Wordsworkinc's Weblog

Life, love and language

Starting a new business

This promises to be an ongoing post. Over a year ago I decided to open a business in Calgary.  Since early childhood is both my passion and my area of expertise and, since Calgary has a real need for daycare spaces, that seemed to be the obvious way to go.

I didn’t count on the time it would take to find premises which would accommodate a daycare and provide outdoor playground space.  However, now, after 16 months of searching, of alternating between hope and despair, I have finally found the space I need – and have unsuspectingly wandered into a tangle of red tape.

So far:

  • I have applied for and received approval for a change of use (zoning) for the premises (6 weeks), BUT
  • I then received notification from the safety code officer that I need 2 extra toilets and windows to the outside – SO
  • I have obtained permission from the owner to put in windows, BUT
  • I need a plan drawn up by an architect or draftsman with a good understanding of the building code -THEN
  • I have to reapply for a development permit (original one granted zoning) for approval for the windows, THEN
  • I have to submit the plans to apply for a building permit in order to make the changes which they stipulated, AFTER WHICH
  • I need to find a suitable plumber and general contractor to install toilets and windows, and to move an interior wall, THEN
  • finally, we can start cleaning, painting and buying equipment.

It has been like climbing a mountain – every-time I think I’ve reached a plateau, I turn a corner and the path heads upwards once more.  So, to keep myself motivated, I will post on this blog each time another milestone has been reached, until, finally, I make the summit.

The front of the premises, formally a martial arts centre

8th November

Saw this in the CBC News dated August this year.  It confirms my experience of trying to find premises for a daycare in the new communities in the south of Calgary.  There is just no space allocated for childcare in these communities:

“The other thing that’s a challenge is new neighbourhoods aren’t being built to have child care centres in them,” she said. “It’s very difficult for centres to find space to open in some of the newer neighbourhoods in the city.”

Received news from our architectural designer that the floor plans are ready for the development permit and that he is busy with the building code review, which is very strict for childcare centres.  Hopefully we will be able to apply for the permit to install the two necessary windows this week.

15th November 2011

Last Thursday we met with our architect and went through some changes in the plan, which he altered and emailed to us over the weekend.  We took them in to Staples to have the necessary copies printed on Monday, picking them up today – Tuesday.

Then, armed with

  • the completed application;
  • 10 x 4 copies of the plans (2ftx3ft);
  • 4 photo’s of the premises;
  • the Title Certificate;
  • copies of all the caveats on the Title Certificate (collected from the Registry Office at the cost of $100);
  • a letter of authorization from the agent;
  • a letter of authorization from the owner of the property for the agent;
  • and a cheque for $526,

we headed into the city where we spent an hour going through everything with one of the very friendly consultants in the Development and Building Department. (Probably picked up a ticket for staying too long in our parking stall – but won’t know that until later!).

Now we play the waiting game again, since nothing can be done until the windows have been approved.  It’s beginning to look as it March will be the earliest we can open which means we will have to pay the rental and operating costs for three months without any income from the premises.

2nd January  2012

Things are on the move again, at last!  On Thursday, 29th December, our application for a development permit in order to install windows and two extra toilets at the centre, in line with the requirements of the City, was pre-approved.  Today we met with our architect to discuss a few small changes to the plans in order to submit them for a Building Permit.   Tomorrow we will take the updated plans to Staples to have them copied and then drive into town to hand them in at the Municipal offices.

Now that we virtually have the go-ahead to make the necessary changes we will probably spend the next couple of weeks, as we wait for this final round of plans to be approved, demolishing walls which have to be moved, pulling up a floor which needs to be replaced, and generally getting ready for the contractors who will be doing the plumbing, putting in the windows and framing and dry-walling the new walls.

Slowly our dream of more than a year is becoming a reality.

4th January, 2012

A real, if short-lived, dip on the roller coaster today!  We had the building plans printed at Staples and then took the fast-becoming-familiar trip to the municipal buildings in town to hand in our application for a building permit.

The friendly lady who handled our paper work went through the forms and then called someone to check the plans.  Well, according to him, besides a few fairly minor changes we also needed a sprinkler system which the building doesn’t have.  And not just a sprinkler system for the daycare!  Because the premises we’re leasing takes up more than 10% of the entire building all the shops and offices would need to be included.

