Childcare SPARK is an innovative, first-of-its-kind program combining expertise from business development, childcare operations, and childhood development organizations into a business accelerator model to help interested entrepreneurs understand, launch, operate, and grow home-based childcare businesses. Our goal is to successfully establish new childcare businesses throughout Marquette County to help families find the care they need to remain or re-enter the workforce. Childcare SPARK is just one of several initiatives in our area to address the childcare shortage.
Childcare SPARK is made possible through initial support from the State of Michigan Equity Fund and an ARPA allocation from the Marquette County Commission.
If you are ready to apply for the initial (pilot) class, you can do so below. The remainder of this page provides more detailed information on the program.
Launched in March 2023, the program is currently in pilot stage and will be operating under the following timeline (subject to minor adjustments as program development continues):
- Early March: Launch
- March 20 – May 1st: Applications Accepted
- By May 21: Applicants Notified
- June 6th: Weekly Classes Begin
- End of August: Weekly Classes End
- September: Graduation
SPARK is designed to be as accessible as possible while still ensuring selected applicants are likely to complete the program. If you are considering applying, be sure to consider if you could meet the following state or program requirements:
- Be a Marquette County resident.
- Own your home and planning to operate your business there.
Additionally, successful applicants for the pilot will:
- Be genuinely interested in starting a home-based childcare business and willing to work through challenges that may arise
- Be able to attend weekly class sessions (some are required to be in person while others may be virtual)
- Be able to complete weekly coursework
- Be comfortable with basic computer usage (SPARK is able to provide internet access and/or a laptop, for those who need it, so just being comfortable is enough)
- Be willing to meet with a mentor (virtually or in-person) on a regular basis
- Be willing to complete follow-up reporting to gauge the success of the program (up to three years after)
Thanks to generous financial support for the program, participants will receive a stipend to compensate for their time learning about and establishing a business to meet this critical community need.
Two stipends of $500 each will be provided during the course for participants meeting attendance and homework requirements – one at the midpoint and another at the end. Another $500 will be provided upon successfully opening a childcare business.
The stipend is in addition to other financial support participants will receive including minor home improvements to meet regulations, permitting costs, memberships to resources, etc.
The SPARK team is currently working to build customized content using existing and new resources specifically tailored to this program. But over the course of the program, you can expect to learn about:
- Business Development
- Child Development
- Licensing and Regulations
- Positive Guidance
- Social & Emotion
One of the unique aspects of SPARK is that each participant will be paired with a mentor who is experienced in running a home-based childcare business. This pairing will allow for 1:1 discussion to identify challenges and tackle some of the mentally demanding aspects of this field. The goal is that your mentor-mentee relationship will last well beyond the program and help form a stronger bond between home-based childcare providers throughout the county which will offer more stability for families as well.
One of the major costs to starting any business is physical building improvements. For home-based childcare centers, this can be a costly upfront expense. As such, SPARK has budgeted funds to assist participants in making repairs to their home which would be required to meet state regulations. There is a limit to this aid, but all applicants will be eligible for it. SPARK anticipates also providing support to cover the cost of permits and inspections.
Contact childcareSpark@marquette.org with any questions.