Over the last 20 years, education franchises have exploded from a handful of tutoring and lesson-giving franchises to dozens if not hundreds of different franchises that are changing the ways kids and adults learn inside and outside the traditional classroom. Although some of the largest education franchises, like Sylvan Learning Centers, Huntington Learning Centers and Kumon have been in existence 30 years or more, many smaller franchisors are finding that parents want more opportunities for their children to learn and expand their horizons.
According to Entrepreneur.com, children’s businesses, the majority of which are educational in nature, are a major area of growth in franchising right now. Parents’ willingness to spend money to make sure their kids’ learning is up to par or ahead of their peers is one big reason for the current growth trend. Another reason: more families have two working parents, leaving the family little time for homework help or other at-home learning experiences.
Educational franchises fill a need parents have for after school care or to supplement an education that more and more parents aren’t sure is preparing their children to excel in college and career. "I think the No Child Left Behind initiative actually gave parents better access to information about how well their schools are performing," says Deven Klein, vice president of franchising at Kumon. "Parents have the ability to make sure their children are getting the academic skills they need to succeed."
While there has always been a need for tutoring help in reading, math and SAT/ACT prep, many newer education franchises are focused on enrichment rather than remedial or practical help. Having their students do well in school is no longer enough for parents who know that the college and career world has become fiercely competitive in many fields of study.
For educators who want lighter schedules or to be their own bosses, opening an education franchise has some distinct advantages. Having an education franchise can give educators the opportunity to work with kids who really want to learn and are usually excited to be in their classes.
Additionally, education can be a demanding field in terms of the time teachers spend preparing, teaching, and grading papers. Education franchises offer the opportunity to maximize income while minimizing the work involved, since most programs are already developed and have set curricula without much grading to do.
Educators can see the difference their efforts make in the lives of kids (and some adults) when they run a tutoring or enrichment franchise, and some franchises, like Mathnasium, also provide services to the underprivileged in their communities at the same time.
Area of Growth: STEM Programs
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Getting kids involved in these subjects is a huge focus area for educators and has spawned a growing number of STEM-based franchises offering after school programs and enrichment classes. An increasing awareness that schools often don’t do a good job teaching STEM curricula at high levels is fueling this franchise trend.
Even within the STEM niche, franchises have different approaches and specialties. Zaniac and Bricks 4 Kids focus on the technology and engineering aspects of STEM, offering classes in web design, creative Lego-building, and even fashion design. Mathnasium focuses on math, both remedial and enrichment, while Mad Science targets hands-on science learning. What they all have in common: extending learning beyond what typically goes on at school so that students are excited about STEM subjects and can learn more of what interests them.
Area of Growth: Leisure Education
Dance and music franchises have been around for many years, but arts and other leisure activities like cooking and drama have expanded the leisure education area of franchising in recent years. Whereas most students in previous generations took art, music, and cooking classes at their schools, budget cuts and other financial pressures have forced many to cut back on these secondary subjects. Parents may be looking to enrichment classes to fill these gaps, or may just be looking to allow their children to pursue these interests in a deeper way than the school day allows.
At Drama Kids International, students can experience both sides of the stage, while Young Rembrandts partners with schools and communities to allow kids to develop their artistic side. Arts and leisure franchises grow well-rounded, creative, and artistic kids in ways that their school may no longer do.
Area of Growth: Kids’ Fitness
A more sedentary lifestyle and more availability of unhealthy food has led to an increase in childhood obesity. No more do kids go running outside to play after school. In many cases, they are cooped up at day care or inside the house for safety reasons while parents work or do household chores.
Kids’ fitness classes, such as child-oriented yoga or running, are seen as one way to get kids moving without the heavy commitment or competitive aspects of youth sports. New franchises like Imagination Yoga and Apex Fun Run can show kids that being active is something fun they can do with other kids, without being focused on winning games or competing and without practicing on a daily basis.
Area of Growth: Adult Learning/Vocational Training
Although the majority of education franchises are geared toward those under 18, adult learning is an area that seeks to meet the needs of adults to continue learning. A wide variety of franchises are springing up to meet these needs, which range from new or ongoing job training to driver education for personal or job needs.
Some franchises geared toward adults also focus on leisure education. Adults can learn new dance moves at Fred Astaire Dance Academy or cooking skills at Viva La Chef. Such leisure education franchises may not be as recession-proof as those that serve children, though, since adults are less likely to spend money on themselves than they are on their kids when times get tough.
