1851: What void does Lightbridge Academy fill? What was missing in the space before?
Gigi Schweikert, CEO of Lightbridge Academy: Lightbridge Academy was one of the first brands to focus on the impact that a high quality educational child care program can have on the whole family as The Solution for Working Parents®. The world has changed, but our story — is as relevant as ever.
Over the last 25 years, society’s traditional definitions of parents and parenting have changed along with our views on what “family” really means. Households have become far more dynamic and diverse. Roles have shifted. Priorities have changed. But the health and safety of children will always come first.
From day one, Lightbridge Academy has kept family in mind and will continue to do so moving forward with all new initiatives and programs. What we do better than anyone else, is innovate and continually adapt in order to meet the complex needs of today’s children and respect the new realities facing the modern American family.
1851: What are you doing well right now?
Schweikert: The COVID-19 pandemic really demonstrated the vital importance of child care and its impact on the workforce and economy. Now, we are continuing to fill that need, and are prepared to fill future demand. We feel confident that we are doing everything well, and that is confirmed by the validation that we have across our system from both the families we serve and our franchise owners. We have experienced historically high franchise sales and 56% of our franchisees are now multi-unit owners. That is a great compliment.
1851: What are your brand’s differentiators?
Schweikert: In the franchise space, what separates us from our competitors is that we are truly The Solution for Working Parents®. We go beyond offering a high quality educational program and offer extensive support and services for families. One of the ways we do this is through the industry-leading technology platforms we offer system wide. This ranges from facial recognition entry systems, to our ParentView® internet monitor, which places cameras in every classroom so parents can stay connected to their child’s day, or our parent e-Communication platform which allows parents to pay bills, enroll, schedule child care, etc. No other company in the world has that level of visibility on the care of children. We believe that tech brings people together.
Similarly, another big differentiator is The Lightbridge Promise® — the Gold Standard in the child care industry for cleanliness, security and peace of mind. The Lightbridge Promise includes six trusted commitments in every center for cleanliness, security and peace of mind. One of which includes the air purification and filtration systems that are installed in every center.
1851: What does your ideal franchisee look like?
Schweikert: The ideal franchisee is someone with a net worth of over $1 million and liquid capital of $150,000 to $200,000. But beyond the financials, it has to be a cultural fit — someone who has a deep passion for caring for children and families. The ideal owner is someone who wants to give back to their community. As opposed to other businesses that require late hours, our program is 9-5, which allows for a great work-life balance for franchisees. This is someone who wants to make an impact on the community and while doing so, create a legacy for their own family.
We are looking for multi-unit franchisees who want to diversify their portfolio. It is a great opportunity for people who are concerned about what is happening in our economy. We’ve proven capable of “weathering the storm” and if a recession comes, we believe that we are prepared and positioned to withstand an economic downturn, just as we have in the past.
Overall, we want franchisees who can add value to our system, while also following the system. The Lightbridge Academy business model has been proven for over 25 years, and those that are most successful are intrapreneurs, not entrepreneurs.
1851: What have been some of the most important milestones since Lightbridge started?
Schweikert: Deciding to franchise in 2011 was a very significant moment for us, prior to that we were privately owned since our founding in 1997. Successfully navigating through COVID-19 was another huge milestone. The fact our enrollment occupancy has exceeded pre-COVID is a huge marker for the company, as well. The validation of our franchisees and the growing interest in multi-unit ownership is another important milestone.
1851: What growth plans does the brand have in the coming years?
Schweikert: We currently have 68 Lightbridge Academy centers that are open, with 10 to 15 set to open in 2023 and as many as 20 set to open in the years following. We are growing up and down the East Coast, and have also entered new markets such as Michigan, Ohio and Texas.
Learn more about franchise opportunities at https://lightbridgeacademyfranchise.com/.