Squam Lakes Natural Sciences Center


The mission of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (SLNSC) is to advance the understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world. Located in Holderness, NH and encompassing over 200 acres, the center has a multitude of educational programs, exhibits, hiking trails, and lake access and serves approximately 75,000 visitors each year. SLNSC is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is currently the only AZA-accredited institution in northern New England. Executive Service Corps (ESC) worked with SLNSC to complete a market study exploring the viability of a  preschool focused on nature exploration and education for young children in the Lakes Region based on “no child left inside.” The results indicated that there was indeed sufficient demand for the preschool. Next, SLNSC engaged ESC to develop a business plan to determine the financial feasibility of this initiative.

In 2006, SLNSC wanted to explore opening a nature preschool to expand their ability to reach young children and possibly to provide additional income within the context of the organization’s mission. Several key questions needed to be answered:

  • Market – will the market support a preschool at Squam Lakes?
  • Logistics – for what hours and days should the preschool program be
  • Pricing model – what tuition seems reasonable?
  • Potential pitfalls – what issues will need to be addressed in further

How ESC Helped
Two dedicated teams of ESC Consultants tackled this project. The first started with the market study, using this methodology:

  • Determine the size of the market by analyzing NH population data and population trends of preschool-aged children.
  • Assess the competitors by building a list of schools within a 30-minute drive time radius and interviewing the Executive Director to gather intelligence.
  • Survey the parents by mailing a comprehensive survey to members of SLNSC and by purchasing a list of nonmember parents that in total yielded
    188 complete surveys.

The parent survey confirmed that there was considerable interest based equally on (1) philosophicalagreement with the nature preschool concept and (2) theoutstanding reputation of SLNSC.

Next, the second team of ESC Consultants picked up the challenge. They led a team of SLNSC staff and directors to formulate a business plan, using the market study results as the foundation. The first step was to determine key operating assumptions including: (1) age and number of children, (2) hours of operation, (3) tuition rates, and (4) adult-to-student ratios. These assumptions became the basis for three distinct P&L financial models that allowed for approximately 60 different variables and produced projections for initial start-up through year five.

The Blue Heron Preschool opened in September, 2010 and is now in its second year of operation. The operating results for the first year were completely in line with the financial projections and the school is at break-even. Twelve students enrolled in the first year, as forecast, which is remarkable considering the faltering economy. SLNSC is projecting continued growth and is exploring options such as donor-funded scholarships to enable more children to attend.

The 2007 Market Study and Business Plan provided thorough and insightful data that demonstrated the market need for a nature preschool in the Lakes Region. This allowed SLNSC to move forward with their desire to open a nature preschool and further enhance their mission of providing nature-based education to all constituents, including small children. The executive staff and the Blue Heron School administrators are excited about the success of The Blue Heron School. However, the most satisfied participants in this project are the many parents who provided great feedback during the market study phase and now have very happy students at Blue Heron School. The results of the market study clearly showed that there was sufficient demand to open a preschool.

Other featured Client Stories:
  • Seacoast Science Center
  • Maverick Landing Community Services
  • White Horse Recovery Client Success Story
  • Thrive Support & Advocacy
    Thrive was looking to develop a five-year strategic plan that would allow sustainable growth in the face of uncertain funding and service expectations. Thrive wanted to engage the Board in a planning process that would include input from all stakeholders.
  • Chica Project
    In 2017, Chica Project reached out to ESC as the organization was looking at ways to reach more girls by expanding its programs and services.
  • Rockingham Nutrition and Meals on Wheels
    RNMOW contacted ESC to help the organization develop new branding and messaging to better reflect the broader goals of the mission and change the perception that the organization simply delivers food to the needy.
  • Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust
    Ambitiously trying to protect more land and increase donor presence, ESC helped a new committee raise awareness of their goals and increase the number of donors by 20%.
  • Hanover Theatre
    Creating a new script for the leadership of a regional theatre company.
  • Seacoast Science Center
    ESC makes a splash in giving new life to the Seacoast Science Center.
  • Talking Information Center
    Facing changes to their government funding source, TIC turned to ESC to help develop a new strategic plan to grow revenue, strengthen the board, and help them prepare for a leadership transition.
  • White Birch Community Center
    With recent leadership changes, ESC helped develop a strategic plan to ensure long-term stability while introducing new, innovative programs.
  • Cambridge Community TV
    Channeling Success at a nationally recognized award-winning community media center, CCTV partnered with ESC to carry out a series of planning and operational projects over a five year period.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness New Hampshire
    ESC developed strategic initiatives to raise awareness for mental health and ultimately improving the lives of others.
  • Harbor Homes
    ESC was the catalyst for change as Harbor Homes incorporated new technological initiatives to better meet their mission of providing services to the homeless and mentally ill.
  • Family Continuity
    ESC worked with Family Continuity to strengthen its Board and set the stage for a new strategic planning process, leading to financial stability and sustainability for the future.
See our complete FY 16 and FY 17 client list here.