support person to sales rep, Cheryl Curry, 45, wanted to be sure that she was giving up her career for greater rewards before launching Kaleidoscope Learning Center, a preschool in South Plainfield, New Jersey, in April 1998. So, Curry prepared a business plan.
“I went to the library. I got Census Bureau data and demographic data from surrounding towns,” says Curry. “I talked to people who had early childhood learning centers. I paid for a business profile on day care centers from Dun & Bradstreet.”
After having her plan reviewed by several professionals, Curry contacted the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) for additional business advice.
Armed with $100,000 in savings, Curry approached Valley National Bank and was approved for a $250,000 loan. Curry used the funds to renovate her leased space and to purchase equipment for the school.
It seemed Curry had all her bases covered, but like many people starting a business for the first time, Curry was overly optimistic. Her projections for her first month in business called for 33 children to be enrolled in her school. When her doors opened in September 1998, she had just three.
“I had to dig much deeper in my pockets to find more than lint,” says Curry. “Because we had only three kids, my husband and I were committed to making a go of it for a year. We had to borrow [about $30,000] from friends and family, even though when we started, we thought our contributions and bank financing would take care of our operating expenses. What kept us going is that we were steadily getting children, but I needed 30 full-time to meet my monthly expenses. It wasn’t until September 1999 that I had enough tuition to cover these expenses.”
Today, Curry has 55 children enrolled, seven full-time staffers and revenues of $250,000. With a capacity for 64 children, Curry says her current enrollment base of $650 per month per child sustains her monthly expenses of more than $20,000.
“The school is growing, largely due to referrals, and now we’re taking names for waiting lists,” says Curry. “It feels good to be in that position.”
KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS
Financial experts say one way to identify and solve cash flow problems is to set up a record-keeping system. Unfortunately, many business owners are apathetic about their company’s financial status, especially how much money they have in their bank account and how and where the money is being spent.
“Unfortunately, because entrepreneurs wear so many hats, they don’t take the time to sit down and enter their financial information,” says Daryl L. Mason, owner of the Mason Consulting Group, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based small business development firm. “Sometimes I will go into an office and the business owner has invoices scattered here and there, or all of their receipts and paperwork are in a big brown bag. If they can’t answer what their net profit is, I know they haven’t analyzed where their business is and where it is going.”
Detailed record keeping not only