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Supporting Innovative Child Care Programs in Marquette

Childcare SPARK, supported by the Community Foundation of Marquette County, is a first-of-its-kind program that helps entrepreneurs launch and operate home-based childcare businesses throughout Marquette County.

A group of children in a child care setting.

The Community Foundation of Marquette County (CFMC) has been working to meet ongoing child care needs in the community it serves.

Childcare SPARK, supported by CFMC, is an innovative, first-of-its-kind program combining expertise from business development, child care operations and childhood development organizations into a business accelerator model to help interested entrepreneurs understand, launch, operate and grow home-based child care businesses.

This program was developed through CFMC’s engagement in a cross-sector collaboration to align incoming American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources with Marquette County’s 2040 Master Plan which is focused on increasing access to affordable childcare.

CFMC received a grant from CMF’s Statewide Equity Fund (SEF) last year after being named a regional collaborative lead in the SEF Strategic Support Pilot.

As part of the SEF, CFMC and four other CMF members around the state have been leveraging their convening power and working closely with their local units of government and community to shape incoming federal funding toward equity-centered approaches to advance economic prosperity.

According to Childcare SPARK, its goal is to successfully establish new childcare businesses throughout Marquette County to help families find the care they need to remain or re-enter the workforce.

The program launched earlier this year in its pilot stage, and the first participants graduated this month.

The Marquette SEF site supported the program design and evaluation for a cohort of entrepreneurs representing underserved communities in building family-owned childcare provider businesses.  

Each participant of the program is paired with a mentor who is experienced in running a home-based childcare business. The 12-week program covers topics like early childhood development, business development, financing, licensing and regulations.

Participants also receive a stipend to compensate for their time learning about and establishing a business.

According to CFMC, the stipend is in addition to other financial support participants can receive, including minor home improvements to meet regulations, permitting costs, memberships to resources and more.

As CMF reported earlier this year, CFMC worked directly with technical assistance providers Grow & Lead and Regionerate LLC, as well as community partners, to identify recommendations to promote local strategies for accessing quality and affordable childcare for Marquette County families.

Through the SEF and with the support of technical assistance providers, CFMC conducted interviews with local nonprofit partners and the people they serve to better understand ongoing childcare and housing needs.

As a result of these conversations and a needs assessment, CFMC – through the SEF and in partnership with several local organizations including Lake Superior Community Partnership, Great Start to Quality Upper Peninsula Resource Center and Marquette Alger RESA – supported the design and implementation of the Marquette County Childcare Business Lab, which includes Childcare SPARK.

“Through this process, we recognized that affordability, availability, space and workforce development are all issues throughout the county. We identified the Marquette County Childcare Business Lab as one of the pieces of the puzzle that can help us build a new system,” Zosia Eppensteiner, CEO of CFMC said.

Childcare SPARK is now accepting applications for its second cohort beginning this fall.

Want more?

Learn more about Childcare SPARK.

Read more about the Marquette SEF site and how CFMC engaged community to address childcare needs and develop a childcare business lab.