Established in Ft. Worth, TX in 1995, Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers is the leading values-based educational childcare system in the United States. The combination of a comprehensive curriculum for young children, nurturing care, and a business model that has produced a zero percent franchise failure rate, puts Children’s Lighthouse at the head of its class. Currently, Children’s Lighthouse has 29 centers in operation and 20 additional franchise locations in its development pipeline.
Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers typically occupy approximately 10,000 square-feet of space in major metropolitan areas. Learning Centers offer ample play areas both inside and out, on-site meal services, after-school programs for kids up to age 12, summer camps and safe, secure environments. Learning Centers give parents peace of mind with online video links to rooms, computerized building entry, security monitoring and transportation to and from area elementary schools.
The following is my exclusive interview Steve Dixon, VP of Franchise Sales for Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers. In it, Steve shares a lot of interesting information that explains why this educational childcare franchise is enjoying a lot of positive momentum in terms of growth and popularity.)
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you share with us the story of how Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers got its start?
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Steve Dixon (SD): Patrick and Mike Brown formed the company in 1994 and opened their first location in 1995. They were looking for an industry at the time that did not suffer the same boom-and-bust cycles as oil and gas. They eventually opened 8 company-owned schools which remain in operation today.
Along the way, they were approached to franchise their business which led to Children’s Lighthouse Franchise Company, currently with 21 franchises open and 20 additional franchises in site development/construction. The franchise company and company-owned stores remain family owned, the executive team possesses 125+ years of child care experience.
FC: For those unfamiliar, please tell us about the programs that you offer at Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers?
SD: Children’s Lighthouse offers educational child care for children from 6 weeks to 6 years old (plus after-school care to 12 years). The preschool readiness A Beka program that we use emphasizes language development, listening skills, beginning phonics, identification and classification of objects, numbers and number concepts and art. Manners, values and morals are also emphasized.
Pre-Kindergarten classrooms are equipped with computers and age-appropriate learning games.
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The Children’s Lighthouse Character Values program is included in every classroom and all children learn morals through songs, art, games, role play and story books. Values that are taught consist of fairness, manners, kindness, courage, integrity and caring. Each value is defined by a simple definition that is easy for children to understand. For example, integrity is defined as, “we do the right thing no matter who’s watching.”
SD: Our operational support and guidance is extremely comprehensive and is the leading contributor to our 0% franchise failure rate.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for Children’s Lighthouse?
SD: We have franchisees from many different backgrounds, from business to education to law. The general theme of all of them is a desire to make a difference in the community and a passion for children.
FC: What is the ideal neighborhood and territory for Children’s Lighthouse?
SD: We like to locate near elementary schools and neighborhoods where we see a certain number of children between 0-4 and 5-9. We also need to achieve our number in median household income, parental education attainment and general 3-5 mile radius population.
SD: They begin by following our pre-opening marketing model to achieve the highest possible enrollment level before ever opening for business. They then manage the business per our best practices, which are relayed through quarterly visits, online intranet comparisons and training. A never-ending focus on marketing, customer service and cleanliness are basic tenets that are the foundation of everything else.
FC: What are some of the things you are doing to help your franchisees become profitable?
SD: In addition to the above-mentioned marketing and operational best practices, we do not charge royalties until the franchisee has 100 children enrolled or 3 months have passed, whichever is first. We are dedicated to helping our franchisees achieve acceptable performance levels first!
FC: What are your goals for Children’s Lighthouse in the next few years and how do you plan to grow your business?
SD: Our goal as a franchise company is to have 100 franchises within 5 years. To get there, we will need to continue selecting excellent franchise owners, working hard to find locations that meet our criteria, and exceed expectations in franchise operational support/consulting. We will grow the business by executing on all the basics that we have built into our system by learning from our company-owned store network and franchise owners.
FC: What advice can you give prospective franchisees on how to evaluate the overwhelming number of franchise opportunities available to them?
SD: Anyone considering a franchise today should make sure they are passionate about the business mission and can see themselves helping to deliver that mission in their local community each and every day. Beyond that, a deep investigation of the culture of the franchisor and the performance history of its franchisees should be a top priority.
FC: Finally, what advice can you offer new franchisees on how to increase their chances for success in the educational childcare business?
SD: A key factor is exceptional customer service and a quality education at the retail level. Is the child learning and enjoying the process each day? Does the parent have a positive experience when dropping off the child each day?
Another important point is to take full advantage of the expert advice offered by the franchise company and its business consultants. That advice (in Children’s Lighthouse’s business model) comes in the form of quarterly visits, annual owners’ conferences, and continuous phone support available all times. Following the program that has been developed by the franchisor is the foundation for success!