I have three kids, and they're the best thing that's ever happened to me. But you know what? They also drive me crazy like no one else in the world can. If you've never thought that before about your own kids – well, I'd venture to guess you don't have any! Owning a kids education business isn't much different. Some days it's “Who IS this spoiled brat?!?”, and other days, it's “Wow, these kids are AMAZING!”. Like having real kids, the positive rewards of a Kids Ed business can certainly outweigh the negatives you'll face. But unlike having real kids, you might actually make some money instead of spending it on the latest fidget spinners or doll craze!
I've been in the Kids Ed business for over 5 years now, having bought a School of Rock franchise (teaching kids to play rock music in a performance setting) and having created my own franchise system, the Coder School (teaching kids to program computers). I'd say you learn a thing or two after having thousands of kids – angels, brats, geniuses, OCD, ADD, even two blind kids - go through your schools. While I haven't owned a restaurant, cleaning service, or retail business before, I can safely say there are a few things that make a Kids Ed business different.
So let's dig into what makes a Kids Ed business the oxymoron that makes you love it but hate it too. Along the way, I'll hopefully give you a sense of what it feels like to own one, and maybe even help you see if it's right for you.
It's Usually a Straightforward Business Model
Whether you're teaching music, kung fu, or coding, these businesses usually have a pretty straightforward business model. There's no food to spoil, no inventory to manage, no secret formulas to keep... Often, your main costs come down to labor and rent.
In my two schools, it's about as straightforward as you can get. Parents pay a monthly fee at the start of the month, and I pay our instructors and coaches as they spend their time teaching kids. Add on a little bit of equipment here and there, and it's a pretty simple business model.
Now does that mean the business is easy? Heck no! It means you're focusing on other things, like quality, marketing, or scheduling - and especially customer relationships.
It's All About the Parents. Oh yeah, the kids too.
Speaking of customer relationships, it's uber-important in Kids Ed. When I first opened my Coder School, I spent almost the entire 5 hours we were open each day just chatting with parents and getting to know them. The kids are who you're teaching – but your clients are really the parents. When they get to know you as a person, and trust that you're taking care of their kid, it goes a long, long way towards customer retention (and it's fun, too!).
I'll give you a great example – my son's dentist. This is a guy that I see maybe once every 6 months for about 2 minutes each time. Twice now, I've seen him outside of his office – once in a restaurant, and once at the airport – and both times he came up to me and said “Hey Hansel, how's it going?”. My response? “Hey... there... guy... (and who are you again??)”! Here's a guy who has hundreds of kids as patients, sees me for a few minutes a year, and he remembers my name when we're outside his office. I'll tell you what, I have no idea what he does to my kid's teeth, but to me, he's the best dentist in the world. VIP Customer Service – lots of effort, but worth its weight in gold!
Camps are nuts. Good nuts.
Many Kids Ed businesses will also run camps during the summer, and sometimes during holiday breaks as well. And – they're nuts. Imagine a big group of kids stuck in a small-ish confined space for 6 hours a day, and you can picture the chaos that can ensue. There's more breakage, more wear and tear, more bathroom usage – you name it, there's an exponential amount of it when compared to the normal after school business. By the end of the summer, only the most patient of us aren't praying for an early end to the camp season!
But camps aren't just nuts – they're GOOD nuts. Why? Because they can be pretty profitable! Summer camps double as day care for the busy parent who doesn't have someone to watch their kids during the day, so there's really a double-reason for good demand. Depending on the part of the country, some camps can charge upwards of $600-$1000 for a week of camp – that's some serious camping!
Not all Kids Ed businesses can support camps, of course. Kumon or Mathnasium come to mind. Others like martial arts may or may not be strong camp contenders. STEM and Coding Camps these days are some of the higher-demand camps. So make sure you check your franchise business model – if it includes camps, there's a good chance they'll give your projections a boost.
Want a big emotional reward? You might find it.
Ever get tears in your eyes from a great taco? Goose bumps from a treadmill session? Probably not. But when you're dealing with a kid education business, there's a different emotional factor involved because they're kids. Kids can do the most amazing things that can wow you like no adult can. I remember my first year at Coder School, there was an 11 year old kid who created a billiards game in Python. But instead of hitting a cue ball, you create gravitational anomalies that suck the cue ball towards it, using actual newtonian physics formulas. Now I'm a pretty good coder, been coding for 20 years. When I looked at his code, and I had no idea how it worked – that's when I knew we were doing something special. Chills. Still feel 'em!
Helping kids get better at something is helping our next generation and helping our communities, so that in itself lends to some major gratification. Add on watching the kids grow and learn before your very eyes, and you'll have something that can add up to an amazing emotional reward.
You Might Work Some Weird Hours
One of the negatives of managing a Kids Ed business is the hours they're usually open. During the day, kids are usually at school – so most kids ed businesses aren't open until school is out. That means your working hours are often 1-3pm doing admin work and then actually managing the business from 3pm-8pm. For you late-waker-uppers, starting work at 1pm might sound pretty cool. But for many of us who have kids, the working hours just happen to coincide with the hours you'd normally spend with your own kids. There are ways around it, no doubt (open on certain days, hire extra help, bring your kids to work), but it's certainly a bit of a sacrifice. In fact, I recall that sacrifice being the hardest part of my first year as manager at both my School of Rock and Coder School – I just didn't have a lot of time to spend with my own kids in the beginning.
So Is Kids Ed Right For You?
It depends. We're not all built for the chaos of a big group of kids, but some of us thrive on it, and the rewards of helping kids. There are a lot more nuances to running a kids business like safety and insurance, the space and the staff, or even its potential for being somewhat recession resistant. So what's the best way to find out if a Kids Ed franchise is right for you? Easy - just pick one and contact 'em. Good luck – we parents will thank you for it!