The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Daycare Center


Congratulations on making the decision to start your own child care business! Whatever your reason, whether you’re a nanny with a vision or a parent who sees a need, opening a daycare or child care center isn't easy. If you want to run a successful daycare, you need expert advice, a clear plan, and child care software to help you stay organized and streamline your operations.

Your success in opening a child care center will depend on careful management of the startup process from start to finish. This guide will explain exactly how to start your own daycare, from writing a business plan and choosing a location, to marketing, hiring, and managing your day-to-day operations. 

Check out our salary guide to learn more about the average salary that a daycare director makes!

1. Learn about daycare licensing requirements

Your local government will have rules and regulations that will govern you as a small business owner and as a daycare business owner. You'll want to strictly comply with both. Start by checking out Child Care Aware of America’s licensing guidelines for child care and daycare providers, 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.

If you’re thinking about franchising, check out our guide to starting a daycare franchise.

2. Write a daycare business plan

Writing a daycare business plan is a big task, but due diligence and hard work at this stage will inform the rest of the startup process. Here you’ll hash out your daycare name, mission statement, marketing plan, organizational plan, staffing, operations, budgets, and more. You’ll need to do your research, with a focus on understanding the costs involved in successfully launching a profitable daycare business. Are you using your own money, or are you seeking a small business loan? Have you looked into daycare 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 daycare

Are you starting an in-home daycare, looking to rent an existing daycare center, or starting a daycare business from scratch with a brand new facility? In any case, you’ll need to find a home for your child care business. Check your city’s zoning laws and child care licensing guidelines when you’re making this decision to be sure your location is compliant.

Learn about floor plans you should use based on your program's specific needs in our article, Top Daycare Floor Plans and Designs!

4. Get insurance for your daycare business

Depending on the type and size of the daycare you're opening, you’ll need several different types of insurance policies, including liability, property, workers’ compensation, and business insurance. Again, check your local child care provider licensing requirements for guidance.

5. Prepare your daycare facility

If you're getting ready to open a daycare center, you'll obviously need furniture and supplies. You’ll also need child care safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, disaster supplies, etc. Running your own daycare business comes with lots of safety issues that you’ll need to be ready for.

6. Develop policies and procedures

Use child care forms and templates to kick-start the process of developing policies, procedures, and handbooks for your staff and families. You’ll also want to develop a disaster or crisis management plan and health, safety, privacy, and nutrition protocols, all under the guidance of your local childcare licensing requirements.

7. Hire staff to help you run your daycare

Verify the daycare licensing requirements for staff ratios and teachers’ educational backgrounds. Child care staff may be subject to criminal background checks and fingerprinting, and be sure to rigorously verify references and education levels. A daycare center is only as good as its staff, so make your child care hiring decisions carefully.

8. Invest in child care software

One of the best ways to start a successful daycare in 2019 is to take advantage of the amazing daycare technology at your disposal. Streamline your administrative tasks and you’ll have more time to focus on providing your families a top-notch childcare experience--which is your whole goal anyway, right?

Brightwheel makes easy-to-use child care software that will help you manage your daycare and stay in touch with families. Your staff can use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities, and parents get real-time updates delivered to their mobile device throughout the day. Our powerful daycare app also offers secure, digital check-in/check-out, and an automated paperless daycare billing system. This is a great way to keep your families looped in on daily activities.

Make sure to check out our top tips for childcare billing!

9. Market your daycare business and seek applicants

At the very least your child care center will need marketing collateral and an online presence. List your business in local child care directories and participate in daycare or preschool enrollment fairs in your community. Advertise through local businesses, parent groups, local events, and popular child care blogs. Try sites popular early education sites like 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 child roster, continue with ongoing marketing efforts so that you’ll always be building a customer base.

Starting a daycare center can be challenging, but running a successful child care business is extremely rewarding. Wishing you the best of luck on the journey to open your own daycare!

Brightwheel is everything you need for your daycare business, in one simple app. Download it today!


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