesome, that all makes a lot of sense. And before we wrap up, Dani, if our listeners want to get in touch with you – maybe they’re thinking about starting their own childcare program, maybe they have one and they want to talk to you about that – where can they go to get more information or get in touch with you?
They can go to my website: it is www.ChildcareSites.com. You can book a consultation with me, a private video consultation with me through Zoom on www.ChildcareSites.com. And I also have courses there that are available. If you’re interested in starting a childcare business, those courses can help you decide if it’s right for you and some of the things that you might need to consider when one is starting that.
So, www.ChildcareSites.com is the best place to find pretty much everything I publish, from YouTube video… I do have sometimes weekly YouTube videos now all about childcare, my experiences, as well as a podcast and weekly webinars. I do a lot on that website. So, it can all be found on www.ChildcareSites.com.
Very cool. Well, congratulations on all the things you’ve been able to start and all the entrepreneurial skills. It’s awesome to hear. And the adaptability in COVID, which we all know is so important, those are some great tips. On the virtual tours, virtual lessons, all the things we can do to respond, some awesome ideas. Dani, thank you so much for joining us on the Preschool Podcast today!
Thank you so much for having me, Ron!