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How to Increase Enrollment Space & Grow Your Child Care Business

May 27, 2021

The last year has really been a year of waiting. Waiting in lines at stores, waiting for back ordered supplies, waiting to see friends and family, waiting for places to reopen. One of the reasons it’s been a tough year is that nobody likes waiting. In many areas, however, it is common for early childhood learning centers and preschools to have a waiting list for much of the school year. At my centre we tried to never say ‘no’ to new enrollment, but it did happen from time to time. As your center grows you will eventually run out of space, forcing you to address the issue (and the blessing) of a waiting list. 

When consulting with other preschool directors I often hear that their schools are full. After investigating, however, I’ve found that there is often ways to make space for more children. Although running a center is time consuming and the task may seem daunting, if you think creatively you will surprise yourself with the fact that there is both more time and more room for growth than you thought! 

Over time I found three main ways to help maximize a center's space with the purpose of growing enrollment and increasing profit margins. No, you can’t teach in a broom closet, and not all of these options will apply to you, but my hope is that you will leave with one or two ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Whether you have a waiting list or not, efficiency is key in the childcare, daycare and afterschool business, so read on to see how you can grow your business and get rid of that wait list for good! 

Here are 3 ways to increase your center’s capacity:

1. Utilize Empty Rooms

The first step is to locate any unused rooms in your facility. I know this seems obvious, but you would be shocked at how many “full” centers i’ve visited that have rooms that are not used for classrooms. Think a rarely used lounge, a resource room, a library, or a large storage area. By repurposing these spaces and using space saving tactics you can make the space seem larger and more inviting. 

At our center we had a very large resource room. Although I didn’t want to give up our glorious space for teacher resources I realized that we didn’t have to fully give it up, just reconfigure. We effectively combined our office space with our resource center,  leaving us with a whole new room for a preschool classroom!

2. Offer AM and PM Options

The second way to create more space is by using your classrooms all day long. The center I led had many morning classes, but most of the classrooms were empty in the afternoon. After a quick evaluation I decided to try out an afternoon offering as well. Though the afternoon option isn’t as popular due to nap time (depending on age group), it effectively brought more families into our program and created space to increase overall enrollment and achieve higher profits while avoiding new overhead costs. 

3. Open a New Location

If you have done all of the above and your school is at maximum capacity then I suggest considering opening up another location. Although it may seem daunting, once you have one location the second (and third...) is actually much easier since you likely already have a business plan, budget and connections in the industry.  

At our center we opened up a second location about 20 miles away from the first. I recommend if you open a second location that it is far enough away to not compete with your original location, but no more than 25 minutes away from the main campus. Keeping the centers relatively close together will make it easier for the management team, for collaboration, and to fully benefit from a shared marketing strategy as well.

Final Notes

If your center is full and running on a waiting list, congratulations! It’s a great problem to have. A wait list is not only a good thing for the bottom line, but it also says something about your passion and your leadership. I challenge you to continue “growing” your school, by creatively using your space to expand into unused rooms, PM offerings, or multiple locations. Once you reach max enrollment the new challenge is to develop your program and expand your business. Remember to focus on curriculum and teacher training to continue to drive demand. This is the fun part! 

If your center is not at max capacity, then the challenge to you is to fill your center! Experiment with content marketing and be strategic about follow-up with new families. Yes, growing your childcare or daycare centre is a lot of work, but in the end you won’t regret it! Set a growth goal today, work hard to fulfill it, and you will surprise yourself with the results every time!

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