Did you know that opening a large daycare is virtually impossible? Well at least for me. I’ve tried THREE times without success. So to all of you daycare providers out there that were able to make this work for you, I praise you!
Child Care Demand
There is a demand for child care in my area, Thousand Oaks, California. But, most of my phone calls are for children under the age of two, infants. And even with a large daycare, my max number of infants is four. I always thought licensing should lower the age to under the age of eighteen months. This would open up more infant spots quicker and cut back on the year-long waiting list.
As for children over the age of two, well it’s pretty much the sound of crickets over here. Maybe because there are a lot more child care options for children over the age of two. And maybe because families prefer private preschools over in-home daycares for their two year old. It also could be that at the age of two families are already settled into a child care of their choice.
Well let’s face it, my downfall, I really didn’t have a curriculum set up in my daycare for preschoolers. Nor did I advertise that I had one. I always knew I wasn’t a very crafty person, definitely not a Pinterest kind of person. Not to say that you have to be.
Many people operate their child care as a play-based facility. This was me. I strongly believe children learn through play. But I’m sure there are many families out there that would prefer some structure, lessons, circle time, crafts, and activities.
Let’s just say my backyard isn’t child care friendly when it comes to having preschoolers. With a large pool in the middle of my backyard. And a linear, narrow yard at that. It just wasn’t ideal.
Minus the pool. It would be a great outdoor space for children to play.
I didn’t go ‘all-out’ advertising my preschool as I should have. This wasn’t like me though. Maybe because I had this little voice in the back of my head thinking this wasn’t going to work. And this may be a major reason as to why I failed a third time.
I advertised by running a Facebook ad targeting people in the Ventura County area where Thousand Oaks resided. I placed an ad on CraigsList too. And made the necessary changes to my website so that I showed up on Google Search for my city + preschool.
While many daycares had closed in the area (retirement, moving, lack of children). One had opened right down the street from me. They were planning on opening up a large daycare too. It was co-founded by two teachers who encouraged outdoor play. They are still around today but operate as a small daycare just like me. Maybe they too were unable to make the large daycare work. But nevertheless, they are running a successful daycare between the two of them. While their rates are higher than mine, there are two of them that need to be paid for their services. And somehow they’ve made this work for them with a staff of two. So I applaud them.
With operating a large daycare I needed to hire an assistant. And let’s just say this is not an easy task. After a couple of interviews, I found one. Somebody that was willing to work part-time until I needed them full-time as I expected to grow.
Along with being fingerprinted and clearing a background check. The assistant needed to be TB tested and have their whooping cough vaccine along with showing proof that they were vaccinated against measles. They also needed to pass the mandated reporter class that was now a requirement in California. CPR and First Aid training could come later as long as I did not leave my assistant alone with the children.
I also needed them to sign off on the fact that they were allowed a lunch break but the lunch break must be at the child care facility. This is a requirement in the state of California.
Another downfall to hiring an assistant was figuring out how to manage their sick time and vacations. If my assistant happened to be absent I would only be able to operate as a small daycare. And what would I tell the preschool side of the business? I’m sorry I’m unable to watch your child because my assistant is absent. That just doesn’t cut it. Finding someone to temporarily cover them would be a struggle.
So then it happened, my assistant told me she was going to Russia for three months. Now, what was I supposed to do?
The only way I see an assistant working for a large daycare is if it were a family member. But, as they say, it’s a bad idea to work with family. Although it may work for some.
Now not only was I the owner of the daycare. But, I was Accounts Receivable, Payroll, and Human Resources. I had to manage an ’employee’ because you can’t hire a daycare assistant as an independent contractor. Another big downfall to starting your large daycare business.
This meant I had to carry workers comp insurance. And pay all the applicable taxes required for payroll. And it meant that I paid for sick time and vacations. On top of having to pay another individual to cover for them while they were absent. Now how is anybody supposed to make that work and make a profit? Please tell me?
I was going to have to take a long, hard look at my day-to-day operations. Knowing that the other preschools in my area were my competition. How was I to compete? Especially when it came down to the hours of operation. While most preschools offer extended hours. We’re talking about 7 AM to 6 PM. While my hours were 8 AM to 5 PM. And let’s face it having two working parents in the family the preschool’s hours were much more feasible. Not to mention I would have to be paying overtime every day for an assistant. And there is a law for how many hours you can require a person to work. Plus their lunch break was considered one hour of work time that must be paid since they are required to remain at the facility.
If you were going to compete with the preschools at their hours of operations. Then you’re looking at putting in some long hours every day. And that’s got to be hard on anybody.
I was also going to have to take a long, hard look at my policies and procedures too. Making sure I stuck to my policies despite the introvert in me.
Conclusion, as you can see there are a lot of factors that were against me and are against other daycares in my position. If you operate a large daycare I would love to hear from you. How did you make it happen? I applaud you.