The Sam's Club Giving Program has awarded a $500,000 grant to First Children's Finance (FCF) to provide finance and management assistance to child care businesses in low-income communities. The grant will enable FCF to pilot technical assistance programs with the aim of improving overall child care business operations.
Additionally, nearly 90 percent of FCF clients are child care businesses operated by women, furthering Sam's Club's support of women-owned small business growth and prosperity.
The pilots are launching this month through the Greater Than MN Project, which focuses on serving child care businesses in southern and northwestern Minnesota, and the Guided Growth Project, serving western Iowa. Other uses of the grant will include the improvement of business operations in 24 child care programs through education, technical assistance and resource development; the loan of a total of $250,000 to 12 child care businesses for compliance and quality improvements that could include hiring workers with early childhood expertise; and the creation or preservation of 40 new child care slots.
"The lack of access to capital and management assistance continues to be a challenge for these women-owned businesses," noted Jerry Cutts, CEO at Minneapolis-based FCF, a national nonprofit. "We hope to help businesses overcome these challenges by making operations more efficient and integrated, placing a higher focus on measurable business results, and developing a framework that can be easily replicated by other communities."
The long-term results of the pilots will shape strategy for the eventual establishment of the FCF National Child Care Technical Assistance Center, a national program to help states and communities grow and sustain quality child care.
"When Sam's Club opened in 1983, the very first member to sign up, Kathy Cronemiller of Midwest City, Okla., owned a day care business," said Susan Koehler, the retailer's senior manager of community involvement. "Like Kathy, most child care owners come to the industry out of a passion to help children, and then find themselves leading a highly regulated and complex business with razor thin profit margins of three to five percent." Koehler expressed the hope that the grant would "give business owners like Kathy the resources, tools and confidence to streamline their operations and provide the best possible child care to their communities."
Bentonville, Ark.-based Sam’s Club operates 640 U.S. club locations. Established by the Walmart Foundation in 2008, the Sam's Club Giving Program is dedicated to micro- and small business prosperity, with the goal of increasing access to responsible training, education and capital for small business owners.