News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

COCC to offer childcare business program

The Central Oregon Early Childcare Business Start Accelerator program, which is a collaboration of NeighborImpact and the Small Business Development Center at Central Oregon Community College (COCC), is designed to launch 30 home-based childcare businesses. Students will receive coursework on running a small business and working with State childcare regulations. At the end of the program, if students get certified by the State, they are eligible for a $5,000 grant to start their businesses. With the grant, they could be eligible to seek other funding.

The first cohort will begin October 5, with another in January, and a third in April, each with 15 students. The total cost to offer the program will be $360,000. Currently, the program is 70-percent funded with money from Deschutes County and the City of Bend. Money is still needed to fund the third cohort. Councilor Andrea Blum asked if the City of Sisters made a donation to the program and whether it can be tied to placing a Sisters resident in the program. That is a topic for further discussion.

Students in the program pay no tuition and receive four months of education and one-on-one advising. The program provides a foundation by helping prospective business owners learn about business structures, how to access helpful resources, explore possible funding options, what to do to formally establish a business, and become a licensed childcare provider with the State of Oregon.

The target audience for this new program is people who are looking to start a home-based childcare provider business or who have had one for less than two years and are looking for greater understanding of how to run a business and become a licensed childcare provider with the State of Oregon.

In Bend, there is only one opening for every three or more children who need it. Based on data from NeighborImpact, estimates are that available childcare slots declined this year from about 5,000 before the pandemic to about 1,600. While the local population has risen, the number of childcare providers serving this growing demand has not. Like much of Oregon, Bend is considered a childcare desert.

Barriers for preschool owners and providers include lack of business skills and training needed to develop and effectively run thriving businesses, lack of viable options for space rentals, rising costs of staffing as well as staff retention, and limited access to funding. Adequate capital is required to expand their programs and thus absorb more children into their facility, but most providers operate on razor-thin margins, which means they are not typically regarded as profitable enterprises by traditional funding institutions.

For more information contact Ken Betchart at the COCC Small Business Development Center at 541-383-7290 or NeighborImpact at 541-548-2380.


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