·Funding: the cornerstone of success

Now that I’ve gone over some of the groundwork considerations when starting a daycare in Part 1 it’s time to talk funding. The simple truth is that without an adequate source of dinero your daycare dream will remain just a dream. As you scout out a location and get to know licensing standards, keep in mind the necessity of securing daycare center funding (and accounting for expenses). Here’s a guide to nailing down how to getting funded and getting your revenue to soar into the black.

Securing viable source(s) of daycare center funding is a vital first step.How do you get money?

How are you going to get all the money to do all this? That’s the big question. Finding viable daycare center funding is absolutely key to achieving your potential. Obviously one way is to privately fund your daycare center. If you have the money that’s great.

If you have another business that’s successful with income then the bank may give you a loan. However, they will not base any loan they’ll give you on your projection of what the daycare center will make, but only on what your existing business already takes in.

Another way is to find investors  be they family, friends or colleagues, who are interested in your idea. Going into business with partners can be a win-win, although with family or friends things can become sensitive. If you have no choice, make sure you have strong paperwork in place so you can refer to it in any situation to avoid personal confrontations down the road if things don’t work out perfectly. Ideally you want to find passive partners. This means you manage the daycare center but the other partner or partners get a share of profits and contribute financially.

Say, for example, the investors give me cash up front and I pay them back in a 50/50 split. If I project my daycare center will make $200,000 a year down the road, the investor will get $100,000 or if there are two they’ll get $50,000 each in return annually for their up front funding. The deal you work with investors may vary regarding paying back the principle.

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: worth a look …

If you do a purchase of a business this is an option. Let’s say someone wants to sell you their daycare center for $500,000 you can put 20% (typically) down ($100,000) and get an SBA loan. This is contingent on proving you have good credit, can pay back the loan and so on. SBA’s goal is to help those without other means to get a loan and help them out. It’s not done directly through the government, but instead through local banks. Basically there is very little exposure for the banks. If you don’t pay back the loan you owe $400,000 and the banks will typically only be on the hook for a small percentage, with the government required to kick in the rest. If you do have a financial plan to show how you’ll make money, decent credit and enough for the 20% downpayment you can purchase a business through an SBA loan. It won’t be based on any other business you own, but instead on your ability to prove your business plan is sound and you have a good credit history. I haven’t done one of these loans but I believe it’s called the SBA 7a Loan.

Try to negotiate free months with your landlord …

There are many ways to do this. One negotiation tactic is just to explain that it takes a long time to open a daycare center so you need several months free. In discussing the lease you want to try to get as many months free as you can. Plans, permits, daycare licensing, build-outs might take six months to a year. Landlords want a tenant and a commitment. They may also want a bigger security deposit in return for free months. Asking for free months shows that you’re a competent, hard-knuckled negotiator, which a good landlord will also respect.

Try to get your landlord to invest on your behalf by financing build-outs, fire alarms, and room modifications as needed. You may agree, for example, to a five-year lease in return for up to $100,000 in build-outs paid for by the landlord. Another option is to ask for help in the build-out and tack it on to the lease. Say you want $120,000 of build-out and so if the landlord provides that you’ll tack on $2,000 extra per month over 60 months (a five-year lease). The goal here is to avoid up-front demand for your cash. Other People’s Money (OPM) or at least reducing your up front costs is a business basic.

Be ready for income loss up front …

You need to get this stuff down on paper (or on computer). Ask questions like: how much income am I projecting? How much is rent, labor, food, supplies? How much do I project losing each month (pre-opening and post-opening)? Say you calculate $300,000 costs for the lease and build-out, then $20,000 a month in losses the first month, then $10,000 and so on, then gradually starting to make money. Basically I’ve created a sophisticated Excel sheet that lets me calculate all the ins-and-outs of my daycare center income and expenses. Don’t forget to itemize how you are also going to pay back your initial startup costs once you start making money.

Daycare Pro Tip!

As a rule of thumb, add 20% to your expense estimates. There are always unexpected costs overruns that occur, believe me!  

What to put on your construction expense list …

Upfront costs can include for example, can include everything from cubbies to cribs and toys. List everything. Construction is another huge cost factor in the cost of demolition, framing, rough plumbing, rough electrical, HVAC systems, baseboards, interior doors (check for possible fire rating requirements on doors), programmable buzzer system for security (discussed in Part 4: All About Construction), drywall, duct-work, counter and shelving installation, architectural work, permits, everything. How do you come up with these numbers? Get an estimate or two and then you know what you’re dealing with. Estimate architectural fees (I calculate mine as about 6% of total build-out). Security deposit cost, non-opening losses per month  when it’s sitting empty under construction you still have to pay electric, gas and heating costs too! Make sure every last detail is tallied.


Download a daycare center income and expense planning sheetFree daycare income and expense planning tool!

Here’s a free financial budget and startup expense Google sheet for your daycare to help you plan for income and expenses.

A few more general expenses you might not have thought of..

There are numerous daycare center expenses you should list to be sure of where you stand and make sure those helping provide daycare funding know the whole picture.General expenses add up to such as:  Cleaning supplies, printers, computers, murals, legal paperwork (forming a partnership? you’ll need a lawyer to draw it up), garbage bins, phones, furniture, iPod touch for doing daily reports on apps like Brightwheel, wash cloths, wall clocks. Expenses can rack up! You want to minimize them, of course, but you also want to make sure you can payout what you need to run a daycare.

The truth is any expense even just a small one should be listed under your expenses … it all adds up!


Financial projections are all about planning for the future …

Financial projections are your road map to success. You should come up with a projected growth rate of how much your enrollment will go up monthly, along with income. This will mean you need more staff, too, to meet growing student enrollment and meet student-to-teacher-ratio requirements. Factor in income such as tuition, registration fees, wait-list fees. And calculate salaries, rent, software, supplies, utilities, advertising and marketing budget (everything from buying ads at a local grocery store to hiring a professional photographer for promotional photos), bank service charges, credit card processing fees, food supplies, insurance, accounting fees, outside services like a nurse consultant for monthly required medical record checkups, and so on. The roster of expenses a typical daycare stacks up are going to way (way) more than offset your starting income. The truth is you’re going to lose money at first before you start making it.

Remember that the cost of things like food and supplies will increase as enrollment (and income) increases. Factor this into your projections. If planned out correctly, the months of losing money that you planned for will be left behind as tuition income grows and profit starts accruing.

Washer, dryer, heating, construction, plumbing: it can all break. Always remember to factor in repair costs to your expenses and financial projections. Repairs happen!



Opening takes time, and you should factor that into your calculations …

Most people think you can get everything done in a couple weeks once you’ve signed a lease. I have news for you: you just can’t. It takes time!

Continue on to  How to open a daycare part 3: Learning Your Way Around Red Tape and Zoning.

How to start a daycare center table of contents

1: Location and Square-Footage

2: Finding Funding and Calculating Expenses

3: Learn Your Way Around Red Tape and Zoning

4: All About Daycare Center Construction

5: Signage and Daycare Center Setup Basics

6: Passing Daycare Center Inspection

7: Daycare Center Paperwork for Employees and Kids

8: Ready to Rock!

Author: Hopping In Blog

Sholom Strick is an expert on the business of running daycare centers and founder of Hopping In, a tool that helps daycare centers earn more when children are absent.

To contact him or for media inquiries email s.strick@daycareteam.com

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