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Updated: March 28, 2023

Brunswick-based child care business lab to expand, thanks to $1.6M grant

3 people with books and toys FILE PHOTO / CEI Since its founding in 2020, the program has resulted in 16 new childcare businesses.

Since Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s Child Care Business Lab was founded in 2020, 16 Mainers have opened financially sustainable child care businesses that serve more than 330 children and enable 69 parents to start full-time jobs. 

That success has spurred the award of a $600,000 grant with a $1 million program-related revolving loan fund that will help Brunswick-based CEI expand the lab, which provides training and an opportunity to access capital to start child care enterprises in Maine.

The grants come via an investment from Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation and Lumina Impact Ventures.

“The lack of access to quality child care is a chronic problem across the country,” Chauncy Lennon, vice president of Learning and Work at Lumina, said in a news release. 

The lab also helps CEI develop a model for peers nationwide, leading Lennon to add, “The curriculum is a ready-made and replicable model that can work in other places. The skills the Child Care Business Lab provides lead to good jobs, higher pay and greater opportunity to learn and serve others.”

The idea for the lab emerged from a pre-pandemic listening tour in rural Maine. Residents reported a lack of quality child care was affecting their ability to work full time, secure a decent livelihood and support their families. 

In response, CEI created the lab in 2020 to combine small business start-up education with child care management instruction and coaching through the licensing process. 

CEO Betsy Biemann said the funds will help the organization leverage its understanding of the local business landscape and its community connections to help under-resourced entrepreneurial people bring their ideas to life.

The lab aligns with Lumina’s commitment to helping the nation redesign learning after high school to help more adults earn the degrees, certificates and industry certifications necessary to boost economic success among working-age adults. Lumina’s approach complements elements of the lab, which targets rural, underinvested communities, and opens access to programs that lead to meaningful credentials. 

The grant and investment also aim to ensure that new child care entrepreneurs have financial and non-financial support along the way to ensure their success.

The funding will support the expansion of the lab across Maine and create a plan to share the curriculum with other organizations across the country that have are interested in adapting the program to their communities, with the goal of providing Child Care Business Lab cohorts nationwide. 

Additionally, the funds will provide low-cost capital to lend to child care business owners seeking to start their enterprises, which is traditionally difficult to access due to the industry’s non-traditional collateral, tight margins, and delayed income from reimbursements for subsidized programs.

During its 46-year history, CEI has provided more than $23 million in financing for 203 child care business owners, helping to create 7,201 child care slots. 

Lumina is an independent, private foundation that creates opportunities for learning beyond high school. Lumina Impact Ventures is Lumina Foundation’s impact investing strategy for advancing racial equity and making opportunities for learning.

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