ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie

Episode 186: How to Start a Childcare Center in Texas

January 30, 2024 Carrie Casey and Kate Woodward Young
Episode 186: How to Start a Childcare Center in Texas
ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie
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ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie
Episode 186: How to Start a Childcare Center in Texas
Jan 30, 2024
Carrie Casey and Kate Woodward Young

In this podcast episode, Kate and Carrie explore the multifaceted process of opening a childcare center in Texas. They cover the importance of aligning educational philosophy with the center's physical environment, financial planning, and understanding credit requirements. The discussion includes the need for proper qualifications, managing business operations, and complying with zoning and building codes. They also address the practicalities of remodeling a building for childcare use, ensuring renovations meet licensing standards and the importance of marketing and clear signage. Operational policies, licensing steps, and the value of a grand opening event are also discussed, providing a comprehensive guide for starting a child care center.

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Show Notes Transcript

In this podcast episode, Kate and Carrie explore the multifaceted process of opening a childcare center in Texas. They cover the importance of aligning educational philosophy with the center's physical environment, financial planning, and understanding credit requirements. The discussion includes the need for proper qualifications, managing business operations, and complying with zoning and building codes. They also address the practicalities of remodeling a building for childcare use, ensuring renovations meet licensing standards and the importance of marketing and clear signage. Operational policies, licensing steps, and the value of a grand opening event are also discussed, providing a comprehensive guide for starting a child care center.

Read the blog post:

Support the Show.

Thanks for Listening 🎙

Marie (00:00:01) - Welcome to childcare conversations with Kate and Carrie.

Kate (00:00:05) - So we can ask questions all the time. And today and over the next several weeks, we're going to start to answer some of those questions. And one of the questions that we get all the time is, how do you start a child care center in the state of Texas? So, Carrie, why do people ask us this question? And what is the first thing you want people to think about when they want to start a child care center?

Carrie (00:00:33) - Well, I mean, to me, it's not just starting a child care center. It's starting a child care program of any kind. So I think the first decision is, do you want a registered family home which is less than six kids in your house? Do you want a licensed group home, which is 0 to 12 kids in your house? Do you want to have a licensed child care center, or do you want to have an after school program? That's the first decision. And then I want you to talk about I want you to figure out your educational philosophy.

Kate (00:01:04) - Okay. Well, I even think there's bigger questions before that.

Carrie (00:01:07) - Okay. What do you think is before figuring out your type and your educational philosophy.

Kate (00:01:13) - Uh, whether or not you make a good boss or a good employee, or if you really are an entrepreneur. Because if you don't like details, if you don't like having to have hard conversations, if you are just you love children and you're passionate and you want to spend your time with children, definitely scratch your head and think about whether or not you're ready to be the owner, because there's definitely being an entrepreneur has some risk.

Carrie (00:01:42) - That's true. And a lot of times people are like, well, I want to have my program because I will do it the right way because they have worked for somebody who did some things that they don't think is appropriate. But the I think that whole can you have challenging conversations is a part that a lot of people don't think through before opening a school. I know I didn't when I opened my first school, when I was in my 20s, you know, the whole how to have a difficult conversation was not part of any of the research or thought processes I had done.

Carrie (00:02:21) - Can you be a boss? I had done that. Like I was like, yes, I can be a boss. I know how to be a boss. The how, how to have hard conversations with parents who don't bring the needed supplies, or with staff who don't seem to think showing up on time is important or whatever the challenging conversations.

Kate (00:02:44) - I mean, yeah, I mean, you could even just say, do you know this about yourself? And it's are you a people pleaser? Um, because a lot of times, again, when we love people and we love kids, sometimes these are parts of our personalities that we don't really think about. So if you aren't sure that you can go after a parent to make sure you they pay you on time every week and you're just like, oh, I know they'll do it. Yeah. Okay. If any part of the last three sentences are a little like, oh, I don't know. You know, think about what Kerri said as far as the type of program.

Kate (00:03:24) - Um, I think also why I think the, the, the, the why do you want this business is a really, really important.

