With the rising need for before-and-after-school-care programs, parents are likely to appreciate the existence of such a program that gives them the flexibility to work. Their children will develop both academic and social skills in a more laid-back atmosphere than the one they are accustomed during school hours. Most of the time, schools are cooperative with after-school businesses, willing to provide space for the students.
Where to Start
First, you must find an existing institution that needs your services such as a church, a school or a child care facility. You're an immense benefit to such organizations as you’re helping them meet the needs of their clientele. Once you find a willing partner, prepare a short, one-page business plan, and ask the relevant executive (pastor, director or principal) to have a look and give you some feedback. You can even check out similar programs such as the YMCA, to get some ideas for how you’ll structure your program.
Start gaining credibility by creating a more comprehensive business plan than the one you presented to your partnering school, child care facility or church. Focus on the important details such as your credentials and experience, the direct services you offer and the school fees. Gain trust by emphasizing your dependability, and make it clear that the safety of their clients' children is your number-one priority. Your marketing shouldn’t be too aggressive since your audience is already interested. Start with a small number of students and grow organically. You should have a full-time site manager who is committed to ensuring the stability of the program.
There are many sources of funding for before-and-after-school-care businesses including business loans and grants from the government. You can visit afterschool.gov for information about all the current sources of funding for such programs. Remember, this is a business, so cash flow is king. The fees paid by parents may not be enough to make your program prosper, so you may need to seek additional capital. You can also design fundraisers, so long as they do not interfere with the plans of your school partner and aren’t overwhelming for parents.
Choose Your Services Carefully
While profit is a priority, it shouldn’t come at the expense of offering quality services. Make sure you have both the skills and experience to provide your services. Next, factor in your expenses, such as training, employee benefits, regulatory fees, accounting and insurance costs. Have a clear fee-collection policy stating the consequences of slow payments, non-payments and gross misbehavior by students.
Keep It Fun for Students
Make your curriculum flexible and fun for students, even if you’re trying to align it with the objectives of the school. Students should be able to release the tension from their school day at your program. Serve nutritious snacks prepared in a food-safety-compliant cafeteria. Keep the parents updated on the progress of their children in the program and remind them of their obligations on a weekly or monthly basis.
A Note on Finances
Liability insurance for your business should be separate from your personal insurance. Consider hiring a licensed accountant to handle your taxes if you’re apprehensive about doing it yourself. Instead of stepping up the program fees multiple times during the first year to meet cash flow needs, charge more fees at the beginning.
- Keep the employee-to-student ratio well above the minimum to avoid signaling greed and student neglect.
- Perform background checks on all employees.
- Insure your business separately from your personal insurance to reduce personal liability.
- Hire a responsible, licensed accountant who can also prepare taxes unless you have an accounting background.
- Charge more initially instead of raising your fees two or three times in the first year to offset inefficient budgeting.