What’s next for Cubes & Crayons?

June 2, 2009

chapman-11After the birth of her first daughter, Felicity Chapman decided she would only work part-time, but found it all but impossible to juggle both her clients and childcare. Chapman knew she needed to find some flexible childcare that would allow her to accommodate her clients’ needs, without shortchanging her daughter.

“I didn’t want to leave her with just anyone and I couldn’t tell my clients that I can only come from Monday to Wednesday from 9-12, because that’s the only time when I have childcare,” she said, echoing the sentiment of many working mothers. “I thought there has got to be a better solution.”

The seed that began as a line in Chapman’s notepad has grown into Cubes & Crayons, a hybrid business offering moms a place where they can literally take their kids to work.

One part office space provider and one part daycare, Chapman believes her Silicon Valley-based business is the answer for working moms, or dads, who are finding it impossible to get the job done from home and look after their children at the same time.

THE PITCH

Not one to rest on her accomplishments, Chapman has an ambitious plan to expand Cubes & Crayons in 3 to 6 more cities over the next 18 months. San Francisco is first up, with other possible locations in Austin and New York.

“We plan on being nationwide and hopefully international at some point in the next five years,” said Chapman, who estimated the initial U.S. expansion will cost $750,000, which she has been seeking primarily through angel and other private investors.

TAKING IT TO THE EXPERTS

Public relations consultant Mat Wilcox thinks Chapman should be given “huge kudos” for implementing her idea, but is ultimately unsure about the business model, as the target audience is limited to essentially part-time mothers.

“It sounds really appealing, but when you actually think about whom the audience is this is a tough one,” said Wilcox, who was working three days a week when she had her daughter. “Being a mom myself, I don’t know how much work I’d be able to do with my child in the next room.”

Bob Goedjen, a small business counselor with the SCORE network based in Silicon Valley, cautions that childcare businesses have their own special set of challenges, which make it even harder to be successful.

“It’s not like opening a store or retail establishment,” said Goedjen, whose office advises as many as 2,000 entrepreneurs each year. “Since this involves children there are critical elements that need to be addressed or even the best marketing will fail.”

Goedjen said Chapman, if she’s not already, should be extremely cognizant of the sensitivity of parents in regards to their children and variables such as age ranges (i.e., not mixing infants with six-year-olds), hours of operation, and qualifications of staff and clients, as well as the all-important issues of liability and insurance.

Steve Borg, a small business loan specialist at the San Diego division of California Bank & Trust, said a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan may be the way to go for Chapman. Last year Borg’s bank made close to 200 SBA-backed loans, typically from $500,000-$900,000, and thinks Chapman could qualify. Borg added that if Chapman doesn’t have any success with her own bank, she should try a more SBA-friendly shop.ee-cubes

Borg said Chapman needs to keep some things in mind, other than a strong business plan, if she decides to go the SBA-loan route for her financing: strong cashflow projections, good personal credit, experience running her own business and the ability to provide some personal equity.

What do you think of Chapman’s business plan? Would you invest in her company? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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