Daycare and childcare services are a must for some parents. But the hunt for a reliable and respectable facility can be a huge pain. You constantly worry if your child is being taken care of properly and this constant stress can drive you up the wall. Guy Falzarano, founder of Lightbridge Academy, brings advanced daycare to all. We spoke with Guy to learn more about his business, the future of his business, and advice for franchise owners.
Tell us about the history of the franchise and how you have been involved?
My wife Julia and I founded the company as Rainbow Academy in 1997. It started as a family-owned business with 10 employees, five of which were relatives.
In 2011, the company began franchising in an effort to expand beyond our New Jersey footprint. Since then, we have rebranded as Lightbridge Academy and grown the company to 17 child care franchises open throughout New Jersey employing over 450 and serving over 2,400 children.
Currently, we are regionally expanding with 44 child care centers under development in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.
What makes your franchise unique?
At Lightbridge Academy, we view everything through the lens of our Core Values and our Circle of Care Philosophy. Children are at the center of our Circle of Care but we also recognize that positive relationships with parents, staff, owners and the community are integral to the child’s development.
For that reason we strive to treat everyone within that Circle of Care with the same excellence, integrity and leadership that we devote toward our children.
One of the primary ways we extend our caring philosophy and ultimately differentiate ourselves in the marketplace is through innovative technology. Lightbridge Academies are equipped with interactive white boards; private, live-streaming “ParentView” video camera systems; and our parent eCommunication tool that allows us to communicate with parents during the day by sending pictures and video of their child. This system allows us to create electronic portfolios and track developmental milestones for each child. Biometric scanners and electronic door systems are also crucial elements that provide our parents with peace of mind. Each of these innovative technologies helps us to not only build trust with parents, but also encourages them to get more involved in the center.
What exciting things are you working on?
This is certainly an exciting time at Lightbridge Academy. We recently sold our 62nd franchise and were featured in the March issue of Entrepreneur magazine as one of the Top 50 New Franchises in the United States. Franchise Gator, an industry publication, also recently ranked us as both a Top Emerging Franchise and as one of the Fastest Growing Franchises in the country.
To help us with our rapid growth, we recently formed Lightbridge Properties – a partnership with a prominent development company – that permits us the freedom and flexibility to source and develop properties for Centers. That will allow our franchisees to be our tenants rather than relying on a third party.
This week, we also registered in Maryland and are now actively seeking franchisees. Other key growth areas are Southern NJ (Philly suburbs), Eastern Pennsylvania, New York City and Long Island.
Where do you see the business in the next 3-5 years?
Lightbridge Academy is growing at a swift yet strategically responsible pace. We anticipate having over 100 centers open throughout the Northeast in the next 3-5 years.
What advice would you give to people looking to start a franchise?
Potential franchisees should try to find a business model that best fits their needs and desires. Above all, they should pick something that makes them happy – always be happy in what you’re doing. It’s the passion for your work that will drive you toward success. Also take a keen look at your franchise company’s communication structure. Do you have a voice, or will you be treated like a cog in a wheel? At Lightbridge, we want to get better every day. Our owners are included in our Circle of Care and we believe that every new voice helps to make us better.
For companies looking to become a franchisor, I have three lessons to share that I’ve learned from experience:
1: Perfect your model.
2: Make sure all metrics work and are replicable.
3: You need to support your franchisees and make them successful. Put them first and the revenue will follow.