Another daycare opens through Childcare SPARK

Pictured left to right: Rachel Raak, LSCP Community Economic Development coordinator; Jared Koski, Marquette-Alger RESA; Isabelle Jarvi; Odin Jarvi; Ashley Jarvi, Tiny Turtle’s Daycare LLC owner; Michael Jarvi; Rebecca Dales, LSCP Economic Development project manager; Christopher Germain, LSCP CEO; Lynn Hill, Community Foundation of Marquette County; Jeremy Hosking, Gov. Whitmer’s Office.

Generally, the opening of a daycare – in the U.P. or anywhere – doesn’t prompt much publicity. But these are different times.

Ishpeming’s newest daycare, Tiny Turtle’s Daycare LLC, represents another success story for an innovative, first-of-its-kind program in the U.P., Childcare SPARK, which was launched last year to help address the childcare shortage in the region. 

The new daycare is owned and operated by Ashley Jarvi, one of the first three graduates of Childcare SPARK. 

In a nutshell, SPARK is a business accelerator, providing participants with expertise in business development, childcare operations and childhood development to help them understand, launch, operate and grow home-based childcare businesses.

Childcare SPARK is an example of how U.P. collaboration and ingenuity are helping address the issue regionally and is one of several initiatives in the region to address the childcare shortage. Like other parts of the Upper, Michigan and the country, the region is grappling with a shortage of childcare facilities.

What’s happening: A graduate of Childcare SPARK has opened a daycare, Tiny Turtle’s Daycare LLC, a group childcare home, in Ishpeming. The owner is Ashley Jarvi, one of the first three graduates of the program. Her daycare is described as a “home-like setting that is secure, safe, nurturing and conducive to learning.” She is the second graduate of the program to open a daycare. Another graduate, Lysa Stockwell, opened Little Cubs Learning Center, LLC, in Marquette last fall. A third graduate is working on opening a daycare as well. 

How the daycare came about: Jarvi’s journey into the childcare industry was facilitated by the Childcare SPARK program. Recognizing the complexity of the licensing process, Jarvi found invaluable resources, mentorship, and a supportive team through the SPARK program. With a bachelor's degree in early childhood and extensive experience with babies and kids, she decided to open Tiny Turtle’s Daycare LLC. to not only address her personal challenges but also to extend her expertise to other families in need of quality childcare.

"The licensing process is so confusing, with so many different websites to navigate. The SPARK program provided me with tons of resources, a mentor, and a great team to move forward with. Opening this home daycare made sense in my life right now, juggling the demands of having two kids and managing school schedules. I am excited to help other families and provide quality care,” Jarvi says.

What is SPARK: Launched in March 2023, Childcare SPARK is a collaborative effort of several organizations under the umbrella of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. The program combines expertise in business development, childcare operations and childhood development under a business accelerator model to help interested entrepreneurs understand, launch, operate and grow home-based childcare businesses. The goal is to help establish new childcare businesses throughout Marquette County to help families the care they need so they can remain or re-enter the workforce.

Funding: Childcare SPARK is funded by the State of Michigan Equity Fund and an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation from the Marquette County Commission. 

What’s next: In recent months, the program has been revamped to become more accessible and accommodate participants immediately. Childcare SPARK is now a hybrid/on-demand program and participants can complete the program online at their own pace. Organizers found that the initial 12-week commitment to in-person classes was difficult for participants. In addition, those graduates said more than 12 weeks of training was needed.

A candidate is now enrolled in the hybrid model, which is available on Google Classroom and includes recorded PowerPoints and homework. Following the online learning, participants meet in person with someone from the SPARK program to make sure they understand the content and ask any questions. Participants work one on one with a mentor and receive resource books as well. 

“SPARK wanted to capture the excitement of an applicant as soon as they applied and so we can do that by having an on-demand program,” says Rebecca Dales, director of Childcare SPARK.” As people apply, they can start instead of having to wait till the next cohort starts.”

To apply: There is an application form on the Childcare SPARK website. Anyone interested can also email Rebecca Dales at or call the Lake Superior Community Partnership at 906- 226-6591.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.