Besides the costs involved, we obviously could not fit the whole complex with a sprinkler system and could not seriously contemplate being able to persuade the landlord to do so either.  Gathering together our plans and forms we headed home, very deflated.  Not willing to go through the whole process again we were discussing other business possibilities when I received a phone call from the municipality and a very contrite young man apologized profusely and explained that he had been mistaken about the sprinkler requirement.

Back on track again, once home I called our architectural designer and told him our sad/mad story.  The upshot is that he will contact the municipality, make sure that all requirements for the plans are met, and then take them into the offices himself to ensure that everything is in order.

And so the saga continues ….

8th January 2012


Here we go again!  As arranged, John Trinh took the application for the building permit, with the few changes they wanted, down to the municipality early this morning.  He phoned me mid-morning to say that they now want a mechanical engineer to draw plans of the duct system in the building.  The unit has air conditioning so I don’t expect any problems with the ducts, but this involves at least another $2000 to $2500 and another delay.

We can’t afford to wait until everything is approved so, taking a step in faith, we started demolishing the floor which has to be removed in one of the classrooms.  At least this, and the removal of a wall, can be done without the building permit.  We also assembled the reception desk which has been lying in pieces for the past two months.  A March start is looking more and more remote and I am now planning on advertising April as our opening date.  Of course, this means that I am paying the rent and operating costs for an additional 3 months (originally we planned on opening in January) with no income.

Half of the floor demolished.

Stay tuned for further updates.

24th January 2012


Since my last post we have had the mechanical engineer, the contractor and our architectural designer wandering around the premises, cutting holes in the walls to peer inside, climbing onto the roof to check the furnace units and counting air ducts.  At last the mechanical and electrical plans have been drawn up and submitted with the application for the building permit.

Two bits of good news: the development permit for the windows, which had been preapproved and then advertised for the obligatory 2 weeks has now been passed, which means that the building permit application can be processed immediately; and the landlord, through his agent, has agreed to give us two more months rent-free to finish our renovations.

Richard and I met with the contractor and the plumber yesterday at the premises.  Our contractor, Steve Shiu, says he has been in contact with the city and that the building plans should go through now without any more hassles.  Fingers crossed!

Today we are doing the last of the demolitions – that is, Brian will be doing them, cheered on by Richard.  Once the rubble has been carted away there is nothing more we can do until the windows, plumbing and walls have been completed.  Then we will paint and lay the carpet tiles.

In the meantime I took the programme to the licensing department to have it checked before submitting my application.  I am busy doing the necessary alterations and hopefully that will go in before the end of this week.  I also have to contact the Health Department so that they can look at the plans and make sure there is nothing there that they are unhappy about.  There shouldn’t be a problem since everything has been done strictly to code.

Now to get the website up and running, have our posters and brochures printed, and advertise, advertise, advertise.

15th February 2012

I am still waiting for the building permit to come through.  The mechanical and electrical plans have been accepted but the city requested a drawing of the roof of the building.  I’m sure they have their reasons, and these plans have now been sent to them, but, of course, this has resulted in another holdup.

In the meantime the contractor and plumber are on hold, waiting to start on the renovations.

The cheque which I sent with the licence application has not yet appeared on my bank statement, after at least 2 weeks, so I have just sent off an email asking whether they have received the documentation.  I won’t be able to admit any children until I am licensed and can’t get the licence until everything has been approved, which means that, as well as my programme being accepted – all 34 pages of it – I also have to have the premises fully furnished and equipped.  And, of course, until I know how many children I will have, I don’t know how many teachers to hire.  How many balls can one juggle at the same time?

Hopefully my next post will be to report that the renovations are proceeding smoothly.

28th February 2012

We heard today that the building permit has finally been approved – we’ll pick it up tomorrow.  At the same time got a letter from licensing to say that I hadn’t included the health and fire reports in my application.  Since I had explained in my cover letter that these would only be available when the renovations are complete I was a little confused.  Have sent an email, followed up by a phone call to arrange a meeting.  Waiting for a response.  Only hope that they don’t put the whole thing on hold until the contractor has finished at the premises, that will really delay the opening date!

