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Starting a Part-Time Child-Care Service

The market is there for this type of service--so here's how to find it.

Q: Would there be a market for a family child-care provider that is only open four days per week? What about weekends only?

A: Our 24/7 society with unlimited lifestyle choices creates a need for 24/7 services, including child care. Couple this demand with a shortage of available quality child care, and you have opportunities to serve parents who work nights and weekends, those who telecommute part of each week, single parents with child custody arrangements that don't work as decreed, and other parents who simply need time off for a holiday weekend. In addition, parents of children with special physical and educational needs also require child-care services.

So the chances are quite good there's a market in a community of any size for customized configurations of day care. A recent tally over a month's time of calls from parents to a Southwest Florida child-care agency found that one of 20 parents wanted weekend day care. But none of the 114 centers in the county offered weekend care.

In addition, almost one out of four parents wanted part-time care. In fact, many day-care centers around the country offer three- and four-day rates. But if you want to be open only four days, the trick is finding the four days of the week enough parents would need.

The term "family day care" suggests in-home care, and, of course, using your own home will keep your overhead down. But because most states limit the number of children who can be cared for in a home, your earnings will be limited, too. If you want to provide weekend day care in a facility where you could care for more children, consider renting facilities, such as a private school, that are not used seven days a week but are suitable for young children. A church might be suitable for midweek day care.

How would you find customers for weekend day care? The good news is, most will find you. First, if you get licensed, you can get listed with the child-care referral agency in your area. Having a Web site and submitting it to search engines using keywords that include the name of your city, your neighborhood and the terms "weekend," "day care" and "child care" will get you ranked high on the search engines. Other day-care providers will most likely be glad to refer parents who ask about weekend care because weekday providers need time off.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is Changing Directions Without Losing Your Way. Send them your start-up questions at www.workingfromhome.com or through us at Entrepreneur.

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