Montana Child Care Business Connect launches business mentorship program

Montana Child Care Business Connect launches a mentorship program to support small businesses, address workforce shortages and bolster the state economy while closing gaps in child care access.

Montana Child Care Business Connect (MCCBC), a program of Zero to Five Montana, is launching a new program to support the growth of child care in Montana. This hybrid mentorship-business accelerator targets new and expanding licensed/registered child care operations across the state, providing a 12-month, intensive framework to help business owners start or grow their licensed/reigstered child care business. The program is free, thanks to a grant from Montana DPHHS, and includes business resources, Early Childhood Project (ECP) compliant training, networking and support, and funds to support selected businesses.

Growing and sustaining a strong child care industry is crucial for the state economy and workforce. The U.S. Department of Labor released a February 2023 national employment report which showed both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons increased to 3.6 percent. These national statistics are reflected in the Montana workforce. The lack of licensed/registered quality child care throughout the state affects business growth as well as the ability to hire and maintain a full staff.

Most businesses in Montana (57%) indicated a shortage of affordable child care options in their community and that increasing access should be a priority (60%). Approximately 40% of businesses said the shortage was impacting their ability to recruit or retain qualified workers. The impact was higher (45%) for businesses with non-traditional hours. (source here)

By launching this mentorship program, MCCBC is actively working to fill in those statewide child care gaps, promote entrepreneurship, create higher wage career opportunities in the child care field, and set up small businesses for long-term, sustainable success. The successful completion of this project would create jobs in the child care industry as well as bolster the local workforce as parents will have access to reliable, licensed/registered child care and be able to go back to work.

“Many individuals do not get into child care thinking of themselves as an entrepreneur or business owner”, Rhonda Schwenke, Program Director of MCCBC said. “So to be able to shift that mindset and offer crucial business support and professional development, we will help child care owners stay in business or potentially expand to offer much-needed slots in their communities, as well as increasing the level of professionalism across the field.”

To be eligible to mentor a business, one must have experience in small business start-ups and operations (specific child care experience preferred but not required).

To be eligible to be a protégé and receive mentorship, one must be starting a new licensed/registered child care business in Montana (concept to first year of operations) or substantially growing an existing business. Applications close April 10 and a kick-off event will be hosted in Billings during the first week of May. Visit to learn more and apply.

Zero to Five Montana’s Child Care Business Connect (MCCBC) supports starting, growing, and expanding licensed/registered child care providers and community initiatives thanks to $5 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), granted through a Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) competitive process awarded in May 2022.

As part of the vision to stabilize, innovate, and build early childhood systems, Zero to Five Montana has developed the Montana Child Care Business Connect program – Montana’s statewide hub for child care business development and innovation. MCCBC is dedicated to working with community partners, employers, child care business entrepreneurs, and business owners to build and stabilize programs to help meet the demand for child care across the state.

This project is funded in whole or in part under a contract with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The statements herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Department.

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