14th March 2012

Things are moving smoothly at last.  The contractor has laid the pipes for the plumbing and is busy with the interior walls (a bit of a hiccup here as, apparently, the architectural designer had mis-measured and placed one wall in front of the fire door!).  Tomorrow the electrician comes in the start roughing in the electrical work and by the 23rd the windows should have arrived.

Framing started for interior walls

As far as licensing is concerned, so far everything seems to be OK, all the documents other than the programme for Out of School Care have been submitted, and I’m busy working on that one now.

I have advertised online and put up a couple of posters.  Advertisements will appear in the community newsletter in April as well as in the Coffee News sheet which serves this area.  A waiting list has begun!

23rd March 2012

All the framing for the interior walls is up.  The roughing in for both plumbing and electrics is done and today the inspector turned up and passed it all!!  Now Steve, our contractor, is left with the dry-walling and the connections for the plumbing and electrical outlets.  Then the extra toilets and hand basins and the kitchenette. Lastly the windows, which should arrive early next week.   Its exciting seeing everything coming together at last.

Tomorrow we will be looking at the playground to decide how to go about leveling it and to measure it again for the fences for the two short ends, which we will order on Monday.  I have a quote for the basic furniture – chairs and tables – and will do a quick check on prices before placing the order.

We will be doing the painting and laying the carpet tiles on the floor ourselves.  This must be complete by mid-April so we can get Health and Fire to come in and pass the premises and Licensing to check it out and issue our licence.

The advertisement for teachers will be posted on Monday and the waiting list for children is growing slowly but surely at a rate of one or two a day – up to 16 at last count, most of the queries coming from our online advertising.

Still, hopefully and optimistically, looking at the 1st May as our opening date.  The final count down has begun.

3rd April 2012


The good news is that the dry walling is up (but taping and mudding still to be done), the fence and furniture have been ordered.  The windows have arrived, but are not yet in.  Teacher interviews have started and the waiting list continues to grow slowly.  We also have our sign up!

The bad news is that the plumbing inspector has discovered some existing pipes and fittings which are not to code.  This has led to another hold up while Steve tries to sort out the problems.  The same inspector also condemned all the existing toilets.  Our long suffering landlord has agreed to replace them.

In addition, while the load of soil which we have ordered to level the playground is due to arrive on Thursday morning, we now have a winter storm warning in Calgary and on Thursday morning the playground could well be under 12cm of snow!  So our group of eager(?) helpers who were going to be shoveling and leveling soil on Good Friday will now be sipping hot chocolate instead and we will probably be pushing wheelbarrows ourselves come Monday morning.

Oh well, if we’ve learnt anything from this whole process it is that nothing runs smoothly when you’re involved with building and renovations.  Still aiming, rather desperately, for the 1st  May.

20th April, 2012

I had hoped the contractor would be finished by today and that the painting would be done and the carpet tiles laid – both of which we will be doing ourselves.  Any reader of this blog would have been able to predict otherwise!

So what has been accomplished?  Well the kitchenette is just about finished and looks really nice.

Steve, the contractor, busy in the kitchen

The commercial dish-washer still has to be connected, which will only be done next Wednesday; the washrooms have all been painted and everything is in place for the toilets to be installed; all the interior walls have been taped and mudded but most still need to be sanded and we have been able to get into one of the playrooms to paint.

Raylene busy applying the first coat of primer to the playroom walls.

The windows will only be installed next Wednesday and the plan is that the final inspection will take place on Thursday or Friday.  After that we will be able to get back into the premises to finish painting and lay the carpet mats.

The good news is that the furniture has arrived from Educan in BC and, without completely unwrapping it, it looks good and sturdy.  The soil has been delivered and spread in the playground to level it and the sod has been ordered and will be delivered on Monday.  The computers have also been ordered and should be here early next week as well.

Raylene’s firm very kindly lent us a bobcat – one of those you walk behind – to move the soil to the playground and Richard spent the day steering it back and forth from the enormous pile  of loam next to the building to the playground at the back.

Richard dropping off another load of soil to be spread.

Unfortunately our ‘Open House’ will have to be put forward a week to the 5th May so that we can have everything complete and the rooms set up for the parents to see.  On this day we will also register the children on the waiting list and collect the deposits.

