When it comes to working parents, one of the biggest struggles is finding the right care for their child. Lightbridge Academy, the leading educational child care center franchise founded by Guy and Julia Falzarano in 1997, is The Solution for Working Parents®. This overarching vision is still in place nearly 20 years later, and is one of many differentiators for the 90-unit brand within the crowded child care space.
“Lightbridge Academy was founded on family values and has been owned by the same family for 20 years. In this modern world, it takes more than just the parents to raise a child, and all of those within that Circle of Care are integral,” said Brenda Febbo, chief marketing officer for Lightbridge Academy. “To compete in this space, it’s not enough to just say we’ll feed, diaper and educate your child. Leaving children in the care of someone else is stressful, and we take that stress off the parents by creating an environment that fosters mutual trust. We care for parents personally and offer solutions to support them and their busy, stressful days.”
Unlike other brands, Lightbridge Academy’s Circle of Care philosophy focuses on the needs of children, parents, staff, the surrounding local community and the franchise owners, creating a supportive and nurturing environment for all who touch the brand.
“Within the child care category, there are other brands that look to provide quality early education programs and quality care, but Lightbridge extends beyond the child to the parent,” said Febbo. “Children don’t come with a manual, and we pride ourselves on being a resource on child care and education for parents, in addition to providing impeccable communications about their child’s daily activities and progress. We are in the business of building trust with all members of the family and the community.”
Beyond caring for its families in the center, Lightbridge is also committed to caring for the local communities where their centers are located.
“We consider the local community in the areas we serve to be part of our family,” said Febbo. “We are active members of the community -- which helps our children grow up in a good environment. We have families helping families and staff members helping staff members. Children who see that leadership are modeling that behavior. This ends up attracting people that care deeply about our brand.”
Because of its Circle of Care philosophy, Lightbridge is selective about franchisees that join the system. With plans to quadruple its number of centers over the next five years, Lightbridge has plenty of territory available for the right kind of franchise owners.
“If people are too focused on the dollars and cents that come along with owning a Lightbridge Academy franchise, they simply aren’t a fit for our company. Our company is about so much more than that,” said Febbo.
Lightbridge promotes a family-first mentality across the system, which is attractive to potential franchise owners who are also parents.
“Unlike other franchises, Lightbridge Academy is truly a Monday through Friday business. Evenings and weekends are to be spent with family,” said Gigi Schweikert, president and chief operating officer of Lightbridge Academy. “Many of our franchise owners were parents in our centers who struggled to find quality care before Lightbridge. They wanted to fill a gap in the marketplace that they’ve experienced personally.”
Another differentiator that is attracting franchisees to Lightbridge is its second-to-none programs. An innovator in educational child care, Lightbridge was the first in the industry to implement ParentView Internet Monitoring across its entire system, which allows parents to peek in on their child at any point during the day.
“We have a complete virtual open door policy. That means that through our ParentView monitors, parents can see everything going on in class from any device they have all day long. While many child care centers can say that parents can stop in to see their children any time, few parents have that kind of flexibility during the work day. With ParentView, parents can watch their child in real-time from the office,” said Schweikert. “We also have an eCommunication app that keeps parents connected to their children’s activities throughout the day with photos, videos and daily reports. Our programs are all designed to make our parents’ lives easier and less stressful.”
Another way the brand is helping to alleviate stress is through BottleBridge®, Lightbridge’s exclusive certification program that is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and based on the collective information provided by institutions such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“When a nursing mother goes back to work, she’s basically working two full-time jobs. It’s extremely difficult. We do our best to help her feel comfortable going back to work knowing that her decision to continue breastfeeding is supported by those caring for her child,” said Febbo. “Our caregivers bridge the gap by supporting mothers with this decision. Through the Bottlebridge® program, our staff is trained on proper handling, storage and feeding of expressed breast milk, which isn’t standard in the industry.”
From its foundation as the Solution for Working Parents® to its Circle of Care philosophy to its innovative curriculum and best-in-class programs, nothing about Lightbridge Academy is standard in the industry. With plenty of territory available across the United States, the brand has its sights set on growing outside of its East Coast roots and taking the right kind of franchisees along for the ride.