Stories from the Covid-19 Front Lines: Q&A with Multi-Unit Franchisee Aspen Ricks
As part of our ongoing coverage of Covid-19 and its effects on franchising, we’re asking franchisees what they’re doing to get through the crisis and come out the other side. If you’re a franchisee with a story to tell about what you’re doing to survive, help your employees, or inspire hope in other operators, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aspen Ricks has a history of community involvement in and around the Kansas City area where she operates four Children’s Lighthouse locations. In the past she has put together gift baskets for families in need and hosted food drives at her schools to collect canned and other non-perishable food items for families in need. Ricks says she’s always felt called to give back to her community – especially now.
How has Covid-19 affected your business?
At Children’s Lighthouse, we’ve been deemed an essential business as we provide care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. Like many small businesses, the pandemic has caused a decrease in sales for our school and we had to reduce hours for our employees. Our curriculum and care, however, have stayed the same. While we have reduced class sizes to help practice social distancing, we are doing everything in our power to keep our students on a normal schedule. In times of uncertainty, it’s important to provide children with a sense of stability and support.
What are you doing right now to get through this?
We believe that we have a responsibility to provide our community with educational, safe, and dependable childcare. So at our four schools in the Kansas City area we are keeping our foot on the gas and refuse to slow down until this pandemic is over. Like many, we’ve had to tighten the budget and cut back in certain areas. Where we’ve kept our focus, though, is on grassroots marketing efforts. We want to ensure that families in Johnson County know we’re open and able to care for their children. To keep spirits high and boost morale, we’ve created a calendar with a daily “fun event.” These events keep both our students and employees laughing and smiling and bring a little extra light into the day. Overall, we are staying positive and trying to help our employees and community as much as possible.
Is your franchisor helping keep you afloat? How?
Our team at the Children’s Lighthouse corporate office – or Franchisee Support Center, as we call it – have been incredible! They’ve been extremely communicative and transparent as new information is released. They are holding conference calls with the franchise system, check in with us individually on a regular basis, and provide us with all available programs to help our employees and families. They even cut our franchise royalties fees in half for the month of April. This, along with additional marketing materials and support, has been extremely helpful in keeping our business afloat.
What are you doing to help your employees through this?
We care deeply about the safety and well-being of our staff. So we’re providing all employees with a face mask, personal hand sanitizer, sanitation wipes, gloves, extra uniforms, and food if they need it. We’ve made it clear to our team that we are here for them and want to make sure they feel safe, happy, and supported. To keep spirits up, we’re also providing lunch throughout the week, offering special drinks and treats, as well as incorporating fun activities.
What are you doing for your customers?
We want to make sure that all those who need child care during these uncertain times have access to it. So we are offering discounted enrollment rates and providing families the option to change their schedule to part-time. We are being as flexible as possible to accommodate the needs of those in our community. We have also provided all of our families with personal hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes.
How are you working with your suppliers?
The City of Gardner has waived all electric fees for a month.
What are you doing about cash flow?
We have applied for the PPP, but we’re still waiting to receive funds.
What else would you like to see from your franchisor or government?
I would love to see the extra weekly $600 unemployment check also be given to essential workers on the front line.
How are you planning to reopen and rebuild your business post–Covid-19?
We’re hoping that by May, things will start to go back to normal and we will be operating as normal. That said, we intend to closely follow any updates regarding state and federal mandates. Before the coronavirus pandemic, our schools followed strict health and sanitation practices that have since been increased. We intend to maintain that standard moving forward to reduce the spread of germs and to ensure the well-being of our students, families, and staff.
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