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Franchise Development Leaders: Jeff Brazier of Kiddie Academy

Kiddie Academy’s Vice President of Franchise Development details the nuances of franchise development in the in-demand children’s activities space heading into 2020.

Kiddie Academy was founded in 1981 with the aim of creating communities that shape and inspire children. The brand is continuing to develop and innovate in the children’s education space, and VP of Franchise Development Jeff Brazier is helping lead the way. 

Brazier joined Kiddie Academy in 2016 after a long career in sports. It has been his first foray into the world of franchising, and he’s thrilled with this new chapter in his career and the direction in which the brand is going in the competitive landscape of the franchise industry. In an interview with 1851, Brazier discussed the rising prevalence of multi-unit ownership, what he loves about the franchising industry and what makes a great Kiddie Academy franchisee.

1851: How did you first get into franchising? 

Brazier: I actually came from the sports world, where I worked for a few different companies. I worked for the Baltimore Orioles and then worked for a company that helped kids get to college to play baseball. I left to do some other things before coming back to develop new brands and divisions within that company, transforming it from Baseball Factory to Factory Athletics.

I was on the road a lot and spending time away from my wife and family and was looking for somewhat of a change when I came across Kiddie Academy and I thought it fit a lot of things that I was looking to continue to do. One was to focus on the world of sales and development, while the other was its focus on education—my wife was a teacher and we are really focused on education for our children. Until I got into Kiddie Academy, I never really realized how many businesses are franchises and how many opportunities there are. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve learned and grown a lot. I started as Director of Franchise Development and then took over the Vice President role in April 2018. 

1851: What do you love about the industry? 

Brazier: The great thing about franchising is it provides the tool kit and the game plan to be your own boss and own your own business. Whatever the franchisee’s end goal is, whether it’s to use their business to help them retire or to get out of the corporate world or to build a legacy for their family and their community, franchising really does that, and that’s why I’ve enjoyed the time that I’ve spent in the franchising community.

1851: What do you wish that you could change about the industry? 

Brazier: I don’t know about change, but one thing is just consistency of information provided by each franchisor. We all have an FDD we have to create, but they’re not always created equal. In trying to educate prospective franchisees, it’s not always apples to apples when you’re looking at information and I think would be helpful for all of the people who are looking to open their own business to have things consistent. 

1851: What is the biggest challenge franchisors are currently facing in franchise development and what are you doing to overcome it? 

Brazier: We’re always looking at how we can make our system better from a technology and innovation standpoint. I think the challenge with any franchise system is that which is outside your control; however, everyone has to deal with it, whether it’s regulatory or environmentally. Certainly, childcare is one that’s always in the spotlight, whether it’s just the industry in general or the labor relations piece. 

Also, at the end of the day, any franchise system is only as good as its franchisees, so just making sure that we are utilizing every tool at our disposal to bring in the franchisees that fit our brand and will help us continue to grow here in the U.S is a focus of ours. 

1851: What do you think the biggest trend in franchise development will be in 2020? 

Brazier: Multi-unit ownership continues to grow. We’ve seen that in our system on both ends, from our internal franchisees wanting to expand and also from more folks coming into our franchise system with that game plan already in mind—and the assets to do so quickly. The other thing that we’ve seen is the Baby Boomer generation putting their nest egg toward their children and more partnerships between parents and children starting their own business.

1851: What makes a great franchisee?

Brazier: Passion. At the end of the day, we are a people-oriented business—we’re working with children and parents. I would say 99% of our franchisees, if not 100%, are parents themselves. They understand the fears that come along with being a parent and putting their children in someone else’s care. Understanding that and that being involved in the business is a key factor of success within our system.

1851: What's the No. 1 thing that sells franchises?

Brazier: I don’t know if this is a cliché, but for me, it’s the people—those that a prospect first interacts with over the phone or emails. The team I have on the franchise development side of our business gives prospects as much information as we possibly can to educate them on starting their own business, whether it be finance or real estate, to be a vehicle of information for them. 

From there, the rest of the team at Kiddie Academy and our franchisees follow suit. We have a great system of franchisees that continue to spread the word about their own business. For us, I think it’s just the people that we have here who are all dedicated to supporting our franchisees so they can become entrepreneurs and pillars in their communities.