Running a racquet and health club is a time-consuming business and one that Bruce Forsythe knew quite a bit about. He'd been running one with his partners in Long Island, N.Y. for about 14 years when the team decided to turn one of their former tennis court areas into a second - and different - business endeavor.
"Franchising is a turnkey setup," says the 52-year-old Forsythe. "We recognized that there was a need for childcare solutions here in the Long Island area and we liked what we saw with the Kiddie Academy franchise."
That was 10 years ago in 1998 when they opened their Kiddie Academy franchise in the Bay Shore area of Long Island. Kiddie Academy provides education-based childcare for children ages six weeks to 12 years old, including before- and after-school care and summer camp programs.
Forsythe, who has a Masters degree in Education, says he didn't really have much of a background in childcare but from his experience in operating the health club, he had a firm understanding of business fundamentals.
"Operating a childcare franchise can be helped by having a background in education," he says, "but it's perhaps even more important to have an understanding of the way a business operates."
One of the challenges for Forsythe in the early days was creating brand awareness in a market where a Kiddie Academy had never before appeared, but, he says, was desperately needed. "We had no track record," recalls Forsythe, "and you're talking about a business that cares for people's precious cargo."
Nevertheless, with hard work promoting on the ground and corporate franchise support, Forsythe built up a successful Kiddie Academy unit. Today, they have room for up to 155 kids, and utilize up to 30 teachers in their 11 classrooms. To keep it all running smoothly, he relies on a director, assistant director, a couple of clerical workers, and a cook.
Word of mouth has been another key to the success of Forsythe's Kiddie Academy. "Daycare is really based on trust and word of mouth," he says. "I'd estimate 70 - 80 percent of our business is from word of mouth."
One of the biggest rewards for Forsythe is seeing siblings filing in years after brothers and sisters have been there. "And just knowing from talking to parents that what we do here prepares their children better for school. They often tell me their kids are much more advanced than many of their peers."
According to Forsythe, the Kiddie Academy corporate office continues to monitor, evaluate, and update the curriculum to make sure it's providing the best learning opportunities possible for kids. He likes that they are constantly seeking improvements and embrace change when it makes sense.
The independent health club and the Kiddie Academy franchise co-exist quite nicely, according to Forsythe. He says he's even picked up some new kids for his Kiddie Academy because their parents were working out at the health club and noticed the franchise next door.
Forsythe says he's hands on as the "onsite managing partner" keeping an eye on revenue and expenses, reviewing reports, and overseeing advertising and marketing efforts. He says franchisees really need to be active in operating a Kiddie Academy or have "a really great director onsite."
"Childcare franchising is here to stay," adds Forsythe. "With working parents it's just something that's necessary in our culture." He loves providing a secure environment for kids and is proud of the fact that his franchise doesn't just babysit children but rather, teaches them and prepares them for the next stage in life.
"That is truly satisfying," he says.
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