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    Starting a free community center for moms and babies--HELP!

    I am in over my head. I am doing this project alone (well, my two adult sons are working very hard for me on the building, which my best friend generously donated the use of to me, so I do have people on my team) and a lot of people are getting excited about it, but so far I've had a few donations of 400 sq ftcarpet tiles!!!! for the building and kids toys and a baby swing. I'm going to need to pay electric bill, I'm buying furniture on my own dime, paint and wall decals, posters, educational materials - I sold a very large painting that is funding this project but I am running out of money fast and my husband is not working and I am not getting paid for postpartum doula work because I am still a student. I sent in information for a few grants, and somehow word got to someone and I was invited to my Town's Chamber of Commerce nonprofit luncheon later this month. But how do you take on a project like this? I really want to do it because I think it's really needed and people will love it but I'm scared of doing all this by myself. What should I do?
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    Re: Starting a free community center for moms and babies--HELP!

    It is wonderful that you are taking initiative on a much needed program or idea. That being said you should have a business plan. A mentor. and sustainable funding. 

    The worst thing someone can do is to half heartedly open up a business and not know the risks, threats, or how they will sustain themselves for the first 2 years of runnign the operations (assuming you are not making any money.) The NGO/ grant space is extremely competitive and typically requires a proper legal entity set up as a 501c3, and a board, etc. 

    Because there are a LOT of things to consider, beyond just having a good heart and passion to serve....I would recommend you find a good mentor in your own community. Go to the Chamber of commerce, or local university or start up hub and seek counsel from someone who is a business advisor (typically people will offer these services for free form the right institution). Then find a draft of a business plan online and use it as a skeleton to start thinking through all the who's, what's and how's of the business you want to operate. If you open your doors and then run out of money in a month and have to close, that's breaking promises and ruining the goodwill with people in your community. So complete a business plan and THINK through all the hard, stimulating questions that a blueprint will provide for you. 

     

    I think it's great you have a dream...so take the practical steps now to prepare yourself..before doing the "fun"stuff like designing and decorating the office space. You will get there with the right support!

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    Re: Starting a free community center for moms and babies--HELP!

    Yeah, I'm learning all of this the hard way. You are spot-on about opening for a month and having to close. Thank you so much for your comments, I appreciate the reality check, it certainly playing out like you're saying.