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How One New Lightbridge Academy Franchise Built Center Enrollment During COVID-19

When it was time to introduce itself to the community, this location in New York did it one fresh-baked cookie at a time.

By Chris LaMorte1851 Franchise Editor
SPONSORED 10:22PM 02/23/21

This is a story about the power of perseverance. And also, about the power of fresh-baked cookies. 

Ram Jagadeesan and his wife Joanne McKay, spent four years looking for an ideal location to open their first child care center with Lightbridge Academy, a fast-growing 51-unit early education and child care franchise. 

Included on their must-have list: enough space indoors, a spacious outdoor playground, and solid demographics necessary to support their business. Not an easy find in this prime northeast area.

After an exhaustive search throughout Westchester County, New York, the pair of first-time franchise owners finally found what they wanted in the village of Elmsford. The developer, however, wasn’t so sure about them

“He was knocking down a big catering hall in order to build a 100-unit residential building,” Ram Jagadeesan recalled. “The ground floor of the building was supposed to be small shops like convenience stores and dry cleaners, but we wanted all the space. It took about eight or nine months of convincing, but we finally won him over.” 

So it’s a good thing the pair, who come from a corporate side of the retail industry, are the persistent type. Finding the perfect location was unfortunately not their only challenge: During construction of their location, COVID-19 hit. But Jagadeesan and McKay weren't going to let a pandemic stop them. They just worked through it. 

“We weren’t able to bring parents inside the building to tour, because either the building was in construction, or because of the COVID protocols, so we conducted virtual tours,” Jagadeesan said. “The franchise company provided training on best practices for conducting these types of tours and, as a result, we were able to enroll families virtually.”

And once regulations allowed, they began to give socially distanced tours and arranged their schedule to allow parents to visit the center after hours and on weekends. That procedure continued after Lightbridge reopened — along with additional protocols, including restricting access to everyone in the building, conducting temperature checks and COVID-19 screening, limiting class sizes and implementing rigorous cleaning regimens. 

Known as The Lightbridge Promise, these enhanced protocols also included a major investment in a best-in-class air purification and filtration system that uses an advanced oxidation process to continuously purify all the air and visible surfaces throughout the entire center.

This substantially helped to build consumer confidence and parents appreciated the new program offerings. In particular, parents saw that with Lightbridge’s Remote Learning Support Program for school-age children through the fifth grade, children could stay in one place when the school district had partial-remote learning days. This freed them from the logistical nightmare of shuttling kids between locations during the week and simplified their schedules. 

“We are The Solution for Working Parents® and look for ways to make their life a little bit easier in these crazy times,” Jagadeesan said. “I have three children that have all been part of Lightbridge, and that first-hand experience was how I fell in love with the company: because of the value it provided for me and my family.”

Additionally, Lightbridge took an active civic role in their Elmsford community. For example, the center donated 500 masks to the village's volunteer fire department, which also provided the children a special treat of seeing firefighters and a fire truck roll-up to the school to pick up the gift.

For Christmas, when the village created a socially distant tree-lighting ceremony for cars to drive-up and be greeted by local businesses handing out treats, Lightbridge Academy was there, front and center with goodie bags. 

“We packed about 1,500 little baggies of cookies, and hot cocoa, and handed them out all the along with little thank you cards with our name on the back,” said Jagadeesan. 

“We could have spent that money on digital marketing,” said Jagadeesan. “Although 1,500 goodie bags took a lot of labor — it was a labor of love, and as a bonus, we got the Lightbridge Academy name out there, and brought smiles to many faces by supporting our community.”

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.