Congratulations on starting a preschool! Whatever your reason, whether you’re a teacher with a vision or a parent who sees a need, you’ve got a complicated and arduous task ahead of you. Arm yourself with the right information, develop a clear plan, and stay organized. Your success will depend on careful management of the process from start to finish.
Find out about licensing guidelines for preschools and small businesses.
Your local government will have rules and regulations that will govern you as a small business owner and as a preschool owner, and you want to strictly comply with both. Start by checking out Child Care Aware of America’s licensing guidelines, and then research your specific state and city. If you’re in California the Child Care Resource and Renewal Network should have all the info you need for starting a preschool.
Write a business plan.
This 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 mission statement, marketing plan, organizational plan, staffing, operations, budgets, and more. You’ll need to do your research, with a focus on understanding how much money you’ll need for successfully starting a preschool. Are you using your own money, or are you seeking a small business loan? The U.S. Small Business Association’s website has detailed instructions on creating each necessary piece of a successful business plan.
Find a location.
Are you opening a small home-based preschool, looking for an existing facility to rent, or starting from scratch building a new facility? In any case, you’ll need to find your preschool a home. Check your city’s zoning laws and preschool licensing guidelines when you’re making this decision to be sure your location is compliant.
Depending on the type and size of your school, you’ll need insurance policies of several different types, including liability, property, workers’ compensation, and business insurance. Again, check the licensing requirements for guidance.
Prepare your facility.
You’ll need furniture and teacher supplies, obviously, but you’ll also need safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, disaster supplies, etc.
Develop policies and procedures.
Working off of your business plan, write out policies, procedures, and handbooks for your staff and families. Child Care Aware offers a detailed guide to this process. You’ll also develop a disaster or crisis management plan and health, safety, privacy, and nutrition protocols, all under the guidance of your local preschool licensing requirements.
Verify the licensing requirements for staff ratios and teachers’ educational backgrounds. Preschool staff are subject to criminal background checks and fingerprinting, and be sure to rigorously verify references and education levels. A school is only as good as its teachers, so make your hiring decisions carefully.
Prep your curriculum.
Your mission statement will guide this step, whether you are following an existing pedagogy or you have your own vision. A well prepared and thought-out curriculum is crucial to the quality of your preschool program.
According 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.
Select tools and resources for managing the day-to-day.
Take advantage of the fantastic technology available to preschools these days. Streamline your administrative tasks and you’ll have more time to focus on providing your families a top-notch preschool experience–which is your whole goal anyway, right? Brightwheel is an easy-to-use mobile software app that will help you manage your school and stay in touch with families. Your staff will use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom, and parents get real-time updates delivered to their mobile device 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 looped in on daily activities.
Market your school and seek applicants.
At the very least you’ll need marketing collateral and an online presence. List your school in any local directories of preschools and participate in preschool enrollment fairs in your area. Advertise through local businesses, parent groups, local events, popular blogs. Try sites like Parenthoods, Red Tricycle, and Winnie. Run a social media campaign focusing on your target population, or host a grand opening event to attract 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 schools host community events and open houses throughout the year as a way to build a brand presence.