Together with their father, Vijay, Manan and Neel Shah will open a Lightbridge Academy franchise center in Hudson County by the end of 2019. Manan and Neel will be the managing partners and engaged owners, following in their father’s footsteps, who brings years of experience to the table as a multi-unit, multi-brand franchisee.
Vijay came to the United States in the 1980s with a vision of being a businessman. He saw an opportunity to own his own business, and it happened to be a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. He soon caught the franchising fever, and about 30 years later, he’s acquired 18 Dunkin’ Donuts locations. As Vijay grew his business, he decided to diversify his portfolio, and the family started to acquire Shell gas stations, Circle K convenience stores and more. They even started the Peaceful Adult Day Care Center in Little Ferry, New Jersey about three years ago, which has grown to having more than 200 clients and is in the process of expanding, with the plan of doubling its clientele. Vijay owns and operates more than 30 businesses and employs over 250 people throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
“It was clear from the beginning that Vijay, Manan and Neel would be an excellent fit for our brand,” Lightbridge Academy senior vice president of franchise development Mark Mele said. “Vijay brings decades of successful franchising experience, Manan and Neel grew up in that world, and all are focused on providing a high level of customer service. They take pride in their family business and we are honored that they chose to diversify their multi-unit, multi-brand portfolio with us.”
The family was looking for an opportunity to branch out their franchising investments while also providing a much desired service in New Jersey. Essentially they chose to sign with the Lightbridge Academy because the company’s core values so closely align with their own.
“When we learned of Lightbridge Academy, we saw how family-oriented and hands-on they were,” Manan said. “That’s tough to find in franchising because once a brand hits a certain level, it is usually not as accessible and we wanted to be face to face with key people in the organization. With Lightbridge, I know that if I call anyone at the Home Office, and they’ll pick up and find the time to talk to me. We really appreciate how the corporate team treats us like family.”
The Shahs have a lot to bring to the table, and Lightbridge Academy’s Co-Founder and CEO Guy Falzarano is looking forward to bringing on such experienced franchisees.
“New Jersey is our home state, and the Shah family has established a strong foothold here in the franchising market for many years,” Falzarano said. “We’re confident this is going to be a successful, long-term relationship, and we’re excited to see what they’ll bring to the communities they serve as they live out our core values and provide superior customer service to all families in our Circle of Care.”
It was natural that the brothers chose franchising as their ultimate career path. After graduating from college, Manan worked in finance at TIAA and Neel worked at Deloitte, but they both knew that they would eventually apply what they learned in corporate America to elevate their franchises to “another level.”
“My brother and I went through school and we envisioned a long-term plan to go into the family business and help grow our portfolio,” Neel said. “It was a matter of when. We feel that if you’re going to be working hard, why not work for yourself instead of someone else?”
At this point, Manan and Neel have been working with the Lightbridge Academy brand for about seven months, and they say that it’s been a positive relationship every step of the way.
“Even though we don’t have our center open yet, we can tell the corporate team truly cares about their franchisees, and they want every center to be successful while providing a much needed service to parents and families in the community,” Neel said. “Overall, we appreciate their business model, and will gladly replicate the core values in our center.”
With such extensive franchising knowledge, the Shahs knew the importance of completing their due diligence, and they were able to tap into their extended family’s first-hand experiences in childcare as part of their research.
“We did our homework and spoke to family friends who have owned private daycare centers, inquiring about the dynamic of the business and what they gain out of it,” Manan said. “It sparked our interest in the services niche that we were looking for.”
Growing up in the franchising world and seeing their father’s experiences first-hand, Manan and Neel are confident in their decision to continue in the family tradition with opening a Lightbridge Academy.
“This is an opportunity to provide an important service and do what we love, which is growing businesses and keeping that entrepreneurial aspect,” Manan said. “We understand franchise models, and although each one is different, the foundation is the same. We’ve dealt with so many different types of franchises, and through training and support we’ve been able to adapt from franchise to franchise. I’m confident that we’re very well-prepared.”
Manan and Neel also excited about their future with Lightbridge Academy. They want to make their footprint in the community, the way they’ve been able to do through their Dunkin’ Donuts locations.
“With all of our Dunkin’ Donuts locations, we make an effort to go to town halls, city halls and local community events to support them with sponsorships or donations,” Manan said. “We’ve invited the Girl Scouts to come to our locations and set up a booth to fundraise in addition to providing them with a donation. With Lightbridge Academy, this will be a natural extension of what we do, with similar outreach to the local community. We like to put our best foot forward in terms of community service.”
They also plan to become multi-unit Lightbridge Academy owners, similar to the strategy they’ve taken with most of the franchise brands they’ve worked with.
“This is our first Lightbridge, and after we launch this center, we definitely plan on becoming multi-unit franchisees,” Manan said. “We want to keep this relationship with Lightbridge growing, and being able to make a difference in our communities and helping families with a high quality, solution to their early education and child care needs is extremely gratifying.”
The start-up costs for a Lightbridge Academy franchise range from $541,228 to $733,635. The franchise fee is $60,000. Lightbridge opened its 35th location in June 2018. For more information about owning a Lightbridge Academy franchise, visit http://lightbridgeacademyfranchise.com/.