Seven years ago, early education and child care company Lightbridge Academy began franchising, leveraging 15 years of experience into a refined operational model and distinct set of brand differentiators to build new, franchisee-owned centers. Since then, the franchise has established 35 of locations in markets across the Mid-Atlantic. By the end of 2018, Lightbridge Academy’s development team is planning to have opened 11 new franchise locations this year in states including New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania. With over 100 franchises sold and the success the company has experienced to date, the franchise company has its sights set on Jacksonville, Florida for a major development push.
Mark Mele, Lightbridge Academy’s Senior Vice President of Franchise Development, says Jacksonville is a key market for the franchise’s overall development strategy.
“As we expand our system, we’re very conscious of establishing new franchisees in prime markets,” he said. “We’ve successfully launched locations in the NYC metro area, expanded down the Mid-Atlantic and now Jacksonville is the next step. Our new centers there will have no shortage of resources at their disposal.”
Florida’s largest and most populous city, Jacksonville offers a thriving marketplace and demographics that align with the brand’s target customer making it a good fit for new Lightbridge center, and Mele says the city’s makeup is directly aligned with the franchise’s key demographics.
“Jacksonville has a good mix of urban and suburban areas, as well as commercial and financial districts, which means a lot of families with working professionals who will embrace our services as the perfect solution for them and for their children’s educational needs,” he said.
Because Jacksonville is one of the fastest-growing cities in America, Mele says the market will be able to support a number of new Lightbridge centers. “Since we started franchising in 2011, we have been creating a strong presence in our core markets throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. That strong foundation is enabling us to expand into new communities at rapid rates. Through this strategic growth initiative, we’re confident that we’ll quadruple our size within the next five years, he said. “We see room for at least three franchises to start.” Mele added.
Lightbridge Academy is currently seeking qualified owners for the city’s first three franchises. Once they are on board, Mele says the development team will bring them through the process to identify to ideal site for their center.
“We have a very careful real estate selection process,” he said. “The majority of our facilities are freestanding locations in highly visible locations. We vet each site for average income level, number of children and families and a variety of other demographic factors. We take a deep dive to make sure these are places where young families are growing so there will be a consistent influx of business.”
In addition to over 100 jobs the three new Lightbridge Academy centers will bring to Jacksonville, Mele says the city will benefit from the franchise’s mission to become a pillar of each community it enters.
“Lightbridge’s Circle of Care philosophy is impacts every part of our operations,” he said. “We look at the communities we serve as part of our extended family. That goes for our franchisees and their employees, and obviously our customers, but it also applies to the towns and area businesses where we build our centers. We want to be known in all of our markets, not just as a daycare option, but as a valuable resource for families and as an active contributor to the community.”
As Lightbridge Academy prepares to enter the Jacksonville market, Mele is confident that they will identify franchisees who are a fit with the company’s values.
“One of the great things about Lightbridge Academy is that the operations are so well designed and streamlined, you don’t need to be a career teacher or child care professional to run it,” he said. “We are looking for smart business people who believe in Lightbridge Academy, are passionate about the care and education of children and are committed to following the model. We’ve are looking forward to finding the strong franchisees to open the Jacksonville market.”