Carrie (00:03:31) - Yeah. Because you can run a school and not own the school. Like you could be the director. You can be the office manager. You don't have to take on the additional risk of running a school. I loved running schools until I didn't, um. I like being the boss. I'm very good at being, um, entry level or being the boss. I am very bad with middle management. So being a director for someone else, each of the times I tried it didn't work well for me because of my personality type. But if you're not sure that you can have those hard conversations and and have the but the buck stop here, then yeah, it's better to be a director for someone else than to own your own program because there's nobody else to go. Um, I'm sorry, but that decision is not going to wash. You've got to be the one who says absolutely not or absolutely yes.

Carrie (00:04:31) - So I think that's a good thing. Okay.

Kate (00:04:34) - So I think as you guys listen to today's the next 20 minutes or so, remember that Carrie's probably going to come with the the heart of child care. And there's a pretty strong possibility that I'm going to go, oh, but let's talk about the business part. So there are definitely two parts. When you are trying to decide what do you need to do to open a child care center? In Texas. Yeah. So Carrie talked a little bit or just mentioned educational philosophy. Why why is that something that somebody needs to know pretty early on, Carrie.

Carrie (00:05:10) - Well, because it's going to determine what kind of building you're going to have. It's going to determine what your name is going to be. It's going to determine what you buy. All of that comes back to your educational philosophy. Because if you say you're a nature based program and I walk into your building and everything is made out of plastic, uh, excuse me, I thought you said you were a nature based program.

Carrie (00:05:33) - Why don't you have wooden chairs and wooden tables and, um, things like that? There should be lots of pine cones and things like that. If I walk in and there's a huge amount of plastic. What you said your educational philosophy is, doesn't match your environment, and that means you're not going to be able to enroll people or hire people. So you've got to know, I'm a montessori program. I'm a Regio program. Uh, I'm a Christ centered program. I am a Talmudic learning program. I don't care what kind of program you are. You just need to know that before you set up your legal entity, before you look for property, before you buy a ding dang thing.

Kate (00:06:18) - Oh, yes. Like the buy and the ding ding thing is at the bottom of the list, right? Like we have to know, like Carrie said, you have to know what kind of last thing.

Carrie (00:06:27) - The last thing on my list is throw a party. That's the last thing on the list.

Kate (00:06:31) - Okay? So you get to buy things and then you get to throw a party.

Kate (00:06:35) - But there's a whole bunch of stuff above that. So, you know, Carrie mentioned even knowing what the name of your program is. So before you become a legal entity. So you need to have these things in mind. Not only that, I'm going to ask you this question how much money is in your savings account? You know, what does your credit look like? So, you know, before you get out, before you register your name, before any of that, make sure that you actually know the answer to that question. If you don't know what your credit limit looks like, if you don't really have any money in savings, if you're not really good at personal management of your finances, you might need to take some time and learn those skills.

Carrie (00:07:19) - I would agree with that. Um, you've got to know that you have some money and that you have at least decent credit. You don't have to have an 827 or something, but if your credit is 27, you're going to have a hard time opening that school, because even if you had $2 million in the bank, if your credit limit is 27, nobody's going to want to rent to you, which means you're going to have to buy everything.

Carrie (00:07:47) - You're going to have to buy a building, you're going to have to buy equipment. You're going to have a hard time getting lines of credit with the janitorial supply company who brings your toilet paper. So yes, these are part of the pre-work. I know this is not the sexy part. This is not what you were going. Oh, Carrie and Kate are going to help us open a child care center. Okay? And I get that. But too many businesses fail in the first year, and even more fail in the first five years. And we don't want that to be you.

Kate (00:08:20) - Okay, so with that, that means do that business plan, which is really what we're talking about. Make sure that you have a really good idea whether or not you want to work for somebody or don't want to work for somebody. Um, and I'm not just talking about your employees and your parents. So, you know, because in that case, I have seen registered family homes that basically end up having six bosses because they can't say no.

Carrie (00:08:47) - Absolutely.

Kate (00:08:48) - So all right, so let's get a little bit to the sexy part. There's a lot of other things that Carrie and I will definitely include. Um, in other links. Um, so make sure that you grab our blog on this subject and, um, follow all the links because we'll have lots of great resources for you. Um, all the way. Okay.