Hopefully (everything crossed and double crossed) neither Fire nor Health will find anything needing changing and our license officer will grant the licence quickly.

Opening day?  With luck, the 14th May.

30th April 2012

Well, the sod has arrived and has been laid (in the rain), although, due to weather conditions and bricks flying from window installations, has not yet been rolled.

Trace turned up unexpectedly from Saskatoon to spend Saturday helping us paint the hall, passage and reception area which are now a lovely shade of blue.

On Sunday the old carpeting in the reception area was ripped up, the whole area thoroughly vacuumed,  and we started laying the new carpet tiles.

Windows were not installed last Wednesday, apparently stress fractures in the brick wall necessitated steel lintels instead of the wooden ones quoted on, but the first two are now installed in one of the playrooms and, hopefully, the contractor is busy finishing off the dry-walling under the windows today so that we can complete painting and lay the carpet tiles in there.

The commercial dishwasher (second-hand) was connected and promptly flooded the kitchen.  It will be going back to its original owner and I will be attempting to get permission to install a domestic dishwasher with NSF rating.  Otherwise the cheapest commercial dishwasher I can get is a $3000 Lambert from Costco.

Today, since the electricians and contractor are busy at work at the centre and it is clear that there is no space for us to continue laying carpet tiles, we took a drive out to IKEA and bought lockers, storage units and a long table to use for the computers in the media centre.

Open house still on the 5th, even if prospective parents have to negotiate ladders and paint pots. I can’t leave it any longer.

Tomorrow my first staff member, Amber, joins us, when she will find herself wielding a paint brush rather than working with little kids, obviously her job description is very loosely interpreted.

And so it continues.  Is that a light I see at the end of the tunnel??

10th May 2012


May 5th arrived in a flurry of snow and rain.  A number of brave parents braved the weather to come and look at the centre and register their children.  The kids themselves had a great time.  Amber had one of the playrooms set up with a variety of toys and games and watched over the children while their parents filled in forms.

Richard and Amber assemble the work table before setting up the playroom for our Open House.

Raylene presided over the kitchen and welcomed our visitors, and, with her encouragement, many Oreo’s were consumed by the littlest of our guests.

It was so nice to hear children’s laughter in the centre – a reminder of what we are working towards.

Monday brought a return to reality.  Two windows still had to be installed in the second playroom.  Painting had to be completed and carpet tiles had to be laid once the windows were in and the walls dry-walled, mudded and sanded.  A new dishwasher had to be bought and installed.

Putting up the fence – note the coffee cup in Richard’s hand while Brian works away industriously!

Still, things are moving at a reasonable rate.  Richard and Brian have put up the fences on either side of the playground, and today the windows are in and the drywalling in process.  The dishwasher has been ordered and should arrive next week – no leeway given on a domestic model.  We are still waiting for the toilet partitions to appear, they were ordered the week before last and apparently have arrived in Calgary, but no-one knows where they are!

I invited our very friendly and helpful lady from Health to look at the centre yesterday and give us some pointers and now have a list of, mostly, small issues to see to before she comes to look us over and submit her report next week.

Fire wardens have turned up at the centre twice to find out how we were going.  I will call them in once everything has been completed.  Once the Fire and Health reports are in our licensing officer will give us the once over and, hopefully, give us our licence.

Opening day?  I’ve been wrong so often I’m not even going to hazard a guess!

17th May 2012

Hopefully this will be sorted out by tomorrow, but I had to share today’s issue simply because it is so farcical.  As I said earlier, I need a report from the Fire Warden to submit to Licensing.  However today the Fire Department phoned me to say that they could not come out and look at the premises because I had an outstanding building permit which had to be signed off.  So Steve phoned the Building Inspector, who told him that he could not sign off the building permit until he had a report from the Fire inspector.  So here we are in a catch 22 situation until the Building inspector and the Fire inspector manage to sort out their respective places in the process!

4th June 2012

Last week we were overrun by inspectors – electrical (twice), plumbing, health, fire and, finally, the building inspector signed off on our occupancy form and the building permit is now closed.  So we may now legally occupy the premises, but cannot, as yet, open our doors for the daycare.

