Education

Children’s Lighthouse: Innovative Daycare Comes to KC

Children’s Lighthouse Daycare believes that the metro Kansas City area is primed for growth and is slated to open this July.

Top-rated schools and solid family demographics are among the main attributes that make Kansas City’s suburban outlays a strong magnet for businesses. Considering the area’s multiple abundant communities with emphases on family-oriented community and resources, the children’s daycare industry is ripe for growth. One company seizing this opportunity is Fort Worth, Texas-based Children’s Lighthouse Franchise Co.

Children’s Lighthouse daycare center features an onsite kitchen where nutritious meals are prepared daily, three shaded outdoor play areas, coded door locking for security, and computerized check in and classroom surveillance, which allow parents to monitor their child’s care online whether at home or at work.

Children’s Lighthouse Franchise Co., which operates as Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers, currently has franchise locations in five states. It operates eight corporate facilities, all of which are located in Texas. The business also includes 36 franchise locations with 20 more on the way.

One of the 20 daycare centers currently “in process” is a Children’s Lighthouse under construction in Olathe. Although the owner’s identity is still publicly unknown, Stephen Dixon, vice president of the Children’s Lighthouse franchise development, says the daycare center is slated to open this coming July. The company’s Olathe presence is significant on a couple of fronts. The venture marks Children’s Lighthouse first foray into the Kansas City region, and its state presence count goes up to six centers.

Children’s Lighthouse executives are primed for growth and view Kansas City as a “highly desirable” place to do business. With this in mind, Dixon says the company has franchise development plans for Overland Park, Leawood and Shawnee in Kansas, and on the Missouri side, Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs. By 2019, the area will have six to eight Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers. “We’re excited about the market,” he remarks.

Stephen Dixon, vice president of the Children’s Lighthouse franchise development.

Specifically, Dixon points to the metro’s statistical average—which grew 10 percent between 2000 and 2007—and describes the growth as “manageable yet steady.” Likewise, area median household income “meets our needs,” he reports. Thirdly, Dixon says solid home ownership rates bode well for the business.

Other Kansas City attributes include the area’s national recognition from outlets like Forbes, which ranked the KC metro as one of the most highly desirable family locations in the country. Additionally, a diverse employer base and steady workforce—along with a high proportion of two-income households—are strong draws to the area.

A significant aspect of the Children’s Lighthouse operational formula is its focus on education. Since Kansas City is home to so many colleges and universities, Dixon says the emphasis on education translates to local parents who want to help prepare their children for elementary school.

The combination of these factors makes Kansas City an “attractive market for us,” he says.

In the larger picture, Children’s Lighthouse promotes U.S. Census Bureau numbers. Projections of census data predict a 55 percent growth rate in the population of kids up to age 5 by the year 2050.

The daycare centers’ location formula includes nearly two acres of land in a “park-like setting” and 10,500 square feet of customizable space so that individual facilities can adjust their space to accommodate enrollment levels of various ages, which range from six weeks to 12 years. If there’s an “influx of 80 two-year-olds, we can adjust for that,” Dixon explains.

Construction of the daycare facilities translates into at least $2.5 million poured into the local economy as owners hire contractors for building and playground construction and for site finishers. Although the cost of getting the daycare up and running seem geared toward investors, Dixon says the profiles of successful franchise owners range across the board to include attorneys, retired educators or Corporate America refugees.

Dixon describes most Children’s Lighthouse owners as “hands on,” though it’s most often in a “big picture” way. Most owners, for example, don’t carry licensed daycare director credentials. However, Dixon says the corporate office has the resources the find and recruit talent to fill this roll. Owner responsibilities typically include financial and marketing elements.

In its 16-year history, Children’s Lighthouse Franchise Co. has experienced only one franchise failure, which occurred last year. Pointing to otherwise stellar numbers—facilities report an average unit volume of $1.3 million after 18 months of operation—Dixon says the failed franchise was the result of ownership not following the corporate formula.

Corporate support of franchisees is central to the Children’s Lighthouse formula, he stresses. At the executive level, for instance, the development team actively participates in assessing potential locations to determine if a particular area would be a good fit for the Children’s Lighthouse brands of education-focused childcare.

Once a franchise owner signs on with Children’s Lighthouse, support team members consisting of pros working in the corporate daycare centers will visit each location to provide insight on operational efficiency on a quarterly basis. In-the-trenches knowledge of the turnkey aspect of the Children’s Lighthouse franchise is an invaluable asset to franchise owners, Dixon says. The support teams understand the business model and the niche it’s designed to serve. They know how to best serve customers at the highest value and at the most economical resource level.

Dixon emphasizes corporate headquarters is always available to franchise owners. But, he adds, the Children’s Lighthouse intranet is often a more powerful tool with regard to maximizing daycare profitability. He describes the company’s digital platform as highly transparent in terms of accessing financial and operational targets at each daycare center. If a franchise owner is particularly successful with pre-enrollment numbers, for example, another owner looking to grow the category has direct access to that expertise. Others might want to explore ways to cut controllable costs or get the rundown on conducting a successful marketing campaign.

The factors in the success of Children’s Lighthouse success to date can be attributed to its corporate approach to quality daycare. Educated parents want solid education for their kids, Dixon says, and the Children’s Lighthouse formula is a proven method to deliver that service profitably.

 Story by Ramona Paden