More than just a Daycare Center...

When Jennifer and Kyle Knott relocated to rural Rifle, Colorado in 2014, they had no idea they were embarking on a journey that would directly create 16 jobs and help revitalize a rural community. A year later, Jennifer opened her first business, Caring Kids Preschool, and ultimately purchased the building in 2018!

The story began when Jennifer, a mother of two, wanted to re-enter the workforce after her second child, but struggled to do so given inadequate childcare options in Garfield County. In a town of over 9,000 residents, Rifle only had 14 licensed childcare providers and not one of them offered infant care. Moreover, Jennifer couldn’t find a nursery within 30 miles, which led her to work from home in order to care for her children.

That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands. She began researching the childcare industry and quickly realized finding a business partner would be critical in providing guidance regarding procedures, licensing, and regulations. As fate would have it, Jennifer met Lorie Bishop who had the expertise to help get Caring Kids Preschool off the ground and became an integral piece of the puzzle from the beginning.

As they were getting started, Jennifer wanted to make sure they were completely prepared before launching. She spent countless nights pouring over her business plan, researching locations, setting up financials, and everything in-between. Jennifer mentioned, “I wanted to make sure we were financially, emotionally, and mentally prepared before starting the venture. The research came in handy when applying for our loan, and also gave me peace of mind that this was the right decision.”

Jennifer eventually found Colorado Lending Source’s Colorado Main Street loan program, a character based direct loan program that offers financing to startups and emerging small businesses with a focus on rural communities. This financing gave Caring Kids Preschool the initial capital needed to open their first location in December of 2015. Only seven months after Jennifer began planning her startup, the preschool was operating at full enrollment with 32 children and had created six jobs.

After their first year of business, Jennifer received a second Colorado Main Street loan to expand their existing location, adding classrooms and increasing their capacity to 74 students. There was additional space too, where Jennifer opened a children’s consignment shop, selling clothes at incredibly affordable prices for struggling families in need of clothing.

The road was not always smooth for Jennifer. As she was looking to open another location in an adjacent community, Jennifer’s landlord informed her that they were planning to sell the building in Rifle where Caring Kids Preschool was housed. The business was not financially ready to swallow this curveball, so while Lorie continued the day-to-day operations as Director, Jennifer hit the ground running to find a solution.

That was when she reached back out to Colorado Lending Source. This time, she was qualified for a SBA 504 loan and partnered with Alpine Bank to purchase the property. With the money Caring Kids had saved up, they were able to afford the down payment required under the SBA 504 loan program. 

With pricing at $52 dollars per day (where average prices in the area are $72) Jennifer mentioned, “Our main goal for starting the center was to help families who were sending their kids to unlicensed preschools, or even to complete strangers, and to provide affordable options so that parents weren’t beholden to limited work opportunities.” Caring Kids Preschool also offers financial support through Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), which helps families pay for tuition on a sliding scale. 80% of their students are enrolled through CCCAP, which is the highest percentage in the nation. They also partner with the Zurbuch Foundation to provide assistance to parents that don’t qualify for CCCAP. Jennifer stated warm-heartedly, “My job is to find funding for every kid that walks through our doors.”

Caring Kids Preschool is a great example of how small micro-loan programs can help bolster the success of emerging businesses. The total economic impact for Caring Kids Preschool since receiving funding from Colorado Lending Source is $630,711. By taking baby steps in the financing system, Jennifer’s funding journey is the perfect illustration of how a little financing can go a long way, especially in rural communities.