An unlikely move: From entrepreneurship to employment

Lydia Irungu and Joseph Watoro are professionally trained Early Childhood teachers up to postgraduate levels. The couple have a postgraduate diploma in Montessori Pedagogy from Montessori Centre International and undergraduate degrees in education specialising in early childhood education.

While Mr Watoro managed to score second honors upper, his spouse took home a first class honors. Immediately he graduated with postgraduate in Montessori in late 2013, he was lucky to be employed by one international bank here in Kenya thanks to being a bean counter – apart from being an educationist he is also a certified public accountant.

His wife was a year behind and upon graduating they were expecting their first-born child thus Ms Irungu became a stay home mum. That’s when the idea to test an idea they had since college days at University of Nairobi came to see light of the day.

Targeting the working class, the couple worked on a proper business plan and from their savings embarked on opening a daycare centre in Kiambu County to take care of not only their kid but also others.

The greatest advantage for the couple was their background in education and having a burning passion for this kind of business venture. Mr Watoro says: “We had identified the need for day-care in Kiambu since the existing ones had challenges in hygiene, security and space.”

When you decide to go that line (day-care business), it is wise to be better prepared especially as far as expenditure is concerned. At first, the Watoros had budgeted for Sh300, 000. But little did they know the amount would double.

“Starting a business is crazy and you have to have a business plan,” he says. “I moved on to employment though will still go back to day-care business once I accumulate enough to build a school.”

Although they recruited a nanny for every five kids (for a centre which is so far put on hold), so that quality is not compromised, nothing gave the couple sleepless nights more than the usual day-to-day challenges of running a business.

“We encountered challenges in licensing since the ministry only register from class one and the county government didn’t have the right infrastructure,” he recalls, pointing out that getting children at first was another glaring test. “We did a lot of marketing to counter that and word of mouth really worked for us.”

Trends where individuals would move from entrepreneurship to get employed are rare these days. It is always the other way round, with a growing list being of those who believe that it is only through entrepreneurship that the issue of financial freedom can be tackled. More and more individuals are making entrepreneurship look colourful by creating an arguable impression that to be successful, employment should be mixed with let’s say, a side business. But that notwithstanding, what are the dos and don’ts when it comes to running a day-care centre?

Firstly, make the house look like a daycare. Some of the vital things include painting, stickers, carpets, sleeping areas, CCTV, WiFi, fridge, microwave, room heaters, miniature seats, toilet seats for kids as you do potty training, music system, PVC, bowls, cups, toys, wardrobes for keeping toys, marketing materials, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, potties, plastic seats and tables.

Secondly, identify a target market. This is important, as it will determine your pricing and level of start up capital. For the Watoros, professionals who would go back to work and would be attached to their kids were the main target market.

And since the couple was treading carefully, sort of, and didn’t want parents calling every minute, investing on a CCTV and WiFi to enable them view online how their kids were fairing, came in handy. Further, he had to set up a nursing room for parents who would pop up to breastfeed their children. 

Once they identified their market, they sourced for a premise, pointing out that it is always wise to put into consideration accessibility and space. They then sourced for two caregivers (at the initial stage) who were not professionals but would train them since they are qualified in the field.

Always make sure to have rental agreement and the landlord too ought to know from onset the nature of business. Go for license from county government, fire department and public health. Scout for a good insurance for a group cover for the kids, always protect yourself and staff from litigation

Also of importance is putting word out there letting potential clients know once the day-care is set up. This is perhaps where the real stress kicks in, according to Watoro, and unless you get it right here you will close down due to disappointment. Print business cards, fliers, banners and posters. Go office-to-office talking to prospective clients, talk even to men and invite people to visit. Offer freebies and assure parents they don’t have to pay the first day if their kids don’t like it.

Offer discounts on few slots remaining. Invite your friends, neighbours kids for one-week gauge whether they can pay or not even if they don’t pay take them on. There is nothing demoralising like a client coming to check out and say “hakuna watoto?”

Once you have a good number of kids you can now win those you had taken on charity. Clients will be keen on ratio for kids to caregivers.

Above all, cleanliness is vital. Ensure that all carpets are cleaned and changed every week, and delve into general cleaning twice a week. Remember your caregivers are your important investments too, treat them well but be firm. 

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