Ashley Thompson began Child Time Daycare as an in-home business in Northwood in 2018. She successfully ran the daycare at home for five years, and as her waiting list grew longer and longer, Ashley realized that the need for childcare in her community was not being fully met. “There were daycares closing in town that had been open for over 25 years,” she said. Those displaced families needed solutions so Ashley decided to take action. She saw that there was an opportunity for someone to help fill Northwood’s childcare gap so she sat down with her husband Matt and they figured out a plan. To make sure they were fully prepared, Ashley went back to school, attending Hawkeye Community College for the Iowa Childcare Director Training program, while Matt worked on finding a location.
Child Time Daycare began as an in-home business, but Ashley quickly saw the benefits of renting or buying a building and expanding to a much greater degree. They did their research and worked with community partners to identify just what was needed. Worth County had done a survey and identified childcare as a critical need for the community. Ashley and Matt also reached out to their local legislator Jane Bloomingdale for support, and worked with Farmers State Bank in Northwood to develop their financial plans.
Ashley and Matt worked with Brook Boehmler of the North Iowa Area SBDC and Pappajohn Center as they focused on their expansion. “They have been on our side and really helped us out. As a young couple of entrepreneurs, you don’t know everything. What the people at Pappajohn have done is they opened books for us that have shown us everything,” Matt said. “They’ve helped us out with any questions that we’ve had and walked beside us for the whole project. And still today, they’re still there with us.”
When Ashley and Matt found their new location, it really started to come together. They rehabilitated and renovated the building, gutting the interior and starting over from scratch. “It’s a big building but if we could have gone even bigger, we would have,” Matt said. Their renovation designs all revolved a single common denominator: the safety of the children who would be there every day. The center boasts secure doors, security cameras, a reinforced tornado shelter, and a clean and efficient industrial-grade kitchen for providing nutritious meals. When Ashley and Matt purchased the property, it came with two acres of land planted with hay. They worked with a local farmer and arranged a trade: he could harvest all of the hay, in exchange for providing beef to the school. “The beef goes to a USDA locker and we know [the kids] are getting good food and locally raised beef,” said Matt.
“When transferring from in-home to the center, I was told by a lot of people it was going to be tricky because in a center there are way more children so you have to expand the love and care that you can give,” said Ashley. Matt added, “The quality always comes first before the profit.” For Ashley and Matt, the kids always come first. Child Time Daycare’s mission is to provide a place where kids are excited to go every day, and where every child is treated with the same kind of care and attention an in-home daycare can provide. Ashley and Matt train and encourage their staff to love the place and run it as if it were their own. Child Time Daycare now has a capacity of 71. Ashley said that today the center is in a wonderful place with kids and staff, but they still have some ideas for the future.
Ashley and Matt have a few words of advice for their fellow entrepreneurs. “Budgeting is incredibly important,” Matt said. They worked with Paul Mixdorf of Financial Freedom Control of Mason City, as well as Farmers State Bank and the Pappajohn Center & SBDC to make sure they knew their business numbers and could track them. “You have to have a no-fail [financial] program before you can even think of doing this,” Matt said. “We had the whole thing laid out in front of us and tore it down to the worst-case scenario, because if we could make it work in the worst-case scenario then we could make it go no matter what.” Ashley added, “You’re never going to know until you do it. It’s a little scary but you’ll never know unless you try.”
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