KAHULUI - After leaving the construction business to become a stay-at-home mom - now, of four - Bonnie McCarthy found life could be hectic.
She didn't need all-day care for her kids, but she did sometimes want brief relief.
"I would go to the grocery store with a list of necessities but with the kids being kids, it was difficult to make it to the check-out line with all of the items from my list and my sanity intact," McCarthy said.
Bonnie McCarthy turned from construction to child care. After refining her business model, she is now
offering franchises of the concept of Maui PlayCare.
COURTNEY THOMAS photo
"The same went for my children's activities. While attending my 7-year-old's hockey game, my 5-year-old insisted I watch her take the bleacher steps two at a time. This would have been fine, except that it caused me to miss my other daughter's first goal."
The answer: a new business, which she opened in 2002 at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. After seven years, she thinks she has a winner, so much so that she's formed another company to franchise the concept.
It has taken about 18 months to develop the business plan and obtain regulatory approvals needed to sell franchises.
McCarthy used FranCorp.
"They take you in hand" for the complicated business. Becoming a franchiser requires filing federal disclosure documents for each state in which the company plans to operate.
McCarthy hopes to have five in Arizona, two in Florida, three in New York and two in Nevada by the end of this year. The closest to opening is one in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Earlier this month, she had a group of potential franchisees visiting Maui for a look at her operation and a weekend sales pitch.
She told them the ideal Maui PlayCare franchisee is not an absentee owner but one that will constantly be aware of the center's day-to-day operations, with strong customer service abilities, experience with and the ability to work well with young children, well-developed people skills and high personal standards including honesty, integrity and a passion for excellence.
She said the right location for most cities will be in a strip mall or similar high traffic area, with 3,000 to 5,000 square feet required.
Total investment for a Maui PlayCare franchise ranges from $163,750 to $252,000, including an initial franchise fee of $40,000.
She said the process for her to become a franchiser "was really exacting," including several trips to California, where there are big franchise trade shows. She'll be going back in October for the West Coast Franchise Expo.
Potential franchisees want "to make sure you are sound as well," she's learned.
She hired other consultants such as franchiseopportunities.com and smallbusiness.com to help troll for prospects. She decided to concentrate on places where 12 percent of the population is between 2 and 10. Maui PlayCare is for kids 2 to 8, although children above the age of 8 are accepted if they have a younger sibling at the facility.
The Western states and Texas look promising.
With hourly rates between $9 and $15, franchisees will want to be in fairly high-income communities.
Since it's play care not day care, the typical stay will be measured in hours. In Kahului, Maui PlayCare stays open till 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to give parents a chance to go out alone once in a while.
Times have changed, McCarthy said, and with more people working from home, more activities for their children and, more to occupy teenagers who used to be available to baby-sit, Maui PlayCare will fill a need.
Staff will be trained, screened and drug tested, all will be required to obtain CPR certificates, everything on premises will be videotaped.
No memberships, reservations or monthly fees are required.
"Maui PlayCare is a solution for on-the-go parents who need their children monitored on an hourly basis rather than all-day supervision," McCarthy said.
She views it as a third option, when family and neighbors cannot lend a hand.
Since child day care operations are often closed on evenings, weekends, holidays and school intersessions, Maui PlayCare's nonmembership structure entices those parents whose children would normally be in day care during these peak times to utilize Maui PlayCare's services.
Information on her operations can be found at www.mauiplaycare.com.
Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.