It can be quite daunting to try to open a daycare in Texas or anywhere else in the world. There are literally hundreds of decisions that you need to make. I made those decisions, and you can too. Approach it like you would eating an elephant…one bite at a time.
If you are thinking about opening a Daycare, Childcare, Mother’s Day Out, Preschool, or Afterschool program (or any of the 20 other titles for an early childhood program), I’m sure your brain is buzzing with 1,0000 thoughts of how you will run the program, what equipment you will need, who you will hire, etc. I get it. I was the same way before I opened my first program.
Get yourself a notebook and write those thoughts down as they occur to you. You can use a notes app on your phone if you prefer, but the science says that manually writing helps to organize and quiet the thoughts. Once it is written down your brain knows you’ve got this idea. Organize your idea catcher however you want.
This is just for you.
You will use it often. Because the ideas will hit you at all hours of the day or night. Catching them & putting them in the notebook will make the rest of this process much easier and your final program is more likely to reflect your vision.
This framing of your vision is separate from the tasks of actually opening a program.
In this article, I am laying out the steps for opening a daycare in Texas, but they are much the same in any state. The specific government agencies and references to licensing requirements will vary.
The first step is a bit of introspection. Are you ready to be a boss? As the owner of a school, you will be the boss of all the staff, all the children & responsible to the parents and regulators. You have to be ready mentally and emotionally.
Make sure you are comfortable with saying “NO.” The owner must say it a lot. “No, you can’t have that day off.” “No, you cannot pay tuition next Tuesday.” “No, you cannot spend that money.” “No, we don’t have the money to hire an assistant right now.” “No, I don’t think that service is right for us at this time.” Some of the nos can be practiced as a Director for someone else, but others just relate to being the owner.
The buck will stop with you.
Are you prepared to deal with all the bucks? Not just the proverbial ones that stop with you, but also the real ones. All the tuition, payroll, budgets, finance statements, and bills. They will all be your responsibility. If you aren’t good at budgeting in your household…you need to work on that before you open your program.
Do you have decent credit? You will need that in order to rent or buy your location. Again, if you don’t yet, take a bit of time & work on this aspect.
You will have all the financial and legal liability. That also means that you get to do things exactly as you want (within the confines of regulations. Get yourself ready for those new responsibilities.
If you feel ready to be a boss, then you are ready to go on to the next step. If not, then get yourself a coach, take classes, or find a mentor to help you with the area(s) of being a boss that you need help with.
Now it is time for your first decision.
What type of program/school do you want to open? In Texas, there are 6 different types of childcare according to licensing.
Listed childcare home
Registered childcare home
Licensed group home
Licensed child care center
Licensed before or after school program
Exempt childcare programs
This article won’t go into each of those types of programs, but check back later & I will have another article about the different types of care according to licensing.
You need to decide if you are going to offer in-home or commercial childcare.
If you are doing home-based childcare, you need to determine which rooms will be used for your business and which ones will be off-limits. Having done this type of care, it is VERY important to have areas of your home that are not used by the children. You need to be able to separate your work and personal time & space.
If you are not going to be home-based, then you will need to find a commercial building for your business. Occasionally towns will let licensed childcare programs operate out of residential buildings. Check with your municipal or county zoning for more information about this question.
Once you have decided which type of care you are going to offer, we go back to your notebook (or notes app).
What will the vibe be at your program? Will you be following a popular educational philosophy like Montessori or forest schooling? What will the role of the teachers be? How many children do you want in each age group? What will the children eat? How will the curriculum be set up?
All these and more are questions you will have to answer in determining your educational philosophy.
Your educational philosophy is the basis for your handbooks, who you will hire, how you will market your program, what you will spend your money on, your standard operating procedures,
and how your space will look.
Write as much detail as you can about these things. Get clarity.
Once you have written all you can think of in this vein, put the book away for a couple of days. Allow the thoughts to roam freely in your head. They will rearrange themselves and show you challenges with various aspects of your concepts. Then go back and adjust as needed.
