Six years after Todd Vogt opened a yoga studio with his wife Annie Adamson, he knew something was missing. As a wave of studio members started having kids, Vogt decided it was time to make way for the little ones by opening a childcare center.
“We have kids and one of them is young and we’re paying all this money for childcare and he’s out there in other environments and so we thought let’s bring him here,” says Vogt, co-owner of Yoga Union Community Wellness Center in Portland, Ore.
So in August 2015, Vogt and Adamson moved their studio to a space big enough to accommodate a childcare center. Two years later, he’s glad they expanded, mainly because the studio is now a place for the whole family. “Our business model is really predicated on forming community and we can’t do that as well without the kids’ involvement,” he says.
If you’re considering offering childcare at your studio or gym, there’s a lot to think about. Here, Vogt shares what he’s learned since he began offering childcare and what you should think about before opening your own.
Determine if there’s a need for childcare.
Do you have long-time members who’ve been asking for childcare? Are members who’ve had babies finding it challenging to get to your studio for a workout? Have members told you they would come to the studio more often if there were childcare? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, your studio is a prime candidate for childcare.
“The standard was that mom goes and does yoga and then there’s this real disconnect between that practice and the rest of the family,” Vogt explains. “So we wanted to make it so that everybody can come…mom can bring her kids and her husband and her mom and dad.”
Make sure you have the right space.
You’ll need a secure room with an open play area that’s big enough for kids to run around in. State regulations and your insurance company’s requirements will help you determine the maximum number of kids you can have in the space.
The entire area needs to be child proofed. All shelves need to be anchored to the walls. Everything should be child accessible—that means you’ll need a separate bathroom just for kids with low sinks or step stools.
Visibility for parents is another important consideration. Some childcare centers have cameras so parents can check on their kids. Vogt designed his center to make it easy for parents to look in without going in. “We have a high window and some privacy glass so parents can see in and know their kids are safe but the kids can’t see out and see their parents,” which helps minimize separation anxiety, he says.
Think about how you’ll staff it.
For starters, you’ll need to make sure your staff is trained and qualified to supervise children. In addition to background checks, make sure your staff is trained in CPR, first aid and anything else that’s required by your state and insurance company.
Vogt has two paid managers who are both Reggio Emilia-trained educators. In this style of teaching, kids can choose what they’re interested in and learn through that lens. During off hours when Vogt’s paid staff isn’t there, he uses “trade staff.”
“We have a large community and it’s advantageous for some of our students to trade for yoga instead of a cash exchange,” says Vogt who makes sure the members are suited for childcare. “That allows us to keep our costs down because staffing is the most expensive part of this.”
Your entire childcare staff – including the trade people—will need to complete abuse prevention forms. This requires them to report child abuse if they see it. Finally, make sure you are in compliance with state regulations when it comes to childcare provider to child ratio.
Figure out how much to charge so you don’t lose money.
While many studios and gyms cover the cost of childcare through a higher or separate monthly fee, others charge for it by the hour. Before figuring out how much to charge, you’ll need to determine what the childcare facility will cost you in terms of space, staffing and insurance.
Vogt charges parents by 30-minute blocks. The more blocks you buy, the better your savings. A single block is $6, which amounts to $12 an hour. Or you can buy in bulk—30 blocks for $110, which adds up to $7.33 an hour. He also comps parents for the 15 minutes before and after class so they have buffers for pick up and drop off. Members get a 10 percent discount on childcare and the first block is free for all families.
The bottom line: you’ll need to look at your numbers to decide if and what you’ll charge. While Vogt says the addition of childcare to the studio has been invaluable for his community, he also points out that his childcare center is still not a moneymaker.
Make sure you understand the liability that comes with offering childcare.
For starters, you’ll need liability insurance. There will be plenty of paperwork to fill out, not just for you but for your staff, too. Make sure you speak with your insurance company or lawyer in depth about what’s required.
“This is not a daycare and the difference is parents are not allowed to leave their children here and exit the building so that changes the game a lot in terms of the legality on the insurance side of things,” Vogt says. “All our parents are on site. They have to sign a registration liability waiver…[and] each time they sign their child in and they have to say what room they will be in so we can find them if there’s an issue.”
Turn it into a space kids will love.
Since the childcare facility is part of a studio whose members value being active, they’ll likely want their kids to be active, too. Make sure to keep kids engaged, whether that means a physical activity or participating in arts and crafts. In addition to Vogt’s childcare area, his studio has an additional space that’s 650 square feet where the staff brings the kids when they want to run or throw balls.
Equip your space with age-appropriate games, puzzles and art supplies. “We’ve had a lot of luck going to second-hand stores like Goodwill or getting donations from parents in our community who bring in their tired toys that their kids aren’t playing with anymore that are awesome and fresh for all the other kids,” Vogt says.
In the end, Vogt looks at running a childcare center in his studio as a long-term investment. “It enhances our community so much to have kids here,” he says. “We’ve got a whole new generation of yogis who are having a really positive experience and have a good example of what it means to be in a good community surrounded by yoga.”