Now that you know some of the basics, let’s proceed …
In Part 1 I covered the importance of location, types of leases, customer demand considerations, and a first look at the necessity of knowing your state and local rules. In Part 2, I looked at finding funding and projecting expenses and growth. Now I’m going to give you more advice that will help you along your journey to running a successful and prosperous daycare center owner. Starting a daycare center can be tricky, but have hope, it’s worth it in the end!
City / town or state? Who’s makin’ the rules?
All these requirements are going to be things you want to talk over with your licensing representatives. When it comes to regulations, most of those governing building like fire alarm systems, blueprints and so on are usually city or municipal regulations. Most of those regulating actual daily running of the daycare like food, protocols for running the classroom and so on are usually handled under state regulations.
Know the requirements of all licensing agencies you’ll have to pass through to get your license (usually its your city and state. Start by calling your city & state and ask what are the requirements for obtaining a license at your location)
Starting a daycare center? Get in the zone!
Wherever you’re located zoning is very important. Basically you have to look up the zoning code requirements, which is a little difficult for beginners, but you can also ask your realtor or the person leasing the property to look up the zoning and details of a potential property you want to rent of what kind of use it allows. Always ask what the zoning is and always check that it’s compatible with your city licensing official. Let’s say the zoning is B-whatever (such as B-2), then you run it by your daycare center licensing representative, usually at the city level to confirm daycare use is OK in that area. In my town you have to obtain your daycare license at the city level and then the state level (2 daycare licenses).
Make sure you know all about parking requirements …
You want to see how many parking spaces are required for your daycare center, if any. Some urban areas they might not require any. If you sign a lease and then the city comes back and says you need three parking spaces and you don’t have any (or any way to get any) — you’re hooped! So always check daycare parking requirements of the city prior to leasing a space.
Don’t forget playgrounds!
The other thing is playgrounds. Some jurisdictions may allow you to use a nearby public play area, or in some cases licensing representatives may require you to have an outdoor play area at your center. It’s all about city and state regulations. If you are required to have a playground on site, you have to make sure there’s room for that. Sometimes you may be required to have a playground but have no outdoor property, in which case you will have to build an indoor play area. This, of course, will eat up your square-footage for classrooms …so make sure to know this before renting a space for your daycare center.
Architectural know-how: find someone with experience in daycare centers …
Unless you buy or lease a building that was already a daycare center, you’re going to need to build or renovate. This will involve hiring an architect to make sure everything works out. Preferably you want to find someone who’s already worked on daycare centers, not a guy whose specialty is designing hotels or mini-golf courses. Check their portfolio, search for “daycare architect” and ask others who have successful daycare centers in your area who they used to design it. You should prefer a ground-floor building. A two-level or second-floor building makes things a lot more complicated, especially in a fire. How will you get the cribs down the stairs? How do make sure the second floor is handicap accessible? Elevators can be expensive to install!
Keeping the kitchen up to code, and more …
Your kitchen in a daycare center will also have requirements different than a home kitchen. Under the regulations I’m required to follow, my dishwashing sink needs three compartments and a grease trap. The grease trap stores grease that isn’t allowed to go into the sewer system. You’ll have to hire a plumber once per year to clean it out. You also need to have a separate hand-washing sink in the kitchen. Plus, you’ll likely need a commercial hood (which can put a dent in your wallet)! Aside from these kitchen items, you’ll need a place for your washer and dryer and need a hot and cold water line installed for your washing machine unless you have a separate washer dryer area. You’ll also need an exhaust hooked up to get dryer steam out.
The fountain of youth …
Another consideration is drinking fountains, which are often required in some places. The amount you need depends on how many kids you have. Also generally for younger kids (infants and toddlers) there usually needs to be a sink in each classroom. This means a lot of plumbing work, especially if classrooms are spaced far apart!
In my state, bathroom requirements stipulate that there be one bathroom if you have between one and 10 students; two bathrooms if you have between 11 and 25 students; three bathrooms if you have between 26 to 50 students, and so on. In cases where your city or town has even stricter requirements then the other go with the stricter ones. You can be sure both sets of rules will be enforced! It’s a bit confusing but you basically have to comply with both (usually your city and state)! The same as in all situations, talk to your licensing representatives and city/state officials to get specifics on these kind of requirements.
There’s a lot of red tape, but it’s worth it …
Metropolitan cities often are not overly helpful to someone looking to open a daycare center. Employees of large cities can tend to be busier and more stressed. It can be very bureaucratic, but of course there are many helpful people too. In small towns, where there’s less volume of cases, reps often have more time to help. It just depends.
What if I follow the rules but get hit with a random new regulation after opening?
Don’t worry. The authorities will either give you plenty of time to implement it or grandfather you in (exempt you). Say every daycare suddenly needs to have an outdoor playground but you’re right downtown with no space? They likely will be reasonable and grandfather you in (exempt you). If it’s something anyone can do like additional training, for example, they’ll give you time to comply.
More on the way …
Join our e-mail list on the right of the page to stay updated. We promise that you won’t receive spam and your contact information will not be shared with any third party. Click here to read Part 4 of Starting a Daycare Center — All About Daycare Center Construction.
How to start a daycare center table of contents
3: Learn Your Way Around Red Tape and Zoning
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 firstname.lastname@example.org