How Education Franchises are Changing
One threat to the growth of education franchises is the growing popularity of online learning, which can cut into a business that relies on students coming to their location for classes or sessions. To counter this threat, some franchises are revamping their programs to add online options. Sylvan Learning Center, one of the oldest and largest tutoring franchises, has recently added online and in-home options to their program.
Other franchises are offering at-home tutoring as well, and some newer franchises are even geared entirely toward in-home services. In-home sessions offer busy parents the convenience of not having to travel, and for franchisees, it can save them money when they can run the business from home without needing their own physical location in which to conduct classes or sessions.
One newer franchise taking advantage of the shift toward online learning is Tabtor Math, a tablet-based online math program that kids K-8 can do at home whenever they have time. A tutor reviews the work kids do each day and gives feedback to both students and parents. Franchisees run Tabtor Academies where they handle the tutoring for students in a particular area, even though most tutors never meet with students or parents face to face.
Another option for franchises is to work with existing after-school programs to provide learning programs. e2 Young Engineers uses this method to avoid building costs while benefiting programs already in place.
Having a well-defined niche is another way newer education franchises are thriving in the current market. Parents and kids have widely varying interests, and what attracts people to a franchise is a well-defined sense of need for what the franchise is offering. The market for tutoring services may be fairly well saturated by a few big names, but offering specific programs for enrichment may be just what a particular community is looking for.
The Impact of Education Franchises on Education
Education franchises are focused on meeting the needs of students, and to some extent, their parents as well. Parents who sign children up for quality franchise programs are beginning to realize that education should be responsive to students’ needs and geared toward subjects that will both interest them and develop their intellectual or creative skills in some way. Franchisees need to satisfy parents, who will just take their dollars elsewhere if their expectations aren’t met.
The rise of charter schools and greater school choices may be related to the expansion of education franchises, with positive experiences with franchises leading parents to wonder if there isn’t a better way to educate their kids than what some public schools offer. Charter schools tend to be more innovative and responsive to students’ needs, similar to franchises. When parents figure out that they have more opportunities as well as a greater level of choice in their kids’ education, they are more likely to demand that their child’s entire education meet perceived needs.
The rise of education franchises seems to be making education more responsive to students’ specific needs, whether for tutoring or enrichment. Many tutoring franchises test students to find out what skills they need to work on before proceeding. Enrichment franchises are typically small enough to be responsive to student’s needs while still following the set programs that make them popular.
Educational franchises may also encourage parents to homeschool their children, since students can get the social interaction they need from the extra classes offered by franchises. Homeschool parents don’t need to worry that their children will fall behind when they have all of these educational options to tutor and enrich students.
How do Education Franchises Compare to Others?
One of the great things about an education franchise is that licensing costs are relatively low compared to other popular franchises. Even larger, well-established franchises have buy-in costs that are just a fraction of the cost of a well-known restaurant franchise, for instance.
One drawback of an education franchise can be a lack of perceived need for the service. Marketing is key to building a solid customer base and showing parents the need for tutoring or enrichment. An education franchise may begin as a part-time endeavor and grow into a more steady business as the reputation grows. There are many effective ways to market an education franchise, and the number of children in society is also growing, adding to the demand for education franchises.
Finding a market in an affluent area with little competition and a large number of children will give an education franchisee the greatest chance for success. If your area already has several well-attended tutoring centers, another one may not flourish unless you can distinguish it from others. If a few STEM-based programs are already operating, another one may seem unnecessary to parents. Then again, parents who have already sent their kids to one or more programs may be looking for more options. Doing some market research before making a decision will help you gauge the possibility of success.
Everyone needs to eat, and most people eat out at least occasionally, but how many students in the area already participate in an education program outside of school? If consumers can’t see the need for it, they aren’t likely to spend money there. In most communities, though, there are at least some parents looking for after school programs or enrichment opportunities, you just need to identify and market to them, or partner with schools or other groups that can reach them for you.
As of 2008, education companies represented nearly 20 billion dollars in revenue spread across over 5,000 locations in the United States. An estimated 74 million school age children are potential users of these services, a number that is still growing. For a franchise that provides vibrant and unique learning experiences that parents see as valuable for their children’s development, the sky is the limit in terms of both revenue and satisfaction with the task of helping kids learn.
Franchise Gator offers education franchises for those who want to help their communities and serve families looking for more educational opportunities for their kids.