A ‘Simple Start’ to a growing business

Simple Start Child Care owner and director CheyAnne Nielson, right, and her sister, Mallery Willcox, play with children Tuesday afternoon at the day care center. SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

CheyAnne Nielson kept working after having her first child, but seven years ago when her second child came along, she was faced with a choice — use her entire paycheck for day care or stay at home.

Instead, she took a third option — starting her own home day care.

With a high demand for child care in Laramie, business continually increased for Nielson.

“I only stayed in my own home for two years,” the 31-year-old said. “Then, I moved (the day care) into a home of its own and ran it with my sister.”

Originally known as Lincoln Log Home Daycare, Nielson said she changed the name to Simple Start Child Care after becoming a family home center.

But as her clients’ families grew, so did Nielson’s need for space.

“I love the families I take care of,” she said. “My first-time moms were getting pregnant again, and I didn’t have the room to take any more kids.”

So, Nielson started looking at spaces to lease in West Laramie to no avail.

“A lot of the places required you to do most of the remodeling work, which meant I would be sinking money into something that wasn’t mine,” she said. “Even when we did find a space that would work, it was in the wrong zoning district.”

Day care centers are permitted in business districts, the downtown area, some commercial districts and as a conditional-use in some multi-family residential districts, Laramie Planning Division Senior Planner Charles Bloom said.

While several suitable locations were available in those districts on the east side of the tracks, Nielson said she wanted to keep her business in West Laramie where most of her clients live.

But she discovered much of West Laramie is zoned for industrial uses.

“I grew up in West Laramie, and I wanted to stay here,” Nielson said.

Despite being told by her lenders that financing options for purchasing a business property in West Laramie were limited, relief came in the form of a bank — albeit, a former one.

After a year-long search, Nielson found a new home for Simple Start at 1771 Snowy Range Road, formerly a branch of First Interstate Bank.

“With the family home center, we could only have 15 kids at any one time,” Nielson said. “But here, we can have up to 41.”

Determining the maximum occupancy of a day care falls on both the city and the Wyoming Department of Family Services, she said.

Nielson moved her child care business into the new location in June, and she said she is already close to her optimum occupancy.

“When school starts back up, we’ll be near the 30 mark, and that’s where I’d like to keep it,” Nielson said. “Thirty is twice as many kids as we were taking care of before, so I think that’s a good starting point.”

To avoid investing in someone else’s property building to their specifications, she said she decided to purchase the building and remodel it the way she wanted.

“We installed the privacy fence around the playground and remodeled the offices into three classrooms,” Nielson said. “And we turned the conference room into a kitchen.”

Even with a larger facility and extensive construction efforts, she said she chose not to increase her rates.

“Child care is expensive — I’ve been there,” Nielson said. “If I can’t what do I’m doing with my current rates, then I shouldn’t be doing it.”

Finances and construction aside, she said the biggest challenge of the new facility was hiring more people.

“I have a hard time trusting people with my kids,” Nielson said. “I look for personality and make sure they are good with people. And I have to spend a lot of time around them with the kids, too.”

Potential employees are also required to be finger printed, ran through the (Wyoming Department of Family Services) Central Registry and become certified by the Wyoming Department of Family Services, she said.

With the hiring phase complete, Nielson said she has five employees helping her at the new location, including her sister.

“I’m lucky,” she said. “My dad comes in and cooks for us, and I get to work side-by-side with my sister all day.”

With space to expand and no decrease in demand in sight, Nielson said her business would likely grow for years to come.

“Cost of living in Laramie is high, and folks just can’t do it on one paycheck anymore,” she said. “So, we do our best to provide an affordable child care option.”

Call Nielson at 760-9369 for more information about Simple Start Child Care.

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