Montana State University

MSU alumna advances to national entrepreneur competition finals for flexible preschool startup

October 5, 2017 -- From MSU News Service

Jessica Dehn, an MSU alumna and founder of Dino Drop-In, has advanced to the finals of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER competition. Dehn will pitch live at the national competition, to be held Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., to vie for $70,000 in prizes.

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BOZEMAN — Jessica Dehn, a Montana State University alumna and founder of Dino Drop-In, a modern preschool with the flexibility of drop-in care, has advanced to the finals of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER competition.

As one of 10 finalists, Dehn will pitch live at the national competition to vie for $70,000 in prizes sponsored by the Sara Blakely Foundation. The competition will be held Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C.

In June, Dehn wonlocal business plan competition hosted online by co-sponsor Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU. In order to be considered for the finals, she then submitted a full business plan, including a three-year growth plan, and a letter of support from Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU.

Dino Drop-In is a childcare center that is designed to be flexible and affordable for families. Parents can drop their kids off at any time during Dino Drop-In hours and pay only for the time they use. The center has scheduled snack times, free play time and group activities each day, but kids are not permitted to watch television. Throughout the day, parents can check in on a password-protected webcam. Dino Drop-In accepts children from 6 weeks to 13 years old. 

In rural communities with high-growth rates and increasing rates of entrepreneurship and non-traditional work schedules, the lack of flexible childcare is one of the key factors affecting career advancement for women, according to Dehn, who added that demand is also increasing for affordable preschool offerings. Dehn said the Dino Drop-In model is designed to be an elegant solution to both of these needs. It has already proven to be successful in Bozeman and Belgrade, she said, and is poised to scale to other similar communities. 

“The Dino model respects the autonomy of parents – providing childcare that does not interfere with their lifestyle or parenting preferences, and graciously providing the highest standard of care for students with special needs,” wrote Tiphani Lynn in the Blackstone LaunchPad’s letter of support for Dehn’s business. Lynn served as a Montana Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA with the LaunchPad and organized the local competition.

“Without rigid commitments, the (Dino Drop-In) model allows parents to spend more time with their kids and to save time searching for quality, affordable, flexible childcare,” Lynn wrote.

“My favorite part of every day is supporting parents in reaching for their dreams,” Dehn said. “Many families are attaining higher education or building businesses of their own, and I am honored to be able to help them attain their goals by having quality, flexible childcare options for their families.”

Of making it into the top 10, Dehn said, “Bozeman's vibrant entrepreneurial community has brought out the best in many businesses, including mine. The access to business resources, inspirational local business owners and local networks that expand beyond our state have all made building Dino Drop-In exhilarating. I am thrilled to get the opportunity to represent Bozeman and Montana on a national stage in Washington, D.C.”

For more information about Dino Drop-In, visit http://www.dinodropin.com/.

About the Blackstone LaunchPad: The Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University, housed under the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, is an entrepreneur resource for students, alumni, and faculty across the university and community that offers coaching, ideation, and venture creation support.

About InnovateHER: The Innovating for Women Business Challenge (InnovateHER) is a cross-cutting prize competition to unearth innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University is a cosponsor for the national SBA competition, serving as a local competition host for eligible entrepreneurs, under co-sponsorship authorization #17-6050-38. SBA's participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. 

Contact: Jessica Dehn, 406-581-5525 or jessica@dinodropin.com; or Trevor Huffmaster, 406-994-4383 or trevor@msulaunchpad.org.