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Kumon Math & Reading Centers: A Franchise Opportunity Where You Can Make a Difference

by Franchise Chatter on April 18, 2011

in Franchise Reviews, Low Cost



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I first heard of Kumon from a cousin of mine who enrolled her 2 young daughters at a Kumon center in the Philippines.  When their family moved to Canada a few years later, I learned that her daughters were so much more advanced in math and reading compared to other kids in the same grade level.

This gave me a very good first impression of Kumon but I’ve never considered opening a Kumon franchise myself — it just doesn’t seem like a good fit for me.  But with this blog, I’ve decided to look into as many different industries as I can, with the intention of giving my readers as many ideas as possible.   I’m glad I did because it gave me a good reason to learn more about Kumon.

Franchise Chatter Exclusive: A Letter from the President of the International Association of Kumon Franchisees, Nicole Smith

I ended up being very impressed with the company and I can see this being a great opportunity for the right franchisee.  The things I like about the Kumon franchise opportunity are:

1.  Offers a Much-Needed Service Using a Proven, Effective System – Kumon Math & Reading Centers offer an after-school program on these two areas of study to children from 3 years old (staring with the Junior Kumon program) all the way through to 12th Grade.  The center provides each student with an individualized program taking into account the current skill level of the child.



The program is effective because it makes sure that each child fully understands one concept before advancing to the next, laying a solid foundation for more advanced topics.  This builds confidence among students and makes them enjoy the learning process more.

2.  No Teaching Experience Necessary, But There Must Be a Good Fit – The Kumon franchise requires a greater fit compared to most other franchises.  Although a teaching background isn’t necessary, the franchisee must enjoy working with children.  This is not a purely money-making endeavor, it’s also an opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of children.    The right franchisee will take this opportunity and responsibility very seriously.

3.  Low Investment – It was named the #3 Low Cost Franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2011.  The franchise fee is only $2,000, and the total initial investment ranges from $36,538 to $145,250.  A typical center is about 1,200 sq. ft in size and needs just 2-3 employees to run, says Entrepreneur magazine. (Update:  According to Nicole Smith, president of the International Association of Kumon Franchisees, 6 or more staff per Kumon center is more common.)

But I do have one concern:

Possible Impact of Technology on the Business Model – As I mentioned before, as a former UPS Store franchisee, I experienced first hand how quickly technology can impact certain profit centers and transform entire businesses.  The swift adoption of online shopping and online shipping directly with the major carriers put a dent on our store’s shipping revenues.

Another example is the tax preparation business.  A lot of people who used to go to H & R Block locations for their taxes  now use Turbo Tax software and the like to do it themselves.

With the quick adoption of tablet computers like the iPad, I can’t help but wonder if cheaper and more convenient tutorial programs eventually gain traction with parents and their children.

But it’s really encouraging that Kumon has embraced new technology, particularly social media, to engage with their customers and potential franchisees.  At the time of this writing, they had 18,404 Facebook fans and 619 Twitter followers, and they update their accounts frequently throughout the day.  These are the highest numbers I’ve seen for a non-food franchise company.

This gives me the confidence that they will take advantage of future technological advances to better engage with their customers and possibly offer alternative learning opportunities that leverage new technology.

And, in my opinion, for as long as there are traditional schools, there will be a need for an after-school program of some sort.  The social aspect of going to a formal after-school program and interacting with teachers and other students enhances the learning experience for most children.



I think Kumon is one of the few franchise opportunities out there where the owner can make a difference in the lives of children and earn a profit at the same time.  For the right franchisee, this could be the most rewarding and fulfilling business opportunity.

Check out my review of the Sylvan Learning franchise opportunity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Duzh2_eNlDQ

Are you a current franchisee of Kumon?  Is your Kumon franchise profitable?  Do you work for the Kumon franchise organization?  Can you share anything about the profit potential of the Kumon franchise?



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey H. October 25, 2011 at 8:24 pm

On FACEBOOK October 25, 2011

Stephanie Albaugh Bauer
I have two children that are currently enrolled in Kumon in Murrieta, CA and am extremely pleased with the progress they are making. I believe in the Kumon methods but am questioning their business practices. 1 week ago we received a notice from Kumon that our center was being closed and that 10/31 would be the last day the center would be open. The owner was not even made aware that these notices were sent out, even though her child is a student there. The parents and owner want to keep the center open but they are being forced to close against their will.
Like · · Saturday at 12:31am ·
Nicole Israelsen likes this.

Stephanie Albaugh Bauer In an effort to appease the parents and of course keep their royalties from students who choose to transfer to the next closest center, they are offering a voucher for 1 subject free for 1 month. The lack of communication, the disregard for the center, its owner, staff, and students astounds me. The notice that was sent had a number to call with questions which was in an incorrect number…..when I was able to get the correct number they were of no help. As a paying customer I feel I should have the right to know why a successful center that we are happy with is being closed! I was told that the information was confidential and was given the brush off. Again, I’m very happy with Kumon’s teaching methods but am utterly disappointed in their business practices. Shame on you Kumon North America!
Saturday at 12:31am · Like

Kumon Hi Stephanie, Thank you for your support of the Kumon Method of Learning, and we apologize for the inconvenience of having to transfer to a new center. Kumon North America makes decisions that are in the best interest of our students. For further questions call: 310-225-2968 x216.
Yesterday at 10:07am · Like

Reply

Nicole Smith December 1, 2011 at 7:27 am

Dear Stephanie,

I have had many conversations over the years with the owner of that centre, a delightful, intelligent and deeply dedicated instructor who struggled for many months with a mystifying series of confusing directives before being closed down against her will. I feel very much for you and other families who no longer have the benefit of her caring and well-informed instruction.

