What exactly is a Crèche / Daycare service?
For those who do not (yet) know, crèches (or nurseries) are facilities where day care is given to babies, toddlers and young children. Day care (also referred to as ‘child care’ or ‘preschool’) is the care given to a child during the day (or night) by a person who is not a parent, legal guardian or a member of the child’s immediate family. Unlike babysitting which is typically done in the child’s home, day care services require the child be taken to a different location (a daycare centre) during specific periods especially while parents are at work or travel.
Children between the ages of one and six are popular candidates for these services. Daycare services can range from simple babysitting to a more formal structure that includes preschool education, child development, discipline and excursions.
Why is the demand for Crèche and Child Daycare services growing across Africa?
People living in urban areas (cities and towns) are more likely to need crèche and child daycare services. As the size and number of Africa’s cities grow, convenience services (like daycare services) will continue to flourish.
More than 500 million Africans now live in cities and 400 million more are expected to join them over the next 20 years. Africa’s rapid urbanization is creating a lot of opportunities for convenience service providers (like daycare centres and laundry/drycleaning services) who help to reduce the burden on the busy and complex lives of growing families in the cities.
In addition to urbanization, the following factors are also responsible for the growing demand for crèche and daycare services across Africa…
#1 - More African mothers are joining the working class
Many African mothers who would otherwise stay at home and look after their young preschool kids now work at a paid job or run their own small business. More African women are achieving higher education that allows them to pursue promising careers (like men) in the workplace. Even those women who do not have any formal career aspirations are setting up small businesses to ensure their financial independence. In addition to this interesting trend, the current economic situation has made it more likely that most households are supported by two working parents.
Working moms are now a significant driving force for the growing demand for daycare services. Even women who work from their homes are demanding for these services so they can focus fully on their tasks. This situation presents an interesting opportunity for entrepreneurs to provide essential daycare to these mothers and households who can afford, and are willing to pay, for these services.
#2 - A high birth rate
With the highest birth rate on civilized earth, Africa has the fastest growing population anywhere in the world! The continent’s population (currently at about one billion) is predicted to rise to 2.3 billion in less than 40 years. Just to give you some perspective, Nigeria (the continent’s most populated country) adds roughly 11,000 newborns to its population every day! (source: Reuters).
Assuming their parents will be able to afford daycare services, this large population of African newborns creates an impressive demand for these services. Unlike in some developed countries where birth rates are falling, Africa enjoys (and will continue to do so in the future) a huge market for children who will benefit from crèche, nursery and daycare services.
#3 - A growing appreciation of the value of preschool education
More African parents today are becoming aware of the benefits and positive effects of quality daycare during the early years of a child’s development. Social research shows that children in quality child care develop better language and learning skills during the first few years of life. In addition to physical and psychological development, the things learned in day care often help children to transit and adjust to the first years of formal education in a proper school.
Due to the structured nature of preschool education and its learning stimulation techniques, more parents now appreciate the value of modern daycare services and use it to complement the limited parental care they personally give to their children. As a result, many African households now view daycare services as a matter of importance and not of convenience. More parents now prefer a formal daycare (preschool) service over an unstructured and unplanned babysitting service which could raise several issues including child safety and abuse. (photo credit: familycare.org)
How to start your own Crèche and Daycare service business…
Providing day care for children is a big and serious responsibility. A crèche and daycare service provides entrepreneurs with an opportunity to pursue a socially conscious, challenging and fulfilling business. In this section, we shall take a close look at all the things you’ll need to transform this idea into a real-life, profitable business.
Step 1: Find out what the law requires
Some African countries may have laws which regulate crèches and day care services. These laws may require day care operators to be licensed or certified by a relevant government authority or professional association. Most of these laws and regulations have become necessary to discourage and punish any form of child abuse. As a result, the strict guidelines may often increase the cost of running a day care service business. Some of these regulations specify the minimum space and staffing requirements, the maximum number of children that can be admitted (depending on space), types of toys, mandatory documentation and many other things.
These strict regulations are responsible for the low profit margins experienced by daycare businesses in many countries. It’s very important that you check with your local authorities to understand what the law requires from day care operators in your area. Getting shut down by the authorities after you have opened for business may cost you a lot of money and your reputation.
