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Value of education franchises grow during pandemic

By John Collins

The value of education franchises such as Kumon Learning Centre have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic
The value of education franchises such as Kumon Learning Centre have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic

Franchises in the education industry received a substantial boost from an unlikely source: the pandemic.

Education enrichment franchises were already experiencing strong growth before COVID because of the increased competition for spots in leading universities and parents’ desire to give their kids an edge as they pursue secondary education and enter the job market. When COVID forced schools to close and switch to virtual learning, parents scrambled to not only prevent their kids from falling behind but also to give them every advantage moving forward.

A spike in demand for education enrichment services coincided with “The Great Resignation,” which led to an unprecedented number of employees leaving their jobs in search of more meaningful work.

“Many entrepreneurial-minded individuals seek to change their lifestyles by opening their own business, and they appreciate that franchising offers a proven business model, established systems, and extensive training,” says Mike Shim, senior vice president of field operations for Kumon North America. “Kumon experienced a tremendous increase in interest from teachers, especially, who want to have greater control over their schedule and their future but want to use their classroom experience to continue to make a difference in the lives of children. The corporate support is a big draw, as this is a first business venture for most of them.”

Kumon added 65 new centers in 2021 to total more than 2000 locations in the U.S. and Canada. This year, Kumon anticipates extremely strong growth in Canada. After-school enrichment programs like Kumon are worth $23.5 billion in the U.S.

Former teacher Georgette Kankwende, now the owner-operator of Kumon Center of Fort Worth-Woodland Springs, Texas, was thrilled to trade in her 80-minute-per-day commute to the school where she worked for a five-minute drive to her own business in January 2021.

“Enrollment has been really good,” Kankwende says. “I could tell in the first three months that there was a need for Kumon in my area, and it really hasn’t slowed down at all. We now have more than 150 students.”

The need for education enrichment services is expected to continue. The education consultant McKinsey & Company reports the lingering effects of the pandemic persist. For junior kindergarten to Grade 12 students in the 2021-2022 school year, that translated to being an average of five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.

Kumon Center owners say they are limited in the number of students they can serve without sacrificing customer service or social distancing, so the increased demand for education enrichment is resulting in not only healthy enrollment at existing centers but also a need for more centers.

Shim and his team are actively recruiting new Kumon franchisees. Although startup costs are a concern for many new small business owners, Shim says Kumon’s staff does all that they can to make building new centers affordable for franchise owners such as lower franchisee feels and incentives to help offset the costs of marketing, signage, furniture, and more necessary to open a new center.

“We keep costs low so that Kumon instructors can launch their businesses in the best possible financial shape,” he says. “Our team is here to help Kumon Center owners succeed so that we can meet the needs of more families.”

John Collins is Kumon North America’s vice president of center network development.   

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