Opinion: Child care industry calls on entrepreneurs


A universal trait of entrepreneurs is that they’re problem solvers. Sure, many are risk takers, innovators and visionaries.

But consistently rooted in the drive for business is the question: What problem am I/are we solving?

So, as a group of business thought leaders were huddled up at Springfield Business Journal’s recent Economic Growth Series Inspiration Hour talking about the problem of child care, I thought: An entrepreneur can solve this. If you’re looking for full-time employment and child care is a barrier, you can make child care your full-time work. Start a child care center and fill a void in the market while making your new livelihood. Sure, it sounds much simpler than the complex world of state licensing, securing a safe and welcoming facility, and the responsibility of other working parents’ children. But that’s what entrepreneurs do – simplify a big problem to make it go away for others. And get paid in return.

Christina Ford, and her new Kids Inn Child Care, is a case in point.

As the ideas percolated during the Economic Growth Series group exercise – from talking with an employer about flextime to seeking out a collaboration of employers to offer child care – a story began to unfold. The market is calling for entrepreneurs to fill the void of affordable child care centers. SBJ Reporter Karen Craigo captured it, and it’s told here.

Ford is at the center of the story for being among the first round of child care startups funded by a collective $19 million in state grants. Yep, the need is so great that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is responding with funds available for those willing to take the risk and solve this child care problem. In the first round, 161 grants were awarded to licensed care facilities to create over 8,000 spots for children.

In the story, Ford cited her experiences as a mother of five children to equip her for the job. Equally equipping her has been the work founding and running The Rebound Foundation with her husband, Dana Ford, an NCAA basketball coach.

Christina Ford’s business also is among those in Missouri owned by women – an average number compared with other states. Technically, that’s 3,021 women-owned small businesses in Missouri per 100,000 people, according to U.S. Small Business Administration numbers crunched by Deputy, a developer of software to manage staffing schedules. In this statistical snapshot, Missouri mirrors its geographic location in the United States: in the middle. The national average is 3,390 women-owned small businesses per every 100,000 people, according to a Deputy report. The leaders in the report are Washington, D.C., and Florida, both above 4,700 women-owned small businesses per 100,000 people, while West Virgina and Wisconsin bring up the rear, both sub-2,600 women-owned small businesses per 100,000 people.

Kudos to Ford and others who have responded to the call. There’s plenty of room for more entrepreneurs like her – female or male. Business opportunity knows no gender.

Together, we’ll get this problem solved. It does indeed take a village.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at [email protected].

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