Providing high-quality care for very young children is hard work. Family child care providers have to be energetic, positive, patient, and knowledgeable about child development and best practice in the field. However, they also must be able to manage a sustainable business, which takes a different set of skills.
“Providers don’t always come into this field seeing themselves as entrepreneurs, but that’s what they are,” says Janmarie Peña, All Our Kin’s Economic Development Fellow. Janmarie, who joined the AOK team in 2014 after getting her Master’s degree in economics, gives providers the support they need to build successful child care businesses, through one-on-one business consulting, workshops, and a 10 week business course specifically designed to meet the needs of family child care providers of all levels of experience.
“The point of the Business Series is to give providers a general overview of the most important things they should be considering in managing their business, such as establishing their program’s policies and maintaining an accounting system. Some providers who take the series have been running their programs for many years, but may not have a good understanding of all of their responsibilities as a small business owner. Others are brand new to the field and don’t know where to begin.”
Elman Rodriguez, a new provider in our Bridgeport Network of family child care providers, fell into the second camp. A parent of three young girls, Elman decided to start her own licensed family child care program in 2014 so that she could spend more time with her own children and give high quality learning experiences to other children in her neighborhood. “I wanted to learn more about working with kids and how to provide great quality care,” Elman says. “All Our Kin helped me get my license through the Toolkit Project in the fall, and I opened my own program.”
Elman was thrilled to be able stay at home and be an entrepreneur at the same time. However, she did not have much experience with the kinds of day-to-day tasks involved in running a business, and she worried that her program wouldn’t be sustainable. “I know the quality of my work as a child care provider. But putting my business out there, marketing it, setting my prices to reflect the value of the work, that’s not easy. I thought the main thing about having my business was getting my license, but that’s just the very first step.”
Elman heard great things about being an entrepreneur from other providers in the All Our Kin network, but she soon found out that a brand new business has its ups and downs. “Success doesn’t happen right away,” she says. “I only had one child in my program at first.” Elman soon decided to participate in All Our Kin’s Business Series in Bridgeport with Janmarie.
The first day of the class, Elman says, “I saw Janmarie and I was like, ‘You’re so young. What are you going to teach me?’ But after one minute of sitting in that class, she had my full attention. It was meant to be. She was so clear and informative, even in just the first class. In that series, she took us from not knowing how to manage our prices or how to market our business, to feeling comfortable and calling ourselves entrepreneurs. At the end of every class, we were looking forward to the next class.”
It was Janmarie’s first time teaching the Business Series, so she experimented with different ways of leading the class. “One of the things that I found to be most valuable was letting the providers share their experiences,” Janmarie says. Some providers in the class had been running their programs for 10 years or more; some had even taken the All Our Kin Business series already. “It’s so wonderful when experienced providers come back to the Business Series to make sure they’ve captured everything,” Janmarie says. “Maybe they have more children now than they used to, or they encountered new business situations that they weren’t sure how to handle. The Business Series fills in those gaps for them, and they get the opportunity to share some of the things they’ve learned with the newer providers. I saw a lot of older providers become informal mentors to the newer providers in the series. It was really exciting to see those relationships happen.”
Elman agrees: “Hearing from other providers and listening to their stories gave me so many ideas. I learned about resources I could take advantage of, and how to invest in my business to become successful. We were a good group.”
Now that Elman has graduated from the Business Series, she is receiving one-on-one business consulting from Janmarie. “Getting business consulting is a great way for the providers to get support as they implement what they learned in the Business Series,” Janmarie explains. “I have all the tools that I need to build my business,” Elman says, “and now I am putting them in action. Janmarie and I, we make a great team.”