How to Plan for Starting Your Own Daycare

9 Important Steps to Opening a Daycare

If you have a love for caring for children, opening a daycare can be a lucrative way to make a living. Only about 1 in 3 children stay at home with a parent-- the rest need some form of childcare. Between single parents needing to work to support their families and the higher need for dual incomes to maintain a livable budget, day care support is in high demand, and many have years long waiting lists.

There are many things to consider and prepare for before opening a daycare of your own. Of course first and foremost you’ll need a space to watch the children in. Some choose to run a daycare from their home, but it’s important to consider the possible downsides to this option. The invasion of your personal space, and the liabilities and licensing involved with an at home daycare are just some reasons while it may be smarter to find a suitable commercial space to open your business.

The size of the space will dictate the amount of children you can look after at a time. You’ll want to find a commercial space for a daycare that has some separate areas for various activities throughout the day. You’ll likely want a quiet space for napping, an area for storing and preparing snacks, and if you plan to have various age groups, spaces to keep the children in similar age groups.

An added bonus would be finding a property with some outdoor space to give the children a chance for outside play when weather permits (just be sure to look into the liability involved with that). You can find plenty of daycare space for rent in Columbus Ohio for your new venture.

9 Important Steps to Opening a Daycare

Don’t overlook these fundamental steps to a successful daycare

Close up of child's hand coloring at daycare
Entertaining young children while educating them is a fundamental key to a successful daycare

  1. Educate Yourself

Every business owner should educate themselves on the industry before opening a business. This is just as important for opening a daycare. You would be smart to consider a formal education in early childhood education. This advantage can make you stand out from your competitors. You’ll get formal insight into knowledge and experience from seasoned professionals and have formal credentials.

Legal documents next to laptop
In order to be a legal daycare you’ll need to obtain the correct license for your business

2. Licensing Process

It’s important to research the local licenses and regulations to owning a childcare facility. Try contacting the appropriate government department for guidance. In Ohio, that includes the Child Care Licensing Agency in the Department of Job and Family Services. Not filing for the appropriate license will cost you in the long run and put you at a competitive disadvantage.

You’ll like need several documents to obtain the license including CPR training certificate and a clean driving record, among other files. Be sure to organize these documents before you begin.

Think of your licensors as resources, ask them any questions you have on licensing and regulations for childcare.

3. Outline Financial Goals

It’s important to create clear financial goals, no matter what business you decide to open, to keep your business on track and remain focused. Be sure to create a solid budget and business plan. Determine where money will be coming in and where it will be going.

  • What is the rent and utility fees for your space?
  • How many children can you fit in the space and how much will you need to charge to cover hard costs including staff to meet staff child ratios.
  • Will you be hiring employees, if so how many to maintain a desirable staff/ child ratio?
  • What materials will you need to purchase? Bedding, toys, cubbies, educational materials, art supplies?
  • Budgeting cleaning supplies or services

You’ll also need to factor in costs of licensing, inspection, and zoning. Consider adding a 20-30 % buffer to your budget to cover any surprise costs like purchasing new gates, fire extinguishers, or safety materials.

Understanding every dollar and cent will help you be prepared for the ebbs and flows of running your new business.

4. Understand Tax Credits

If you do choose to go with an in home daycare there will be plenty of opportunity for tax credits. Do your research because there are certain guidelines you must follow to be eligible for credits. This simple step can save you plenty of money in the long run.

Dollar bills planted in dirt
Understanding the dollars and cents from budgeting to tax credits and grants is fundamental.

5. Research Grants

There are plenty of resources for small business owners to get the starting capital ready. Look into grant opportunities to help cover those costs. Some of the grants may even provide additional education to prepare you for running a child care facility.

6. Rise Above the Competition

To provide a top notch experience it’s important to provide a service beyond just looking over the children. Research what your competition offers and determine what the market is looking for. Is foreign language immersion desirable in your area? What kinds of hours would be the most desirable to your clientele? If you’re offering snacks what kind of dietary restrictions can you cater to? If you do your research you’ll know what hours, location, and services will set you apart.

7. Develop Your Client Contract

You’ll need to write up a clear and comprehensive contract for your clientele that outlines exactly what they can expect from your services. Important questions to cover include:

  • What are drop up and pick up hours and are there fees or opportunity to extend those?
  • What will you provide and what do parents need to provide- meal wise/ formula, nap- wise, diapers, wipes, etc?
  • What is your sick policy?
  • How are late payments handled?

Research templates for daycare contracts and be sure you cover all the bases in your contract to avoid any surprises and conflict


To earn clientele you’ll need a plan to market your services

8. Marketing Plan

A well thought out marketing plan is important to any new small business. For a daycare, focus on local targeted strategies to market your new venture.

Setting up a digital presence will be the first step in marketing your business. At the very least create a comprehensive Facebook page, but consider also hosting an official website. You’ll also want to develop an official Google Business Listing with all the fundamental details of your services.

Consider simple advertising in local parenting magazines or publications, and send a press release to local media. Get great photos of the space showing a bright, happy, clean facility to utilize online.

You can also post flyers in local libraries, coffee shops, and grocery stores announcing your opening. Be sure to leverage the affordable means of social media marketing to get started, and hopefully word of mouth will sustain you long term once you start getting clients.

9. Get Parents in the Door

Getting off the ground can be the hardest part of opening a new daycare. Many parents may be tentative to send their child to a brand new daycare. Consider offering a few months free to some close friends, or a discount for your first group of parents for a few months to get folks in the door.

Once you have some children enrolled, word of mouth from happy clients will be your strongest marketing channel! If you’ve cared for any of the children before, see if their parents will provide a review or testimonial for your website or online review platforms. Offer an incentive for their support.

Sacrificing this small amount of revenue up front will be worth the long term lucrative success to come!

Get Started!

Take the first steps to begin

If you follow through with the checklist above you will be much more likely to succeed at opening your own daycare. Be sure you find the perfect space at HER Commercial Real Estate!

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Lani Redinger

Lani Redinger is a professional writer, editor, and bibliophile from Pittsburgh, PA