Carrie (00:09:08) - So we've set up our legal entity and done all of the paperwork with the different government entities other than child care licensing. We've written our business plan, whether that involved getting a loan or not. We've started any paperwork we need to. Then here's the thing. This is why Kate and I are here is you need to take any needed classes, because you have to be qualified to be a director and not just whatever the state says. You have to be qualified. You yourself need to know that you can do it. So yes, our class helps get people to get a checkmark next to their name if they're in.

Kate (00:09:51) - But so our class, you can.

Carrie (00:09:53) - Still take our class,

Kate (00:09:54) - tell Them what our class is Carrie.

Carrie (00:09:56) - So our class is what we call the. Director credentialing class. You earn a director credential and it talks about the basics of everything you need to know, from business management to child development to classroom management to hiring, firing, marketing, legal protection, all of that. It is not a super deep class. We're not going a mile deep on any of these. We are going deep enough that you can get started and it will tell you, oh, that's an area I need more depth on. I sort of followed what Kate and Carrie were saying in the finance section, but I really don't understand the difference between a balance sheet and a profit loss statement. I need to take more classes in that. Or I really don't understand a whole lot about child development and the theory of it. So I want to take some of those classes. So it is the six inches deep in a mile wide, as opposed to six inches wide and a mile deep kind of class.

Kate (00:11:01) - So if you aren't 100% sure in the state of Texas, there are multiple ways for the state to say you meet their requirements of being a director, pull up the licensing paperwork, and hopefully by now you have figured out what state agency handles that. In the state of Texas, you've pulled up the minimum standards, and in the minimum standards there is a chart. So there's lots of different ways to meet the educational requirement. But we all know that sometimes, um, just because you have a bachelor's degree and you've been a teacher doesn't necessarily mean that you're ready to run a business.

Carrie (00:11:41) - Absolutely. Because not everyone has that skill set where they are right now. That doesn't mean that you're never going to have those. It means right now you don't have them, because right now you have other things you're working on and you can get there. I feel pretty strongly that anybody can become ready to lead a program if that's where their heart is. But you may need to take more than just our director credentialing class.

Carrie (00:12:13) - If you were like, yes, I absolutely want to run a program, but oh, that whole managing the daycare dollar sounds scary. Or the having the hard conversation sounds scary. Take the classes to build up your confidence for those things.

Kate (00:12:28) - Absolutely.

Carrie (00:12:29) - then once we've got that, you get to start looking for a place, whether it's in your house because you're setting up a licensed or a registered home. So what rooms are you going to use for this project? Or whether it is finding a new location because you're doing an after school program or a licensed child care program?

Kate (00:12:51) - Oh, okay. So if I want to have a space, anything I need to know?

Carrie (00:13:01) - Um, okay. So the short answer is aha, a lot. But we can summarize it as you need to know what the zoning requirements and building code requirements are for your city. Or even better, you know, a realtor who has that information and then you don't have to store the information in your head. You use the realtor so the who knows it, not the how to do it.

Kate (00:13:29) - So when you're. Yeah, an absolutely when you're looking at property and if you've done a business plan, you probably have an idea how many children you need in a space and some of those bits and pieces. And if you don't pull up minimum standards, because it will give you some of that guidance.

Carrie (00:13:47) - Like how many toilets and sinks you need to have for every X number of children.

Kate (00:13:53) - And square footage per kid depending on their age, yada yada yada. The other thing that I'm hoping that you're thinking about is when you work with a realtor or you're looking at space, don't just assume that because that used to be a childcare center means that that's a great place for your business.

Carrie (00:14:14) - Yeah, I owned a building that years previously had had a child care center in it, and so I thought, great, I can find a tenant for this space who is a child care center, and I can support them. Know the zoning changed in between when there had been a child care center there and when I bought the building.

Carrie (00:14:34) - So even if it had been a child care center, doesn't mean that the zoning is still going to be okay. Or it could be that there was a childcare center there. And that's because there were a lot of young families in the neighborhood when they set up that child care center, and now all the parents have high school students. High school students hopefully don't need a whole lot of childcare. So. The demographics of the area may have shifted, so it doesn't make sense anymore to have a child care center there because there aren't families around who have kids 0 to 5. Or if you're doing a school age program 4 to 12, right.

