In response to the nationwide crisis in early childhood education, the private childcare sector is flourishing. Industry research firm IBISWorld projects that the $46.6 billion childcare industry will continue to grow in 2014 and beyond as the economy recovers, unemployment decreases, and more parents reenter the workforce. For more than 30 years, Primrose Schools®, an Atlanta-based educational preschool provider, has been a preeminent brand, pushing for excellence and innovation. Now more than ever, Primrose is perfectly situated to address the growing need for high-quality education nationwide. Jo Kirchner, President and CEO, has shepherded the company from its humble beginnings with four schools to the national leader it is today with more than 275 franchised locations across 19 states serving more than 60,000 children and families.
The demand for high-quality educational childcare has never been higher in this country. More and more women are in the workforce, creating dual-income families that require both parents to juggle careers while rearing small children. Layer this trend on top of an increasingly competitive global economy, and it’s easy to see why business and political leaders across the U.S. are becoming more aware of the important connection between the first five years and the development of the future workforce. They are catching up to what those of us in early childhood have long understood: the vital connection between the first five years of a child’s life, and that child’s future ability to succeed in school and beyond. The brains of young children develop faster than at any other time in life, and what happens in these very early years lays a critical foundation for future academic, work and life success. In 2010, McKinsey & Company conducted research on education reform and found that high-quality preschool does more for a child’s chances of success in school and life than any other education intervention. Without access to developmentally-appropriate daily stimulation, children run the very real risk of starting elementary school behind – a position from which it’s difficult to ever catch up in today’s fast-paced world.
The Primrose Experience
Primrose continues to succeed as the leader in educational child care because we have taken the best from successful early childhood education philosophies and blended them into a Balanced Learning® curriculum that emphasizes early language and math skills right alongside character development. Everything we do in our classrooms is carefully designed to support age-appropriate social, emotional, cognitive, creative and physical development, or what we refer to as Active Minds, Healthy Bodies and Happy Hearts®. By partnering with and empowering parents, we also help emphasize that learning doesn’t have to stop when the school day is over.
We put a special emphasis on character development, an all-too-often overlooked aspect of early childhood development that research strongly supports as critically important. These life and executive functioning skills, which include such foundationally important skills as communication, teamwork, adaptability, delayed gratification, self-control, grit, and perseverance, are the same 21st century skills today’s employers find are lacking in many emerging college graduates today.
Driven by a firm commitment to consistently provide high-quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood education, Primrose was the first early childhood education organization in the country to receive AdvancED Corporation Systems Accreditation under the new Standards for Quality Early Learning Schools. This accreditation ensures all of ours schools meet the highest quality standards and shows we are continually improving student learning. We are proud that our company was a trailblazer that helped AdvancED set the standards by which all private preschools are now measured around the globe.
In addition to our primary focus on early childhood education, we also pride ourselves in our franchise owners’ strong partnership with families – providing quality care and extending learning opportunities at home through our many parent communication avenues, from newsletters and emails to parent conferences and school events.
Each school is independently owned and operated by a franchise owner, who provides leadership and acts as CEO of their school(s), recruiting a strong management team to help hire staff and oversee daily operations.
As the demand for high-quality educational childcare continues to rise, we’re increasingly seeing Primrose parents take action into their own hands. Based on their personal experiences with the brand, more and more Primrose parents and even grandparents are expressing interest in investing in early childhood education and inquiring about how to own a Primrose franchise. In fact, in what we believe is a true testament to both our educational and business models and our strong partnership with parents, 73 percent of current franchise owners were once parents of a Primrose school student. Another seven percent knew a child who attended or personally worked in a Primrose school. They recognize that it can be both a highly rewarding and lucrative business that provides them better job security through business ownership, more time with their families, and a greater opportunity to positively impact their local communities.
Another development we’ve witnessed over the past 30-plus years is a greater diversity in the ethnicity and professional backgrounds of our franchise owners. Many have transitioned from high-growth industries such as tech services, international business, healthcare, and professional sports. Adela and Victor Taboada, franchise owners of the Primrose School of Ashburn in Ashburn, VA, are prime examples of both trends. Victor previously ran a successful industrial manufacturing company that he founded in Venezuela, then transitioned to the real estate market in the U.S. before deciding to own and operate a Primrose School with his wife, Adela.
An additional trend is the evolution of single-unit franchise owners who invest and become multi-unit franchise owners. In fact, nearly one in four Primrose franchise owners own multiple schools, representing an industry high. Franchise owners Noel and Pratiksha Rigley own multiple schools throughout Texas, including the Primrose School of Firewheel; Primrose School of Preston in downtown Dallas; Primrose School of Plano at Deerfield; and they will soon open Primrose School of Frisco West in early spring 2014.
Expanding the Business and Building Partnerships
System revenue at Primrose was at an all-time high in 2013 and included the strongest quarter on record in our 32-year history. We opened 20 schools and awarded 44 franchising agreements – an increase of 12 percent and 47 percent, respectively, over the previous year. Between 2010 and 2012 we experienced strong revenue growth and were up nearly 50 percent in new franchise awards year over year. These strong system results fueled our current aggressive development plans.
As part of these plans, we recently expanded our presence coast-to-coast with the opening of our first California school in Pleasanton. We’ve also identified expansion communities in four key California markets that have a high demand for quality child care: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose. Each new California Primrose school will positively impact the state’s economy by creating approximately 25 to 30 new jobs and awarding approximately two million to two and a half million dollars in local development contracts.
However, California isn’t the only state in our growth strategy. We’ve also identified communities in Boston, Chicago, D.C/Northern Virginia, Minnesota and New Jersey where we expect to see Primrose schools soon. To continue this upward momentum, we plan to award 40 additional franchises and open 25 new schools – including our 300th school in 2014. By 2020, we hope to have opened our 500th school.
As the nation focuses more on the early development of young children and continues to call for higher quality education, Primrose will continue to answer through our expansion and through our advocacy for at-risk children whose families cannot afford to attend our schools. We’ve built strategic partnerships with organizations like AdvancED, Reach Out and Read, ReadyNation, and Save the Children to collaboratively help close the achievement gap for disadvantaged children and families across the country. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), 43 percent of nationwide pre-school children enrolled in programs meet less than half of the quality standard benchmarks – a startling figure that has Primrose committed to sharing our proven success formula through our involvement with these groups.
There has never been a better time to invest in early childhood education. As the old saying goes, tiny acorns can grow up to be mighty oaks with the right blend of care and attention. What could be more rewarding than planting the seeds for our future and watching them flourish?
Jo Kirchner is the President and CEO of Primrose Schools®, a national accredited private preschool that offers premier educational child care to children ages six weeks to five years. Jo is an active board member of AdvancED, Reach Out and Read, ReadyNation and also on the Executive Committee of the Early Care and Education Consortium.
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