When Nichole Mauer started a private independent daycare, she thought she was creating a home-based business to support herself while pursuing a masters’ degree in school administration. She envisioned starting a charter high school in a few years’ time, but “once I got started, I discovered I have a passion for early education,” she said. Today, she accepts children from 4 weeks through age 12 for full-day childcare, has added “3K” and “4K” preschool programming, and runs a summer program for school-aged children from 9am until noon on weekdays.
Nichole recognizes the importance of consistent care for very young children, especially those from two-career families. “Children in daycare need to be taught life skills. If they can’t sit and listen, or if they can’t explain how they’re feeling, it’s hard to build education on that,” she said. “I’m passionate about developing children’s social and emotional skills.”
Nichole began caring for children in her home in January 2013. By April, she had 30 children on her roster for the next fall. That convinced Nichole to commit to growing her childcare business rather than seeing it as a stepping stone. “I realized this is what I was meant to do,” she said.
Nichole applied for a state license for a group childcare center and, in November 2013, found a location. She leased while looking for a property to buy.
Finding initial funding and training
Nichole financed her start-up business with personal financial assets and a $10,000 loan from Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). Realizing she needed training in entrepreneurship, she reached out to her counselor at WWBIC, who referred her to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Parkside. There, Nichole met SBDC Center Director Jim McPhaul, who helped Nichole write a business plan and prepare to seek additional funding. “He helped me put together a business model. I hadn’t expected to start my own business, so I had a big learning curve. The SBDC was very helpful with the business side of things,” Nichole said.
Jim commended her business choices saying, “She was smart to be flexible about shifting from her original concept.”
Finding a new location and supplemental funding
In July 2016, Nichole found an ideal location: a church providing double the space of her existing childcare facility and plenty of room to grow her business. To help meet her mortgage and tax obligations, Nichole currently subleases the sanctuary of the church to a dance school.
“Jim put me in touch with the people who helped me find this church building and he helped me find the lenders I worked with to buy it. I didn’t have the background to do financial projections; he also helped me with that,“ she recalled.
Mauer Home School received financing through the Racine Economic Development Center and Johnson Bank. “The SBDC has been an integral part of my business growth,” Nichole said.
Jim noted Nichole possesses great entrepreneurial instincts and added, “She was a pleasure to work with—very responsive, open to suggestions, ready to see us as a valuable resource.”
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-Parkside:
- Acquisition of building
- Business planning
- Networking with potential lenders
Finding a path to the future
Nichole recently sought counseling from the SBDC again. She is considering an expansion tied to Foxconn Corporation, where new jobs will bring demand for more childcare. “I’m not afraid of risk,” she said, “but I have four kids myself. Right now, I have a salary and a profit. I’ve paid down most of my start-up debt. I don’t want to get in over my head.” She’s counting on continued support from the SBDC to help her make strategic business decisions for the future.