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Daycare Dollars

[ 0 ] Dec. 1, 2008 | SBO Editor

Think of how many times you’ve been in your local supermarket and witnessed an unruly toddler pulling cereal boxes off the shelves or in a clothing store watching a mother frantically search for her child who’s hidden inside a rack of dresses. Your heart goes out to the parents but at the same time, you wonder if there is another option out there for them so they can complete their errands in peace. Enter Maui PlayCare, a drop-in childcare center devoid of memberships, reservations and costly dues that’s poised to expand beyond its Hawaiian roots and give mainland parents the relief they crave.

“As a mother, I loved my children but there were times I knew I could get so much more done if I didn’t have my brood of four wreaking havoc in the backseat,” said Bonnie McCarthy, founder of Maui PlayCare.

Since opening for business in 2002, McCarthy has fine-tuned her operation in Kahului to the point where she is ready to expand her business through franchising with hopes to have between 40 and 50 locations signed by the end of 2010. Her timing couldn’t be better: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.8 million Americans work from their homes—a number that is growing steadily—yet many homeworkers find it increasingly difficult to balance working from home with being a stay-at-home parent.

Daycare is an option but often considered too time-intensive for a stay-at-home parent, who wants to spend time with their kids but needs a few hours of uninterrupted time to complete tasks.

Because of this, drop-in care has become increasingly popular, as it gives parents working from home the ability to concentrate on their work without sending the children away to daycare for the entire day.

Maui PlayCare units are typically located in strip malls and other highly trafficked areas convenient to a parent’s everyday activities. Between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet must be dedicated to the business, and care areas must have coded doors to ensure security. The total investment for a Maui PlayCare ranges from $163,750 to $252,000, including an initial franchise fee of $40,000. Each franchisee must sign a five-year agreement with Maui PlayCare, with the opportunity to continue the business thereafter.

The ideal Maui PlayCare franchisee is not an absentee owner but one that will be constantly aware of their center’s day-to-day operations. Potential Maui PlayCare franchisees must also possess strong customer service abilities, experience with and the ability to work well with young children, well-developed people skills and high personal standards including honesty, integrity and a passion for excellence. Adding to these guidelines, all employees must undergo extensive background and drug testing to ensure only the highest quality childcare providers will be interacting with your child.

“Childcare providers are carefully screened through a multiple-step interview process, the background checks are done on a local and federal level and drug testing is done pre-employment and on an intermittent, ongoing basis,” said McCarthy. “Everyone hired is CPR First Aid certified and given the opportunity to further their education in childcare and customer service, utilizing the local governing agencies and schools.”

The typical length of time between the signing of the franchise agreement and opening a Maui PlayCare is approximately 180 days. To prepare, franchisees and their managers participate in a weeklong training course at Maui PlayCare’s corporate offices in Hawaii, including comprehensive training in administration, operations, sales and marketing, financials and record keeping. Maui PlayCare will send a franchise representative to each new center for two weeks of onsite training and start-up assistance.

“Our goal is to create a network of centers all sharing the same vision: safe, secure, fun, drop-in childcare through empowered, proud and well-trained staff members who reinforce this mission daily,” said McCarthy. “We will provide franchisees with access to our knowledge base on their terms but it is this service focus that will ensure our continued success.”

“With parents taking on more and more responsibilities outside the home in addition to their familial ones, it can be a daunting task to balance them all,” said McCarthy. “It’s my hope that Maui PlayCare will play an integral role in helping parents truly have it all: a loving family, a successful career and the ability to separate the two as needed.” •

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Category: Magazine, Start Your Own Business, Start Your Own Business Winter 2009