Kate (00:15:14) - Well, and then we have, you know, my favorite, your building wasn't grandfathered because it had been grandfathered for, I don't know, fire, fire sprinklers or maybe the major employer has moved. Yep. So there's a reason why that building is empty. So ask yourself and find out. Do your due diligence and find out why. Because if especially if it was a big franchise and they couldn't make that space work, you have to scratch your head and go, why was there a child care center there that had something negative happen? Because do you really want to open it up? If they closed because there was something in it.

Carrie (00:15:57) - They left a kid on a school bus. Yeah. I mean, and nobody wants to go there because that's the school where they left a kid on a school bus.

Kate (00:16:05) - Yeah, absolutely. So definitely do your due diligence when looking at your space. We know that's the fun part. And we get people all the time. They try to go straight there. Hopefully you heard us in the first ten minutes of this conversation. Talk to you a little bit about yeah. Before you go looking do some of the other bits and pieces.

Carrie (00:16:26) - Yep and then once you've got the building you've got to do whatever kind of remodel you need to do, because almost never do you walk into a building and it's perfectly ready to do the type of childcare you want to do. So you might need to take some full walls and make them half walls. Or maybe they had half walls. And you want full walls. Um, maybe you need to do some remodeling with the bathrooms. Maybe there's mold somewhere. There's going to be something, in all likelihood, that you're going to need to take down a wall, fix a wall, move a wall, something.

Kate (00:17:03) - So does that. Mean I can't open right away?

Carrie (00:17:05) - Yeah, that's probably what that means. If you. Get a building that.

Carrie (00:17:10) - If the building meets code, you can open. But when are you going to do those. When are you going to move the walls because you can't move the walls while the children are in the building and having worked construction, I will tell you that your idea that you're going to do it over Christmas break is a joke. You're not going to be able to move that wall over the one week of Christmas break. It's not going to happen. You're going to end up with unhappy parents. So it is much better to do whatever remodeling you want to do before the kids get there, because licensing says you can't be doing construction while the children are in the classroom. No.

Kate (00:17:46) - Right.

Carrie (00:17:46) - So kids on the head with a two by four, we.

Kate (00:17:49) - Found a building. Carrie, where do we go now? Because I know there's I know you and I could spend all day, and we're already over 15 minutes into this.

Kate (00:17:58) - So where do we want to go next?

Carrie (00:18:00) - We remodeled the building and then we want to. There's a couple of things we can do at the same time. We can start setting up the classrooms while we're getting the health and fire inspections and the certificate of occupancy, uh, probably the certificate of occupancy first and then set up classrooms while you're getting the health and fire inspections done. Okay. Because we have to have all that before we can fill out our paperwork for licensing.

Kate (00:18:27) - Okay. But at the same time, we need to be marketing. Yes. Well, I said a couple of things.

Carrie (00:18:33) - The other part of that is that we're marketing our program to the people in the community. You can be marketing your program while you're remodeling, actually, so you can start as soon as you've signed that lease or, um, bought that property. You can marketing at that point. Yeah.

Kate (00:18:51) - So make sure you've got visible signage. Uh, make sure that it's nice. This doesn't mean visible signage is not you pulling off.

Carrie (00:18:59) - So you mean like one of those things where I've got, um. I've got pastel blue and pastel pink and some yellow and maybe just a pop of purple. Is that what we're looking for in our signage?

Kate (00:19:12) - So first of all, think about your signage. And what is the name of your program. Um, and when I talk about signage, I mean both externally, internally and online. So think about your visual look across the board. And what does it say about your program? Again, Carrie talked about a nature based program. Chances are you've got some greens and browns in there. Um, I am going to tell you, we all know everybody's driving around with their cell phone. I don't care what we try to tell them not to do. Know that somebody is going to go is probably going to call you from their car. So if you've got some temporary signage up, make sure there's a phone number, even better, a website or both. Um, but make it something they can remember if there's like, you know, 37 letters that don't make sense or it's a bunch of initials.

Kate (00:19:58) - Um, it has to. Be something quick and easy for them. So, you know you know Austin child care because we are in Austin. So Austin child you know if that domain is available, go grab it. Use it regardless of the name of your program because that's what people are looking for.

