When Chara Shopp first met with the SBDC through the Sonora Micro Enterprise program, she was at a professional crossroads, and seeking help in determining what to do next. A single mother, Chara had cobbled together several jobs to support her family. A California-credentialed teacher, she taught part-time at local schools, as well as being a cosmetics representative, a writer, and an artisan handcrafter who sold her wares at the Columbia Farmers Market.
As Chara worked with SBDC lead consultant Claudia Newcorn, the fact she had many talents made it challenging to determine where she should best focus her energies. Passionate about teaching and helping children reach their full educational potential, a new concept emerged: daycare and tutoring services. “Discovering the SBDC consultants was literally a game changer for me,” Chara says. “I walked in looking for help with a couple of business ideas I was trying to keep afloat. I walked out with not only a new business idea that could replace all the piecemeal things I was doing, and give me focus and great joy, but also connections to a variety of resources to help me launch the business.”
Chara researched the Tuolumne County market, spoke with other daycare providers, as well as schools and parents, and determined there was more demand than supply. Her research also enabled her to develop market-based pricing, and identify parent expectations of area providers.
After conducting a thorough financial analysis, Chara met with a tax accountant to understand the federal and state guidelines for an in-home daycare center. She then identified the necessary steps and licensing requirements in order to provide services. Chara decided to launch a new business, Jump Start Kids Daycare & Learning Center, offering a unique blend of caring day care, educational interactive activities, and healthful nutrition. She prepared a summary business and marketing strategy, and worked closely with SBDC website consultant Greg Falken to design and launch a creative new website (JumpStartKids.net).
Despite short lead times – the business idea was conceived, assessed and launched within six weeks – Chara was diligent about taking all the necessary steps to ensure a successful business start. After passing state inspection, she put out flyers, networked, and met with the local ICES agency, which serves as a referral center for daycare placement. Because many area parents commute and/or work evenings and weekends, Chara adapted her services to better serve their needs, focusing more on younger children, and night care (some parents dropped children off at 4AM!). Chara’s three children were incredibly supportive, taking on more chores and responsibilities to free her up to focus on the business.
By October, Jump Start had broken even; by January 2015, Chara was at capacity. She met with the state licensing board to request approval to increase to a “large” daycare center, capable of having 14 children. Once approved, she developed a job description and hired a part-time assistant, a requirement for large center. She filled up almost instantly.
Fourteen months after the idea for her business emerged, Chara is a successful business woman with satisfied clients and a waiting list. She is now exploring new ways to increase her business without sacrificing her philosophy of “children first,” including incorporating new smart phone technologies.
“The SBDC team has coached and inspired me every step of the way, from concept and licensing through developing a business plan, marketing strategy and tools, website and social media outreach efforts. While I have been the one on the ground doing the literal and figurative footwork, I am certain I could not have put together all these pieces and moved so effectively through the new business process without the support of the SBDC. They have been a resource to bounce ideas and questions of off as well as cheerleaders and encouragement when I wasn’t sure I could pull this off! My business is up and running, thanks to the SBDC team.”