A private firm specializing in this field (required by the building inspector before he would do his final inspection), discovered that the fire system for the entire mall was not working and reported this to our landlord.  It took another full day to get someone out to change a fuse and get us back on track again.  Then it was decided that the smoke sensors should be changed to heat sensors (at our expense, of course).  Another day’s work.  The fire verification certificate finally issued by this firm was a requirement from the building inspector who would not do his final inspection without it.

The health inspector gave her approval subject to a few changes which we have since made but now, despite the fact that we have a fire verification certificate and an inspection by the city fire warden who also had to sign the occupancy form, we still have to get the provincial fire officer to come in, check the premises, and give us a certificate of compliance before the licensing officer can make her appearance.

In the interim the T-shirts I ordered from Wordans arrived.  What a disappointment!  The logo and name look good but the XS which was supposed to fit ages 2 – 4 years is actually larger than one of my grandson’s T-shirts marked 10 years.  I am currently involved in an email argument with Wordans who informed me:  “the size chart were indicated , and you cant reorder.”

The orange T-shirt fits a 10 year old, the blue one underneath is supposedly made for a preschooler!

Reading back, this is sounding awfully depressing so I must add that the centre is looking really good and I am having a great deal of fun buying all the necessary (and unnecessary) toys, books and equipment.  Roll on opening day.

Section of the 4 and 5 year old playroom

7th June 2012


Out of the blue the fire department phoned us on Monday to tell us our Certificate of Compliance (allowing us to get a provincial licence) was ready for us.  Rushed down to pick it up and emailed it to my licensing officer.  Waited impatiently for a response which was not forthcoming on Tuesday or Wednesday, despite a number of phone call messages and emails.  Today we heard that the certificate had arrived too late for us to arrange for our initial licensing inspection this week as she is on leave from tomorrow, and can only make an appointment for the 26th  June, aiming at getting us licensed by the 1st July.

When I said I had a number of parents who were very anxious to get their children into the centre ASAP she pointed out that I could, legally, take 6 children without being licensed.  That would allow me to accommodate those who are most desperate for childcare.  Something to think about!

27th June 2012

I’ve waited a long time to be able to say this: we are finally officially official!  At the beginning of July Fledglings will open as a licensed daycare centre.  Now starts the next leg of our journey.  We will be applying for accreditation almost immediately and, of course, advertising, advertising, advertising.  If anyone who has read my blog this far would like to continue to follow Fledglings fortunes I will be posting at regular intervals on my website: http://www.fledglingseducare.com.

And so ends my saga.

October 31, 2011 - Posted by | Working | , , ,


  1. Thank you so much for sharing. This is great. I do have a question. My daughter and I are thinking about starting this same adventure maybe in a year. so how much money would you recommend one would need to have to get started?

    Comment by Lynne | February 1, 2012 | Reply

    • It depends on how many children you want to cater for, Lynne. For 36 kids you can set up a daycare for around $25000 or $30000. The trick is to find the right building. The renovation costs are almost double that.

      Comment by wordsworkinc | February 1, 2012 | Reply

  2. It is extremely important for children to only be allowed to eat on the premises and not be allowed to take any food away with them.

    Comment by Aiden Miller cluban | February 2, 2012 | Reply

  3. Shew, what a battle!! Your perseverance is going to pay off!!

    Comment by steenkampki | February 29, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks. I hope so 🙂

      Comment by wordsworkinc | February 29, 2012 | Reply

      • I will make sure it does!!!!!!

        Comment by Steve Shiu | May 5, 2012

  4. hmmm.
    sounds like EL.

    Comment by Margaret | March 5, 2012 | Reply

  5. I have always felt that childcare providers are a special breed. So much hard work and dedication which often times goes unnoticed by the general public. It is clear that you have an incredible amount of patience and determination, so I think it is safe to say the children you will be working with are going to be in very good hands.

    Best of luck, and I can’t wait to hear more.

    Comment by John Oliver | March 14, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks John,
      It’s certainly taken endurance to get this far!

      Comment by wordsworkinc | March 14, 2012 | Reply

  6. After the environment was designed and all the licensing regulations were met, what has come of your daycare? What moe are you learning and how has this reflected on your personal growth and development as an early educator?

