Child care can be one of the most rewarding careers in the world, and it’s even better to do when you’re self-employed. But learning how to start a child care small business the right way is important as a false start can cause a lot of problems down the line and may permanently derail your dream. Before getting started with a place of your own to look after preschool or school-age children, make sure you’ve taken care of both the practical considerations and the legal requirements of your industry.
Practical Concerns of Child Minders
Start your adventure in professional babysitting with a survey of the local market. As with any small business, your service needs to draw enough customers to turn a reliable profit and thrive. Try to assess the demand for child care within driving distance of the locations you’re considering. If you’re operating in rural areas, parents may have to drive a prohibitively long distance out of their way to drop off their kids each morning, while more urban spots are likely to have more experienced competitors already in place. Get a feel for the local demand by pricing child care centers in your area, and ask around among parents you know to determine whether the market can bear another caregiver. If you plan to be in business for many years, look up the government’s figures for demographics in your area. If many children are being born nearby, your business might have a steady supply of clients for years. If local birthrates are declining, business might get rough in the near future. These prestartup inquiries may not always return comfortable answers, but they do help you decide whether your startup is a good idea.
Staying on the Right Side of the Law
Child care is heavily regulated in Canada, for the obvious reasons, and meeting all of the requirements can be challenging for a new business owner. Standards and procedures vary by province, and sometimes by city, so going beyond a general outline of the law calls for expert legal advice specific to your town. Federal guidelines for a child care business fall into two broad categories:
- Employment Regulations: Regardless of the nature of your business, as an employer, you are expected to follow all of Canada’s laws regarding pay, hours worked, workplace health and safety, human rights, and other blanket employment regulations. All employers have to follow these rules, and child care facilities with employees are no exception.
- Facility Licences: These rules are specific to daycare providers and are mostly handled on the provincial level. As a rule, you must register as either an in-home or facility-based caregiver. In-home daycare doesn’t have to be licenced, but it is limited in the number of children who can be cared for and may be subject to inspection. Facility-based centres may be licenced or unlicenced. Licencing requirements vary, but most provincial agencies require you and your staff to attend child care training and get first aid certified. You may also need a special licence for off site activities, such as driving with the children.
To make your child care business in Canada a success, you want to assess the need of your target market and meet all legal requirements.