Dec 6, 2021 7 min read

Franchise vs. Independent: Four Questions to Help You Decide Before You Open Your Child Care Center

Leah Woodbury By: Leah Woodbury

Ready to start your very own child care business? One of the first things you need to decide is whether you’ll open a franchise location or an independent center.

There are pros and cons to both options. To decide which is right for you, ask yourself the four questions below. They’ll help guide you through the decision-making process and ensure you choose the right opportunity for you and your goals.

Let’s dive in!

1. Where Are You Located?

Most child care franchisors require franchisees to meet specific location requirements.

For example, you’ll probably need to rent a commercial space — in-home daycares are pretty rare when it comes to franchises. Your space may also need to meet specific size conditions, have access to outside play equipment and reside in a heavily populated area.

Franchisors want to put their franchisees in the best positions to succeed. If they don’t, they might lose money and their brand name will get tarnished. But they can feel restrictive to new business owners.

You’ll have less restrictions as an independent child care provider. Want to start an in-home daycare? No problem. Want to base your center in a small town, away from the hustle and bustle of a big city? That’s your prerogative. You make the rules.

Here’s another thing to consider: the franchise you want to buy into might not even be available in your area. The franchisor could determine that your town isn’t a good fit for their business. Or there could already be a franchise in your city.

When evaluating franchise locations versus independent centers, consider your location. Does it meet franchisor requirements? If not, you’ll need to either secure a new space or go it alone.

2. How Much Money Does it Take to Start?

It takes money to start a child care business. The real question is how much money? The costs to open franchise locations and independent centers can differ widely.

When you start an independent, in-home center, for instance, you’ll need to buy toys, furniture, play equipment and other daycare essentials. You may already have some of these things, but chances are, you’ll need to buy more before your center opens.

Depending on what you buy and how large your daycare will be, these expenses could run you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars — sometimes more.

When you start a franchise location, you’ll have the same startup costs listed above. But you’ll also need to pay an initial franchise fee, which can range between $10,000 and $100,000 or more. You’ll also have to make royalty payments to your franchisor for using their brand name.

3. How Much Control Do You Want?

You’re starting your own business, which means you probably want more control over your life, career and finances. Both franchise locations and independent centers can give you these things. 

If you start a franchise location, you’ll have to give up at least some of your control. The franchisor may regulate your business’ building and where it’s located, as mentioned above. They may dictate how you decorate, the toys you buy and the curriculum you use.

Keep in mind that in exchange for less control, you’ll receive a few benefits with a franchise:

  • Brand Recognition and Trust: When you buy into a franchise, you buy into an established brand name that, hopefully, people already know and trust.
  • Ongoing Support: Franchisors want their franchisees to succeed. Because of this, franchisors often provide franchisees with marketing and business support. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.

When you open an independent center, you have limitless options. You can set it in any location and decorate it as you see fit (as long as you obey the law!) You can buy the gear that interests you. You can even create your own curriculum to teach your daycare kids.

Just keep in mind, total control does have a cost. You’ll be starting from ground zero, which will make marketing your center a lot harder. Let’s talk about that…

4. How Much Support Do You Need?

You’re probably thinking, “To start a franchise I have to find a commercial space, pay a potentially large initial fee, as well as an ongoing royalty and give up at least some control of my business to a franchisor? Why would I sign up for that?”

Remember, a franchise location will give you instant brand recognition and help you build trust with customers quicker.

Imagine you’re road-tripping from California to New York. You don’t know exactly where you are, but you’re hungry.

So you take the next exit and see signs for two different sandwich shops: Subway and Joe’s Sandwiches. Many people will go to the restaurant with a familiar name and a familiar menu. 

The same thing often is true of child care centers. Many families are moving these days, in part because the COVID-19 pandemic has made them want to be closer to family, and because more companies are sticking with allowing their employees to work remotely. As parents look for child care in a new city, they might seek out a franchise they know and like. 

Brand recognition will make marketing your child care business easier.

But there are other marketing benefits to franchises as well. For example, many franchisors give their franchisees marketing materials and ongoing business support.

They might run a nationwide commercial that reaches a huge portion of your target market. They might give you advice on social media marketing so that you can secure customers through Instagram. And they might help train your staff to take better care of kids.

Choose the Right Option For You

Think about what’s important to you. Compare the pros and cons of each daycare option and choose the one that most aligns with your goals.

Once your daycare center is up and running, let Procare Solutions help with many administrative tasks!  

Procare provides trustworthy and convenient child care software that can help you manage every part of your daycare business.

Our software helps you keep track of attendance and monitor staff-to-child ratios so you can easily comply with state standards. You’ll also be able to automate the child care billing process, digitize child information records for easy access and engage parents with pictures, videos, daily activity reports and calendar updates.

Procare’s integrated technology allows families and your staff to use QR codes and/or GPS technology for a completely touch-free check-in and check-out process. 

Daycare contactless check-in allows parents to check in their children using the Procare app without entering your building or by scanning a code once inside.

Procare’s technology allows your teachers and other staff to sign in and sign out easily and quickly using a tablet at your center or their own phone.

Timecards automatically are updated and you can get rid of stacks of paper time sheets that need to be tallied by hand and manually entered into your system. This feature for staff sign-ins and sign-outs saves you time that you can spend elsewhere in your center!

And with our live customer support, we’re always there to help when you need us.

Ready to start your child care business with Procare Solutions helping you along the way?

Request a demo today and ask about our special end-of-year pricing!

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Leah Woodbury

Leah Woodbury is the head of content at Procare Solutions. Her job includes writing about topics that matter to child care professionals and finding ways to help them do their important work. She’s a mom of two who loves getting updates about what her preschooler is doing during the day via the Procare child care mobile app!

Leah Woodbury