Carrie (00:20:17) - Yeah, And when you're putting your signage, remember the point of the sign is that somebody driving down the road can see it. So if you have seven different colors that all go really well together, nobody can read your sign. Target does not have seven different colors that all go together. It has two colors that contrast Wal-Mart, McDonald's. Every major business has at most three colors, and they contrast with each other. So yeah

Kate (00:20:50) - There is definitely a reason why. Red, white and yellow. And if you aren't sure, go up and down the grocery store aisles. You won't see a whole lot of baby pink, light blue and purple. So anyway. So yeah, so Carrie talked about, you know, you've got to get your building ready.

Kate (00:21:05) - I mentioned at the same time, you've got to be making sure that you are your entity visually, online and, and at the street is working for you. So what do we do next? I mean, we we're marketing to parents. What do we do.

Carrie (00:21:20) - To how do I market to parents. Because we have like 12 episodes on that.

Kate (00:21:25) - No. So we've got parents. We've got parents who say they want to do something, but I don't even have a place to show them. I don't have any stickers.

Carrie (00:21:33) - Yep. Um, I for some reason, I didn't put hiring on my little checklist, so I think I need to go in and add hiring.

Kate (00:21:40) - Well, I've got all those. We've got all those books. We got it right. Right. Like handbooks.

Carrie (00:21:44) - Um, so before you can apply for your license, you need to have your operational policies, which typically means a parent handbook and a staff handbook. Um, and so you need those things because you have to have the staff handbook before you can hire the staff.

Carrie (00:22:01) - That's kind of they go together. Um, and then we're going to apply for our license. Um, by the way, we've already we're presuming you've already opened a bank account before this. We didn't talk about that step. But you do need to set up a bank account. Um, um, yeah. So we're going.

Kate (00:22:19) - To do some other mini episodes. And so again, as you're reading the blog, uh, that goes along with this episode, um, there will be links to additional mini episodes on some of the fun stuff, or maybe not so fun stuff, depending on who you are. And we've got lots of links for different resources on marketing, how to hire and fire staff, how to train the staff, onboarding orientation. Those are all past episodes. When you get to 180 some episodes, chances are we've covered it at one point in time. Carrie, let's take this back home and kind of wrap up. What are the last couple of things before their party, uh, that they need to do before starting a child care center in Texas?

Carrie (00:23:01) - We're applying for our license.

Carrie (00:23:03) - We're having our licensing inspection, we're onboarding the staff were onboarding the parents, and then we get to have our party.

Kate (00:23:16) - So parties are great. And the other great thing about parties is that the community gets to know that you're here. Uh, if you are one of those people and you like to throw parties and you're good at throwing parties and you need a reason, like you want an anchor, you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, or May the 4th or whatever, um, strange little holiday happens to be coming around that you like. Yes. I want to make my opening related to that. Um, always work timelines and project plans backwards. Start with your goal and then work backwards. I'm sure we probably have a podcast on that. And, uh, with that, uh, today's episode is going to kind of wrap up. So, Carrie, let's wrap this up. It's a little longer than normal, but we want to make sure that you guys have at least a solid idea of what you need to do.

Carrie (00:24:05) - So if you think you want to open a childcare program in Texas or anywhere else in the world, we want to support you. We want to do what we can to make this successful for you, and make you have so much fun and joy in your job. But part of that is making sure that we've cleared some of the roadblocks ahead of time, which is why we've talked about the stuff that might not be as sexy, like getting your health inspection, because if you try to open the doors and you don't have a health inspection, you're not going to be having a great day. So we want to go. That's why we're talking about all of these other steps before the party. The party is great. The grand opening, having a ribbon cutting, and the Chamber of Commerce comes and you're in the newspaper and all of that. That is the culmination. But do not expect that to happen two months from today. It's going to take a little bit of time.

Kate (00:25:04) - All right. Well, Carrie, thank you so much.

Kate (00:25:06) - And with that, if you are listening to us for the first time, I do know that there is over 180 episodes you can go back and listen to. Make sure that you subscribe so you can get all of our future episodes. And if you have any questions, go ahead and shoot us an email. Carrie at Texas Director. Org or Kate at Texas Director. Org. We would love to get your feedback if there's any questions that you have for us. Make sure you fire them off and we will see you next week.

Marie (00:25:37) - Thank you for listening to Child Care Conversations with Kate and Carrie. Want to learn more? Check out our website at TexasDirector.Org and if you've learned anything today, leave us a comment below and share the show.