Opening a preschool isn't easy, whether you’re a teacher with a vision or a parent who sees a need. To run a successful preschool, you need expert advice, a clear preschool business plan, and preschool software to help you stay organized and streamline your operations.
Your success in opening a preschool will depend on careful management of the startup process. This guide will explain how to start your preschool, from writing a business plan and choosing a location, to marketing, hiring, and managing your day-to-day operations.
13 tips on how to start a preschool at home
1. Learn about preschool licensing requirements
Your local government will have rules and regulations that govern you as both a preschool and a small business owner. You'll want to comply with both. Start by checking out Child Care Aware® of America’s licensing guidelines for preschools, then research your specific state and city. If you’re in California, the Department of Social Services has a guide on becoming a licensed preschool. Most states will have something similar.
2. Write a preschool business plan
Writing a preschool business plan is a big task, but due diligence and hard work at this stage will inform the rest of the process. Here you’ll hash out your preschool's name, mission statement, marketing plan, organizational plan, staffing, operations, and budgets. You’ll need to research how much it will cost to launch a preschool successfully. Are you using your own money to fund your business or seeking a small business loan? Have you looked into grants? For additional help, the U.S. Small Business Association provides detailed instructions on writing a general business plan.
3. Find a location for your preschool
Are you opening a small, home-based preschool, looking to rent an existing preschool facility, or starting a preschool from scratch with a brand new facility? In any case, you’ll need to find a home for your preschool. Check your city’s zoning laws and preschool licensing guidelines when making this decision to be sure your location is compliant.
4. Get insurance for your preschool
Depending on the type and size of your preschool, you’ll need insurance policies. An insurance policy won’t stop risks from happening, but it can protect you from a lengthy, expensive lawsuit. It’s impossible to insure your preschool against all risks, so do your research on what is required. Common insurance policies include liability, property, workers’ compensation, and business insurance.
5. Prepare your preschool facility
If you're getting ready to open a preschool, you'll need furniture and supplies. You’ll also need safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, emergency supplies, and first aid kits. Running your own preschool has many safety issues you’ll want to be prepared for.
If you’re running your preschool at home, this will mean rearranging your home to fit your preschoolers’ needs. Although the appropriate arrangement depends on your philosophy, some areas are non-negotiable. They include:
- Library or literacy area. This area provides a quiet space for children to read or look at books or practice their writing skills.
- Manipulative center. This is an area with objects like puzzles, blocks, and legos that help to build fine motor skills.
- Outdoor space. Spending time outside is crucial for children’s physical development and there are plenty of outdoor activities that can be meaningful educational opportunities.
6. Develop policies and procedures
Working off your business plan, write out policies and procedures and handbooks for your staff and families. You’ll also develop an emergency plan and health, safety, privacy, and nutrition protocols, all under the guidance of your local preschool licensing requirements.
7. Hire staff to help you run your preschool
Research has shown that the quality of your preschool teachers is one of the top predictors of success. Verify the preschool licensing requirements for staff ratios and teachers’ educational backgrounds, and be sure to rigorously verify references and education levels. A preschool is only as good as its teachers, so make your preschool hiring decisions carefully.
Continue to invest in and build a qualified, engaged team by supporting your staff’s professional development and growth with regular training and education opportunities.
8. Run a background check on staff members
Besides work qualifications, you’ll need to run background checks on all your employees (permanent and temporary). This is critical because your staff will have unsupervised access to the children. Besides an initial background check, the law requires that you continue doing background checks at least once every five years.
9. Prepare your preschool curriculum
Your preschool's mission statement should guide this step, whether you’re following an existing pedagogy or you have your own vision. A carefully chosen preschool curriculum is crucial to the quality of your preschool program.Some common preschool curriculums include:
- Reggio Emilia
- Parent Co-ops
- Bank Street
10. Seek accreditation
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), only one in 10 preschools in the U.S. are accredited. This step is optional, but it will go a long way in your recruitment process, as it gives parents peace of mind that your program is high quality.
11. Invest in preschool software
One of the best ways to start a successful preschool at home is to take advantage of the amazing preschool technology at your disposal. Streamline your administrative tasks, and you’ll have more time to focus on educating your children and providing families with a top-notch preschool experience.
Brightwheel makes easy-to-use preschool software to help you manage your preschool and stay in touch with families. Your staff will use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom, and parents will get real-time updates delivered to their mobile devices throughout the day. This powerful app also offers secure digital check-in/check-out and an automated paperless billing system. This is a great way to keep your families informed about daily activities.
12. Market your preschool and seek applicants
At the very least, you’ll need marketing materials and an online presence to advertise your business. List your preschool in local preschool directories and participate in preschool enrollment fairs in your area. Advertise through local businesses, parent groups, local events, and popular blogs.
Run a social media campaign focusing on your target population, or host a grand open house event to attract prospective families. Once you’ve managed to fill your inaugural student roster, continue with ongoing marketing efforts so that you’ll always be building a customer base. A lot of preschools host community events and open houses throughout the year as a way to build a brand presence.
13. Stay updated on new preschool trends
As a preschool owner, it's crucial to integrate the current trends in early education into your business. Here are the three top preschool trends we've observed:
- Technology use is on the rise. The use of technology in early education will continue to increase. The 2020 pandemic led to the introduction of online platforms and classes, and some parents still prefer that their children continue learning through online platforms. As a preschool owner, you might consider having an online learning package. Check the Montessori School Online Packages to learn more about preschool online learning.
- Health and safety regulations remain a priority. The health and safety of the children in your care is always a priority, but there has been even more focus on this in the last several years. Preschool owners and staff should stay updated on all recommended health and safety guidance and communicate all protocols to the families in their community.
Focus on flexibility. It’s crucial that childcare providers remain flexible in the face of changing government guidelines, best practices, and education trends. Extending flexibility to the families at your center will also set your program apart, as everyone tries their best to maintain busy schedules.
Start your preschool
Starting a preschool can be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience. With careful planning, a great team, and organized operations, your preschool will be a success from day one.