Step 2: Get a good location
Getting the right location for your crèche/daycare centre can often mean the difference between success and failure in this business. The ideal location for a daycare centre is safe, clean, accessible and close to the homes or offices of parents who can afford your services. Although a day care operation can be home-based or in a dedicated facility around shopping malls, industrial and office areas, it’s important to ensure that all the potential dangers that could affect your business are kept to a minimum. (photo credit: thesoulpitt.com)
In addition to a good location, the building or space used for a crèche should have all the necessary facilities. A few of these include: kitchen, toilets (and maybe bathrooms), beds, blankets, toys and outdoor playgrounds. While designing or modeling your crèche, you must always keep in mind that you need to create an atmosphere that appeals to parents and makes children happy and comfortable. If the parents or kids do not like the feel of your crèche, they’re not going to use your services or recommend it to other people.
Step 3: Hire the right type of staff
Apart from a great location and full facilities, the kind of people who run and operate the crèche is key to the success of this business. It’s essential that your staff is empathetic, sensitive, patient, and have a natural energy and love for children. Above all, your staff must have the success of your business in mind at all times, which means building and maintaining a good reputation. Your reputation is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to advertise your services and get new customers.
Training in basic caregiving and first aid is very important for your staff. Negligence and ignorance can often lead to avoidable accidents and mishaps at the centre (which you don’t want). If you have the passion and some of the qualities we talked about above, you could run the crèche yourself or hire someone to do it for you. An experienced nanny, a middle-aged or retired nurse are some of the possible candidates who have what it takes to run a creche/daycare centre.
Step 4: Develop a valuable curriculum and routine
Parents always expect good value for the fees you charge for your day care services. If parents can see an improvement in the mental, emotional and physical development of their kids, they will continue to hire your services and gladly recommend you to family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
To help the kids develop mentally, work out a routine that encourages and engages their curiousity. Teaching simple rhymes, songs, numbers and alphabets helps to develop the memory of children and aids their language learning ability. Puzzles and games are very popular with young kids and helps them to learn shapes and colours. Dancing is another great way to hold their attention while they learn. An interesting day care experience allows kids to bond, make friends and look forward to coming back the next day. You’re very likely to retain the parent’s interest if their children are interested.
Proper attention, affection, order and discipline are critical to the emotional development of children. It’s important that the kids under your care learn good manners and are able to interact well with their peers. Physical health is also as important in your crèche. If you decide to serve meals, you must ensure that high standards of hygiene are always maintained. The food has to be nourishing, tasty and contain a well-balanced diet that will support child growth. And should a child contract a contagious illness (like chicken pox, cough etc.), it’s important that you stop them from attending the creche until they are fully recovered. (photo credit: mountainview.org)
Step 5: Keep accurate and complete records
It’s very important that you keep very accurate and complete records of all your clients, transactions and events. You should have a register that keeps track of all your clients and their children. Vital information would include names, ages of children, parent’s contact details, medical history, allergies and diet preferences/restrictions.
You should make it a habit to make daily notes about the children’s behavior at your centre. Children’s eating habits, health and behavior problems should also be closely observed. These records will help to detect problems early, serve as evidence in case of any dispute, and help you improve the quality and efficiency of your services. In addition to these, you must also keep track of your finances (income and expenses).
Putting it all together…
Operating a daycare service business may not provide huge profits but it offers a rare satisfaction and fulfillment that many other types of businesses cannot. If you’re great with children and would love a decent business that can be run from your home, a daycare service may just be that opportunity you’ve been searching for.
During the course of our research for this article, we came across a couple of valuable resources that would be of great benefit to you. We recommend that you go through these resources if you’re really interested in pursuing this business idea. The links to these webpages are provided in the Resources section below. (photo credit: ymcamke.org)
If you’re interested in checking out other business ideas, please visit the Browse ideas section of this website for many more amazing business ideas. We would love to hear from you about your successes, challenges, advice and questions. Do not forget to leave a comment in the section below and share this opportunity with your friends!