    Comment by Helen Lineham | March 15, 2012 | Reply

  7. This is soo excitin5, sorry stillno 5ee, as you can see I’m still usin5 the number 5 instead 🙂

    Comment by Gail | March 15, 2012 | Reply

  8. I know how you feel, I just went through the same thing over a year ago. I’m pleased to say that I have now been open for going on 9 months. My biggest piece of advice is “PATIENCE” I learned it makes those things out of our control easier to deal with. It was difficult but I recieved a hard lesson on it. Good luck, it’s all worth it, I love it.

    Comment by Felice P | March 27, 2012 | Reply

  9. Oh dear! What else can I say?

    Comment by Brenda | April 4, 2012 | Reply

  10. You have put your heart into this venture my love. Keep at it. I know that it will be a huge success and a tremendous assett to the community.

    Comment by Richard | April 4, 2012 | Reply

  11. Just finished reading your blog – congratulations on all the hard work and perseverance it has taken! Wish I could see it all in real life – but great to share it this way! Everything of the best for the opening – the children are blessed to have you!

    Comment by Mary Ann | April 30, 2012 | Reply

  12. As tired as this job has made me with various changes, additions, directions from authorities, landlords neglect on basic code requirements that needed to be done or added for Dawns license from Alberta Health and the City inspectors. I too would do it all again in a heartbeat. It has been an absolute pleasure to work for 2 patient, understanding, open minded and respectful clients like Dawn and Richard Kumm.

    Thank you, I can honestly say in all the commercial projects I have managed and completed which includes several other Day Care facilities, you guys have been the best!

    Logistics and financial planning are always at the front in everyone’s mind when taking on such a venture, and I only see 1 in 15 come in under or on budget and within time frames. But often those 1 in 15 have been rushed in places, and corners cut which have later been detrimental to the workings and expectations of that project.

    You cut no corners, as much as you tried to rush through your pure excitement you are only days away from having a sound child practice (well I’m only hours away from a few well deserved days off).

    It was a first for me that I had to call in a city inspector to divert from all known plans and put the walls where I thought they should be to conform with square footage areas for licensing requirements to have as many children as you will have.

    Even now, I say to myself, if I was able to do that then why did we all have to wait 2 months for a set of unworkable plans to be passed by the city. Seriously not a single room, wall and in most cases doors are the same as the original plans? But let’s give credit where credit is due, Bernie Klaus from Development and Approvals asked one very direct question to me when I showed him onsite errors….'”well Steve can you give this lady what she wants and needs?” My reply, yes if I have some latitude…..His reply, good then you are good to proceed!

    So a big thank you to Bernie Klaus (Developments) and Martin Pattison (Plumbing)…Whom I might add wrote a scathing inspection on the existing toilets which had the owners of the complex replace all the old for water friendly new ones, at no cost to Dawn. Thank you to Keyvan my friendly Structural Engineer, Barry Middleton my Electrical Engineer and lastly a special thanks to everyone who put up with my short fuse and cranky ways when problems arose. But to those I did offend, I get cranky for a reason, often it was something that was in the way of achieving a common goal or a time line. Most of my higher end clients like me because I will fight and argue to achieve this goal for them. I may not always be right or politically correct, but I get it done and that is why you contracted me to get it done, not to be a perfect man.

    Steve Shiu

    Comment by Steve Shiu | May 17, 2012 | Reply

  13. I enojed watching this. I too want to open a childcare facility but I want to start it from the ground up. How did you support your family and get this project going?

    Comment by terry fitzgerald | June 5, 2012 | Reply

    • Terry, we were fortunate enough to have sufficient funds to cover the costs of setting up the daycare. There are grants available however, both in Canada and the USA (I don’t know where you live) Its worth trying to access these before you start.

      Comment by wordsworkinc | June 9, 2012 | Reply

  14. What a long haul, Dawn but yes, it is looking really good. All the family involvement has to have been a motivating factor too. I can only say congratulations and I hope that all the hard work pays off not only financially but in terms of being involved in the growth and education of young children again, which I know will be a wellspring of fulfillment and life gratification for you.

    Comment by Brenda | June 28, 2012 | Reply

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