Bringing a Business Lens to Childcare
Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative member, Michelle Landsverk, recently had the opportunity to interview Michele Hutchinson, Business Development Specialist with First Children’s Finance. The following is excerpted from their conversation.
Landsverk: Welcome to this episode of Profiles in Childcare, Michele. Can you tell us a little bit about your background in childcare?
Hutchinson: I was a family childcare provider from 1994 to 2016. I’ve also worked as a center teacher, a home visitor with the Head Start program, and as director of a non-profit childcare center. I have my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Concordia College of St. Paul.
Growing the Supply and Sustainability of Excellent Childcare
Landsverk: Can you tell us about the organization your work for, First Children’s Finance?
Hutchinson: First Children’s Finance was started in 1991 as a Community Development Financial Institution and became a non-profit in 2006. Our mission is to grow the supply and business sustainability of excellent childcare. We work on the individual business level, community level, and systems level. We help children, families, and communities thrive by increasing the availability, affordability, and quality of childcare and education. We do this through providing financial and business assistance to childcare business owners and building partnerships that connect these vital businesses with resources.
Business Consulting and Training
Landsverk: What is your role with first children’s Finance?
Hutchinson: I work with childcare providers and directors by offering business consultations. We also offer free trainings through generous funding from DHS. Our “business leadership cohort” training includes a grant of $1,000 for family childcare providers and $2,500 for center directors—just for taking the free trainings. Our Grants Department has grants of up to $15,000 for family childcare and $20,000 for childcare centers.
Hutchinson: I also work with communities to offer recommendations for sustainable childcare models and technical expertise on local policy and financial incentives. Communities that go through the rural Child Care Innovation program or the Child Care Strategic Supply Plan are eligible to apply for our community grants of up to $30,000.
Michelle L: Wow, those are some great resources and the depth of the services you provide is really broad. Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
Policies, Contracts, Financial Analysis, Rate Studies
Hutchinson: Like I said, we can work one-on-one with providers to help with policies, contracts, financial analysis, and rate studies. It’s like you take a deep dive—if you have a center, you look at what each room is doing. If you are a family childcare provider, you can look at what it would look like if you raise rates, or compare participating in the food program versus not being in the food program, things like that. We help providers make good business plans.
Landsverk: That’s great. I’ve been involved in business development for many years and historically, I don’t think childcares have been viewed as businesses, which simply isn’t right. They are businesses. You bring that business lens, and I think that’s fantastic, because we want our childcares to be financially sustainable. I think the business analysis and help that you provide is just such a wonderful thing.
Geographic Area Served
Landsverk: So, what geographic areas do you serve?
Hutchinson: the 12 counties of Northwest Minnesota. It starts with Roseau, Kittson, Marshall, Polk, Pennington, Red Lake, Norman, Mahnomen, Beltrami, Hubbard, Clearwater, and Lake of the Woods.
Landsverk: So, if someone is interested in receiving services from First Children’s Finance, how can they contact you?
Hutchinson: People can call 218-288-2601 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Landsverk: This is valuable information. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Michele.
That’s Profiles in Childcare brought to you by the Advance TRF Childcare collaborative. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, @advancetrfchildcare and on YouTube, @AdvanceThiefRiver.
More About Profiles in Childcare
“Profiles in Childcare” is a series of stories, highlighting the people who are working in, and for, childcare in our region.
These stories are being collected and published by Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative.
Subscribe to Advance Thief River, or follow us on Facebook, @advancetrfchildcare, and on YouTube, @AdvanceThiefRiver for the latest stories.