SPARK Childcare BLUE_

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 Community Foundation of Marquette County, the Statewide Equity Fund, and an ARPA allocation from the Marquette County Commission.

If you are ready to apply, you can do so below. The remainder of this page provides more detailed information on the program.

 Now accepting applications for the hybrid program


Launched in March 2023, the program is now up and running as a hybrid, at your own pace program.

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. *If you live outside of Marquette County, we will do what we can to try to get you into the program.
  • Plan to operate your business where you currently live.
  • Pass a State of Michigan background check.

Additionally, successful applicants will:

  • Be genuinely interested in starting a home-based childcare business and willing to work through challenges that may arise
  • Be willing to follow the course work on Google Classroom
  • 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 communicate with a mentor on a regular basis
  • Be willing to meet, in person, with SPARK administrators
  • 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 from the State of Michigan Equity Fund and Marquette County, 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 continually 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
  • Financing
  • 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 with any questions.