Because of this and other such cases, I have been in close contact with the new president of KNA, Mr Akira Hamanaka, to request an in-depth look at the way that KNA deals with its franchisees around terminations, especially in the US. There has been some progress made but I still have many questions about a number of recent cases including this one.

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any further questions through our website at info@kumonfranchisee.com

Warm regards,

Nicole

Reply

Josephine December 4, 2011 at 7:35 am

Unfortunately, Kumon North America as a franchisor is frequently arrogant and disrespectful of its hardworking franchisees who have invested an inordinate amount of time and money into a franchised location that too frequently is lucky to break even. The most recent indication of this callous disregard is its decision to email franchisees in the Central Region (Chicago, St. Louis, Dalla, Houston) on THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING that in the name of reaching more children it would be placing centers one to two miles from existing centers in highly populated areas, a blatant encroachment. Franchisees have until December 21 to comment on this. KNA is a grinch. BEWARE! If you decide to get involved with this franchisor, ask lots of questions about profitability. Run your numbers with eyes open. Your neighborhood instructors are very likely making a pittance if anything.

Reply

Nicole Smith December 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

Thanks for your comment, Josephine. That’s an excellent point about the new expansion plan both in terms of its intensity and the very poor timing, so insensitive to those franchisees who were devastated when they saw it and had their Thanksgiving weekend ruined.

The International Association of Kumon Franchisees (IAKF) is addressing this significant threat to the well-being of our members proactively and assertively through the affected chapters as well as individual franchisees in areas where we do not yet have a chapter.

The IAKF is wholly committed to growth of Kumon North America (KNA) as a whole and all franchisees, while standing firmly against growth that eviscerates individual centres. We believe in the vision of our beloved founder, Toru Kumon, who wanted to see Kumon reach as many children in as many areas as possible all over the world. In order for that vision to come to fruition, all centres have to be healthy in growth and and instruction and as long-term as possible, and we must continue every year to open centres in new markets instead of super-saturating existing ones.

Sadly, there are many, many parts of North America and all over the world where there is no centre available to children who badly need Kumon. It is urgent that the expansion address this important issue immediately. We will be discussing this in our first meeting with the new President of KNA, Mr Akira Hamanaka.

We have put the call out to franchisees to get in touch with us in they have any concerns about KNA but I wish to reiterate here that if you are a Kumon franchisee worried about expansion or being closed down or any franchise issue, email us at info@kumonfranchisee.com – if needed, I would be happy to give you an appointment for a phone meeting with me to discuss your case.

Warm regards,

Nicole,
President, IAKF

Reply

unhappy franchisee October 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Kumon used to be a good franchise to buy into, but now I will advise against it at least until the current management team is gone. Kumon North America is the most arrogant and cold hearted corporation I have ever seen. One month ago a FL instructor had a medical condition which temporarily prevented her from running her center. Her spouse put together a detailed plan of operation within two weeks which included:
staff supervision
Instructional support from local instructors
All aspects of center operation accounted for.
Two days later KNA rejected the plan and sent a termination letter citing:
Inadequate quality of instructors covering (instructors named are in good standing)
Inconsistency of observation (two instructors sharing observation) is not beneficial to students
No specific date of return of instructor.
This, while the instructor was in a medical crisis under the care of 4 doctors coordinating her tests and diagnosis who had already provided a tentative month of return.

5 days from the termination letter a notice was sent to local instructors and parents.

Immediately an offer came in from an elite instructor to take over instruction until the instructor could return. The next day this was also rejected by KNA. The center will close its doors at the end of this month, exactly 4.5 weeks start to finish while the owner is undergoing medical treatment.
Another example in California last year. A long time franchisee who managed a center with his wife for many years. Soon after he passed away, KNA didn’t allow the wife any time to grief. It asked her to make an immediate decision whether to sell or to close down the center. This is how KNA treats frachisees when they are in crisis. KNA should be banned from practicing in this country.

Reply

Nicole Smith March 12, 2013 at 4:14 am

Dear Unhappy Franchisee,

The case of the FL instructor whose centre closed October 31 was very distressing. The former instructor is a personal friend of mine and the main consolation I have is that she is now out of a situation of tremendous stress, and as such is doing much better. The sad thing is that it never should have happened. Kumon was in the process of working out a way she didn’t have to close her centre but the necessary communications were not in place, and re-opening the centre, as Kumon then proposed to do, turned out not to be a viable option.

The situation you mention in California is quite similar to another situation in a different state which was unfolding just as Mr Hamanaka first took office. Thankfully, in that case he intervened and the centre was not closed down.

There have been a number of important changes for the better in Kumon North America since October 2012 and signs that more positive change is coming. At the same time, our association continues to work hard to do our part toward the changes that are needed.

Nicole,
President, IAKF

Reply

Sabrena April 20, 2013 at 2:35 am

Was in the process of researching this franchise as a potential next move from corp. Glad to have found this site. The culture seemed to have changed in the short 5 years since I looked into this company as a franchise opportunity. Thanks for all the posts. I’ll continue my search for alternatives.

Reply

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