Day care owner receives support from Center, through farm bill program

Small Towns

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Montana Thatcher has always loved children. Since she was old enough to look after them, she knew she wanted to run her own day care.

In fall 2019, she began working at a local day care in Fairfield, Nebraska. Her boss offered her the opportunity to buy the day care in fall 2022, and Montana was up for the challenge.

When she began researching financing options, her banker directed her to the Center for Rural Affairs. Senior Loan Specialist Lori Schrader helped in guiding Montana through the loan process and becoming a business owner.

“We worked together on her business plan, projections, and then started on her loan application,” Lori said. “Even though Montana is very young, she isn't afraid of hard work, learning how to run a successful business, and also to have fun.”

Montana received a Center loan for Tana’s Tiny Tots in February 2023, a loan made possible by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. Created in the 2008 farm bill, the program has enabled numerous small rural businesses to access much-needed loan capital and technical assistance. The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program makes grants to organizations that provide training and technical assistance and make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses.

To qualify for assistance from an organization, a business must not be able to access loan capital or financial assistance from other sources. They must be either a sole proprietorship, or have 10 or fewer employees, and be located in a rural area.

Tana’s Tiny Tots is licensed to care for children 6 weeks to 10 years. Montana has the capacity for 40 children, and she has filled every slot. She has one part-time and two full-time employees, plus one summer help worker who will leave for college in the fall.

Montana splits the kids by age into two classrooms with two different curriculums that teach age-appropriate lessons to help with basic skills and prepare the older children for school work.

Since opening, Montana says she’s spent a good deal of time getting used to billing procedures and other business-related tasks, but her favorite part has been getting to know who she serves.

“Getting to know the families is where my heart is,” she said. “And I wouldn’t be where I am without my employees’ help. Finding good help is hard, and my team does a great job.”

As she’s getting settled into her new role, Montana is making upgrades and updates along the way. She’s used some of her loan funds to buy new playground equipment, add a fire door, redo flooring, and add flowers and landscaping outside of the building.

Eventually, Montana wants to expand the day care and get licensed to bring in additional children. She knows she can turn to the Center if she needs assistance again, and she said she has learned a great deal about the loan process already.

“Center staff are very easy to talk to—Lori touched base a lot, made sure steps were understood, and she was very patient and helpful,” Montana said. “She wanted me to have the best, and I could tell the Center was very supportive of small businesses.”

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At a glance

Tana’s Tiny Tots, LLC
Montana Thatcher
305 E. Fourth St.
Fairfield, Nebraska
Hours: Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.