At some point, every studio owner considers providing childcare for his or her members. Should you do it? We don’t know your situation, but we can give you pros, cons and possible solutions so you can make the best decision for you and your members.
To start, there are some general advantages to providing childcare. Although the nuances differ a bit depending on which option for delivering childcare you choose, here is a list of general benefits:
- More people can workout: You’ll widen your pool of potential members because you’ll be helping parents who otherwise wouldn’t be able to step away to workout.
- Competitive advantage: Another obvious point, but not all your competitors offer childcare. So it can be a competitive advantage that sets you apart and brings in more members.
- Additional revenue: Depending on how you fund childcare at your studio, you may be able to collect an additional fee for providing this service.
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There are also some general disadvantages associated with providing childcare. We’ll break down the nuances and specifics as we dive into the options for providing care, but here’s a general list of cons:
- Cost: Depending on the option you choose, the cost may need to be absorbed by your business. One way to get around this is to pass the cost on to your parents through a drop-in fee or additional monthly fee. Membership trades are also possible.
- Liability: It goes without saying that no matter which option you chose for providing care, there will be liability attached to it.
If offering childcare makes sense for your business, there are several different options for the type of care you can provide.
Delivering supervised care means you would need to hire trained and qualified staff to care for the children. Your providers would need to be CPR and first aid certified. Be sure to perform background checks before hiring and adhere to licensing and regulations specific to your state.
You’ll also need to have the space available and be able to build it out for children. It should be stocked with books, puzzles, games, toys and movies. Your space must be secure and laid out so that parents can quickly and easily drop their children off and pick them up before and after class. You’ll also most likely want to install cameras for safety and to mitigate some of the liability involved with providing care.
Finally, you’ll need added/special insurance, the cost of which varies widely between states and insurance companies.
Open Play Area
Delivering unsupervised care means there’s no need to hire staff to supervise the children and no big costs to eat or pass down to parents. This option is also less expensive for your business in terms of initial setup costs and maintenance.
To establish an open play area, you’d need a contained space, likely accessed through a half door or blocked off with a half wall and windows. You can stock this area with the same things you would a staffed play area.
The downside to this option is that there are no guarantees of a child’s safety, especially if one of them wanders out into your main workout space. This uncertainty can lead to increased liability. Since you’ll need an open space for this option, noise and interruption may also be a factor.
Like the first option, you’ll need special or additional insurance. You’ll also need to adhere to all state guidelines and regulations.
Co-op or Shared Childcare
With this option, you share the cost, responsibility and liability with another business. Maybe you have a childcare center nearby and can arrange a special rate for your members. Or maybe you and another fitness business establish a childcare center in a vacant suite of a shared strip mall.
We recommend you speak to your lawyer and insurance agent if you’re serious about offering childcare at your studio. The decision can be one of the best you make for your business, but without covering your bases and thinking it through, it can also be highly problematic.
Does childcare make sense at your fitness studio? Get your copy of our free Boutique Benchmark Report to see what top performing studios are doing to create success for themselves.