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A word with Steve Clemente of Primrose Schools

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Steve Clemente

Idaho is growing, employees are having trouble finding child care and people are looking for new ways to have their own business. The result is that, a number of franchise businesses in child care and preschool education are spreading across the United States.

One of those is Primrose Schools, which currently has more than 450 schools operating in 32 states. In May, it announced its entrance into the Boise market, where it is working to identify locations for franchise owners. The company opened 28 schools in 2020 branching into three new states, with an additional 150 locations in the pipeline.

Idaho Business Review sat down with Steve Clemente, president of Primrose Schools, to talk about the organization’s plans to move into Idaho.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

People usually think of franchises in terms of McDonald’s. How does a franchised school work?

Due to the vast presence of quick service restaurant chains across America, there is a common misconception that franchising is synonymous with brands like McDonald’s, but there are actually thousands of different franchise concepts that span across a variety of industries.

At Primrose Schools, we have a  franchise model that offers a business opportunity for entrepreneurs. We support our franchise owners with what they need to thrive and grow, starting with our Balanced Learning approach.

Over our nearly 40-year history, Primrose Schools has become synonymous with early education and care. While entrepreneurs seek us out for our value proposition, Primrose also has a  franchise owner approval process to ensure we choose candidates who share our passion for providing the children we serve with a foundation for a lifelong love of learning.

Moreover, Primrose Schools not only provides franchise owners a stake in our vision to deliver early education and care, but it also offers an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and families in their community.

What’s the advantage of using a franchise operation rather than opening one’ s own school?

In addition to becoming part of a nationally recognized early education and care brand, Primrose Schools supplies franchise owners with  support throughout their ownership journey. In Boise, Primrose’s development team is curating properties that were in many cases previously used for early education and child care — allowing owners to have a student-ready location in as little as eight months.

By contrast, an independent owner starting from scratch would have to go through the process of not only entering the market and identifying a site, but also deciphering what locations would be more suitable for a child care center — which have very particular requirements. Once that process is complete, an independent owner would then have to undergo the process of opening the school, which is multi-faceted comprising business, education, hiring and of course safety elements, on their own.

In addition to support through the initial processes of bringing a school to life, Primrose franchise owners receive more than 200 hours of training prior to opening and are given operational, marketing and educational guidance throughout the lifetime of the school. The National Support Center provides them with what they need to succeed, while independent operators would need to be responsible for those things on their own.

 How is your business different from other franchise preschools?

We have several differentiators that set us apart from other early education and care franchises, with the most distinctive being our curriculum. Unlike other early education brands, our curriculum is developed by a team of experts in conjunction with the Primrose education team and is provided to franchise owners so the teachers at Primrose schools can stay focused on your child rather than writing lesson plans. With this approach, each Primrose school is positioned to provide the same premier experience regardless of location. If a family relocates from California to Boise and enrolls in a local Primrose school, their children will be able to pick up right where they left off at the previous Primrose school.

Additionally, the National Support Center provides service and support to franchise owners throughout the lifetime of their agreement. The Primrose National Support Center is comprised of teams of industry experts ranging from development, education, operations, training, marketing, etc. who are dedicated to ensuring franchise owners have the tools and knowledge they need to be successful. Along with the support from the National Support Center, each school has a designated school business consultant and school marketing consultant who provide ongoing operational, marketing, training and educational support and expertise. Not all franchises do that.

It is because of these investments, processes and criteria that Primrose is an industry leader among other early education franchise systems and has been ranked the No. 1 child care franchise by Entrepreneur for five consecutive years running from 2017-2021.

What sort of curriculum do you offer, and for what grades? Is it a school or is it daycare?

Primrose schools are private preschools focused on learning that offer early education and care. In fact, we were the first early childhood education organization to earn national accreditation from AdvancED, now known as Cognia. We serve children ranging from infants to kindergarten; additionally, our After School Explorer Program and Summer Adventure Club are available for older children ages 5 through 12.

All Primrose schools implement our proprietary Balanced Learning curriculum, which is our exclusive and research-informed approach to early learning. The Primrose Education Team consults with the Primrose Early Learning Council, a panel of nationally recognized experts, to regularly evaluate and innovate. This ensures that the Balanced Learning curriculum is aligned with leading philosophies, current research and early learning standards. Our Balanced Learning curriculum provides a roadmap of daily classroom experiences that foster intellectual, creative, physical and social-emotional development. It allows teachers to focus on observing, assessing and adapting the learning journey for each child rather than lesson planning.

What staff requirements do you have?

Each Primrose school is independently owned and operated, with the respective franchise owners offering employment opportunities for teachers and school support staff at their locations. This includes maintaining lower teacher-student classroom ratios than most state and industry standards.

With Primrose franchise owners coming from different backgrounds, we help ensure they are prepared to deliver the Primrose standards by providing 119 hours of classroom and eLearning training as well as 40 hours of on-the-job training. For school directors and other leadership staff, we also conduct a training program hosted by the National Support Center to ensure the school is equipped to serve the needs of Primrose children and families.

What locations in Idaho are you looking at?

We are currently focusing on the greater Boise-Nampa metropolitan area, which according to U.S. Census Bureau data is one of the 10 fastest growing cities in America in 2020.

What demographics do your students have?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded in Primrose values of fairness and social responsibility. We are committed to ensuring everyone we encounter feels a sense of belongingness.

Where else does your organization have schools, and what results are they getting?

Primrose currently has more than 450 schools in 32 states and is continuing to explore opportunities across the United States. A full list of markets where Primrose currently has a footprint can be found on our website.

After a long year of navigating a global pandemic where access to child care was severely limited, the need for early education and care has never been more prevalent. Demand remains high for our existing schools, many of which have enrollment waitlists.

How do you navigate the different education laws in each state? In particular, what laws does Idaho have that are different from those in your other locations?

Primrose franchise owners are licensed through the state in which their school is located, and are required to follow applicable regulations to maintain a child care license. In addition, our school business consultants review state standards to support the school in meeting the standards prior to opening.

How much state funding do your schools and pupils typically receive?

States differ in regard to funding for schools and/or students, state subsidies, programs and other assistance such as military assistance. Decisions are made by franchise owners, but our National Support Center and school excellence teams guide them to programs that are available in their respective state.

Franchises are usually thought of in the context of a business operation. How does your company, and the franchisee, make money?

Our schools’ revenue is derived from tuition fees, and Primrose Schools earns royalty fees from each location’s gross revenue. Tuition rates and gross revenue per school varies, but each Primrose school has the capacity to serve an average of 185 to 210 students, depending on school size, staff and market.

Primrose Schools are in the top five of Forbes’ most recent List of America’s Best Franchises to Buy.

How much does the franchisee pay?

Project costs and fees vary dependent upon the type of agreement and can be found in our Franchise Disclosure Document.

What sort of response have you gotten?

We already have had several conversations from potential franchise owners in the Boise area. The Boise community has embraced our expansion into the community, and we are confident that our future franchise owners will be excited to bring additional early education and child care options to a wonderful and welcoming area.

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