Now take another break of at least 24 hours.
Now try to write your core tenants as a 1-3 sentence statement. That is your concise educational philosophy. If you can get it down to a slogan like “just do it,” even better.
What type of legal entity will you operate under? The decision needs to be made before you can start the process of opening your business.
I am not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV. I cannot tell you which legal structure is best for you & your business. I can, however, tell you what your options are & then point you to things lawyers or the State have said about each of the different types of business structures.
Once you have a basic understanding of the different business types, schedule a meeting with an attorney or an accountant to discuss which one is best for your situation. Then set up that legal entity.
“But I don’t have a lawyer or an accountant.”
I hear you. The thing is you need to find one. You will need a team of advisors as a business owner. Both an accountant and a lawyer are essential to being prepared to run a successful business. If you need help finding a lawyer or an accountant, message me & I’ll give you referrals or places to look.
Now that you have done some tough stuff it is time for one of the fun steps: Naming your program!
You can name it after you, your area, your educational philosophy or anything else. The possibilities are vast.
Brainstorm about 20 different names that you like. This may take you 5 minutes or several days. Just keep going until you have at least 20 names.
Now, Google each of those names. Any that don’t show up in the search go to the top of your pile. Ones that do show up, that you love will need to be researched a bit more. Ones that show up that were just meh, can be discarded.
For the ones that showed up in Google, you need to see
if they have the URL (web address) that you would want
If they have social media accounts for that name
where they are located (would it cause confusion)
Is the name trademarked?
Now you have your list of names that didn’t show up in a web search and those that did, but that are still viable. Pick your favorite & start making it your own.
File a doing business as (DBA) at your county office
Buy the URL
Get the social profiles for that name (Twitter/X, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.)
File the business paperwork needed based on the business type you chose with the Secretary of State (if needed)
Now celebrate this win! You officially have a name.
It is important to celebrate milestones in this process. This is a big deal. Treat it as such.
Now that you have a name it is time to do paperwork. I could have put the filing with the Secretary of State in this section since it is paperwork, but I think of it as the last step in securing your name. YMMV
Now you need to get the ducks lined up so that you can do business. When setting up a daycare business in Texas, you will need a federal Employer Identification Number EIN and register as an employer with Texas Workforce Commission. You may also want to trademark your name at the state & federal level so that no one else can use the name.
You will need the EIN in order to get a bank account set up, which I am adding here as another part of becoming a real life business. All your expenses & income for the business will go through this account. Right now you will but your seed money in the account to handle incidental expenses. One of the first checks should be a reimbursement check to you, personally, to pay yourself back for the filing fees & buying the domain(s) (url) for your website.
TIme for another party! You are ready for the next step in the process:
Don’t skip this step! The term business plan may be intimidating, I get that. But all it has to be is a place where all of your thoughts for how you want to run your center are put together in one place.
It starts with your mission or vision. A short description of
What you are trying to accomplish.
Who is involved in the business?
Who your competitors are & the need for care in the area
Who the Director & any know teachers will be (might also talk about how you will hire)
Talk about all the marvelous things you’re going to do
How your going to attract parents to your school
Your financial status & projections (budget)
Your team of support folks (lawyer, coach, etc.)
Wait… you already started it back in step 1!
Who would have thought?! OK, I confess I did. You have been creating the business plan all along. It can just be a tidied up version of your notebook.
If you are going to be getting a loan or other outside funding to start your business it will need to be a bit more formal, but no one is expecting it to be a document written by a Harvard MBA. They expect it to reflect your skills, knowledge & industry. Since the most likely place you will go for a loan is the Small Business Administration, I suggest you use their templates for your business plan.
This should take you a bit of time, but don’t drag it out for months. Give yourself a deadline. It is like that research paper you had to write in school. You can let it become a big scary thing that puts you into analysis paralysis or you can write an outline, and write a bit everyday.
You got this!
Take the Classes
I know you will need to take 1 class. You might need more