Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jean's Tot Spot (small business report)

Jean's Tot Spot (517-663-6959) is a registered, home based daycare in Eaton Rapids.  Jean's Tot Spot has been in business since 1993 but this is not Jean's first business.  Her first "daycare" involved watching the children of her fellow members in the First United Methodist Women's Choir.

She worked in two different daycare facilities while taking Early Childhood Development classes.  She struck off on her own shortly after she had her first child.  Tuition at the daycare where she worked would have left her with $80 a week with just one child enrolled.

Jean is a woman of steadfast loyalty.  She still sings in the First Methodist Women's Choir and she still watches children in Eaton Rapids.  She took those Early Childhood classes to heart.  She runs an activity-based.  The children learn and are socialized by performing activities together.

All pictures shown with parents' permission.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  Kinetic memory and these kids have the book memorized speedy-quick.  It is cute watching the littlest ones puzzle out which black squiggles go to the words in their heads.

I see a Beagle, a Turtle and a swimming pool.  What do you see?  They learn sharing and cooperation because there are a limited number of large-format pieces of chalk.
Move over Todd Rundgren.  That musical-choir thing carried over to daycare.  The percussion instruments are mounted at all different heights so even the "little" kids can get into the act.

Jean's philosophy is to give the kids what the parents wish they had the time, energy and facilities to give them.  Jean configured her home and yard to be very easy to clean.  The kids are kept busy.  They get sweaty, grimy...and they get quite a workout.  Like their parents, they are ready for some downtime like watching TV (which is a rare activity at Jean's Tot Spot) when they get home.  No clamoring, needy kids yanking on their exhausted parents after they come home from Jean's!

Going to the zoo-zoo-zoo.  How about you-you-you?  Did you know giraffes have tongues that are 20 inches long?  They are very popular in certain circles.


Jean welcomes competition.  Actually, there is not enough daycare capacity in most communities.

Civilian Labor Force Participation by Women.  The US economic miracle rode on the backs of working women.   In many cases, large mortgages and broken families made working mandatory.

While there are few barriers to entering the "watching kids" industry, there are also few barriers to leaving it.

Jean mentors daycare start-ups.  She tells the prospective business women (so far, always women) what they are getting into.  The kids will throw up on them, poop on them, wipe their noses on them.  The kids will bring in head-lice and every virus wafting through town.  The business owner will get sick a lot for the first couple of years but then have the immune system of a sewer rat.

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.

Paperwork.  Get good at paperwork.  You cannot avoid it so become efficient.  Regulatory paperwork.  Tax paperwork.  Jean is willing to share her "system" with start-ups so they don't have to invent one from scratch.

Planning activities.  Kids have shorter attention spans than adults.  An adult might be content to have two activities to amuse themselves over eight hours, kids want eight or eighteen activities.  This is where it is advantageous to be an old-timer.  Jean has shelves and shelves of games, toys, puzzles etc. at kid height.

Hint:  Jean takes the kids to garage and yard sales with her.  It is a very enriching activity for the kids and they see each sale as a separate "activity".  Jean pays attention to what is grabbing each child's interest.  It is a fabulous way to pick up games/toys/puzzles at a reasonable cost.  They get cleaned before they are put on the shelf.

Low pay.  Don't expect to get rich. At least not with money.  You will grow some wonderful relationships with the kids and their families.

A little bit of downtime.  Reading to the dogs.  Peanut the Jack Russel is "meshmerized" by Spiderman.  Fermata the Beagle is a tougher critic...if it isn't Peter Rabbit or Velveteen Rabbit it is not literature.
"Jean.  I said I wanted a G-T-O, not a goat."  Jean is very involved in 4-H.  Many of her kids go on to show animals at the county fair. 

Vacations are a challenge.  Jean informs her "parents" of her vacation plans a year in advance.

Jean also has a three back-ups for things like jury duty and family emergencies.  One of those back-ups is her mother.  The other two back-ups are non-family.

Jean loves County Fairs.  And so do the kids. 

That only looks like a table cloth.  It is really a birthday card.  A BIG birthday card.

You don't have to attend a University to study Physics and Keynesian Economics.



Jean is not oblivious to security measures.  Anybody who works with kids must be sensitive to potential custody issues and the fact that there are two legged predators who prey on kids.  She shared some of her security measures with me to share with readers.

Her facility has double doors, "air lock" style, keyless lock entry.

She has dogs.  She loves animals and has always had dogs (plural) around.

She has closed circuit TV.  She originally got the system so she could see parents as they showed up to pick up their children.  She could start getting them bundled up as the parents pulled in the drive.

Jean does not need a fancy sign.  Most of Jean's business finds her by word-of-mouth.  She is full until June when she will have two "graduates".  She is more than happy to make referrals to like-minded daycare providers in the Eaton Rapids area.  Jean's Tot Spot, 517-663-6959

The typical person driving by her house at 45 mph cannot tell it is a daycare.

Her signage is very low key. 

The backyard has privacy fencing.  People driving by cannot see the play equipment, nor can they tell if any kids are outside at any given time.

She has an emergency scanner.  Her husband is a fire fighter and the scanner is something they both listen to.  She also carries her cell phone on her person.  She is three minutes from the police station  and four minutes from the hospital.  Both time estimates comprehending warp-factor speed.


Daycare needs in most communities is under-served.

Providing daycare is a relentless task if you do not love the company of kids.  Most people who go into daycare with the expectation that it is "easy money" leave it within a few years.  

There are good daycares out there with openings but they are typically new providers breaking into the business.

Many experienced providers are willing to share the names of newer providers who provide a similar style of daycare care.  A few even provide "mentoring" to new start-ups.

Previous small business report

Next small business report

1 comment:

  1. Another outstanding 'small' business... Kudos to her for serving in an area that is desperately needed!