This post is the first of two parts. To read Part 2, please click here.
You do the math: Nicole Smith’s oldest daughter was 6 years old when her mother started a Kumon Center in Pierrefonds, Canada, near Montreal. That same daughter is 24 years old today and Smith has remained a franchisee, selling her first center and opening a new one when she moved to southern Ontario in 2010.
Kumon is the world’s largest after-school math and reading enrichment program, allowing children to build better skills for a more successful educational experience and maximize their potential as a student. When Smith’s daughter was enrolled in a Kumon Center more than 18 years ago, her mother became so interested and involved in the program that she became a franchisee in 1996.
Over the years, Smith has seen the company and its franchise plan progress in a variety of ways, including improved training and operations, that have enhanced the franchisee experience, she said.
“Like many others, I opened my first Kumon in a church basement,” Smith, 47, told Franchise Chatter, noting that when she started her business, such a location was not unusual for a center. “But then my story kind of reflects the changing face of Kumon, because I took it into a commercial space in 2001. I was one of the first ones in my area to do that.”
Today, the company requires franchisees to operate in a commercial space, she said, though longtime franchisees who began operating in a less conventional space like a church or community center have been grandfathered in to remain operating where they are. Still, nearly all of the North American Kumons in the United States are located in a commercial space; and more than half of those in Canada have transferred to new spaces, with the ultimate goal of having all those in first tier markets in commercial space, she said.
A Professional Setting
“The thing about the commercial model is you can expand your student accommodation by opening more days and opening more hours because you have the space 24/7,” she said. The environment also conveys a much more professional setting, she added.
“I think people respond differently,” she said. “They have a much more casual, drop-in attitude when you’re in a church or community center. In a commercial space, they look at it more as a business. There are things that are easier to explain to customers when you’re in a more professional model.”
Another step Smith took to portray a more professional air was transferring her progress reports to a digital database that she can access by computer, instead of handwriting everything in record books.