Merrie Seiler and Rolinda Lankes were teachers before they purchased their iKids U franchise in spring 2016. Former educators, a substitute teacher and an elementary school teacher respectively, the friends worked in several school districts in Texas.
They had parents’ ears, hearing firsthand the needs, desires and complaints regarding quality after-school programming for their children. An iKids franchise offered them the opportunity to continue to work with children using a business model they believed in. They’re still in the early stages of their new business journey, but in their own words, “So far so good!”
What made you buy an iKids franchise?
Merrie: We really liked the business model for iKids University, and iKids Inc. was exactly what we thought parents and families would want in Austin, TX. It offers a one-stop shop where everything is done at the school. We’re on campus, so parents don’t have to worry about their children being transported to different locations, and that’s a very positive and good business model for us to use. We have a lot of variety in the enrichment classes that we offer. So, it was really just the whole package that we thought we could bring to Austin that would be a good addition.
Rolinda: I was looking for a career change, but I still wanted to be able to impact children’s growth in a positive way. This was perfect. Throughout the years I’ve talked to different parents, and they would often talk about the afterschool activities their kids were involved in. This met a lot of the needs I heard parents say they were looking for.
What challenges have you experienced as a new franchisee?
Rolinda?: Every business has its challenges the first year, that’s always the hardest year. With this, it was getting all the supplies lined up. We needed everything for all the classes. Getting those purchased and set up, and verifying that we were going to be able to successfully implement this curriculum was challenging. But once we got it all together, I’d say the 2nd year was a lot smoother transition.
Merrie?: It was a learning curve for everyone involved. Being able to keep open communication with our employees, our education franchise company, everybody talking back and forth about what they needed, was really helpful.
What advice would you give someone considering buying an iKids franchise?
Rolinda: Make sure you know your market, and that you’re aware of the districts and schools in your territory and what they provide. Know the differences between your program and what may already be on campuses. Research and determine any facility fees for being on those campuses to know what it’s going to cost to run a good, quality program.
What are your goals for your franchise? Do you think you’ll expand?
Merrie: Yes. We want to expand in the Austin Independent School District as well as move into other neighboring districts depending on where our territory boundaries are. We also want to look at marketing our program to private and charter schools.
Do you consider your investment worthwhile? If so, how would you rate your success?
Rolinda?: We’re growing quickly. Sometimes that’s a difficult thing, and you have to be really careful to monitor that and make sure you don’t grow faster than the quality of your program. We want to make sure that we grow at a perfect rate where we can also run a successful, quality program and continue to meet the needs of our community.
In our first year, we had one full-time school and one part-time school. By the second year, we had three full-time schools, and we’re looking to add more next year. So, we’ve more than doubled each year.
How has iKids corporate arm supported your franchise efforts from opening to current day?
Merrie: They’ve helped us in several ways. All websites tasks are taken care of through our corporate office. They also help with our graphic design work. Especially when we first got started they provided a lot of assistance with ways they’d been successful with their marketing and kicking off the program in their territory in Houston.
Rolinda: They’ve also been there to help answer questions. When you start an after-school enrichment program, there’s a lot of background tasks you’re doing such as setting up payroll, setting up billing, and they were helpful answering questions like that when we needed it.
To learn more about how you can become an iKids franchisee click here.