Franchising offers a great way for people to make a living educating the next generation, giving budding tutors a system of support whilst running their own business
Education. Education. Education. Listing his three main priorities for a Labour government way back in 1996, former prime minister Tony Blair touched on something we all know to be true: education is vital. This is something clearly borne out by the wealth of education franchises in the UK. But what is it about the franchising model that lends itself so well to education? And what kinds of people are attracted to buying an education franchise?
With a heritage of more than 60 years working in the education space, there’s few better to speak to than Kumon, the supplementary education franchise. “Despite being this global corporate organisation, Kumon was founded purely as a way for a father to help his son,” says Seán McKeon, franchise development manager at Kumon Educational UK & Ireland. Founded by Toru Kumon in 1954 as a way to help his son Takeshi brush up on maths, the franchise quickly spread like wildfire through its native Japan, before setting its sights on international expansion. “Today the Kumon programme is studied across 48 countries with approximately 4.3 million students,” he continues.
In McKeon’s eyes, a significant benefit of education franchises is that they help individuals cut their teeth in teaching by offering them a professional framework within which to work. “There are a lot of passionate educators out there who really want to have the flexibility that being their own boss offers,” says McKeon. “But, coupled with that, they often lack the experience of having run or set up their own business.” A real benefit of the franchising model is it allows these individuals to get involved in the industry and start helping kids, whilst knowing they have the support network that comes as part and parcel of operating under an established brand.
McKeon also feels another strength of education franchises is that they can offer valuable support to the existing education system. “The demands on our state system do mean that parents are increasingly looking for different ways to supplement their child’s education,” he says. The strain state schools are under is only exacerbated by the fact that the next generation will have to fight ever more fiercely to secure a footing on the career ladder. “We are in an ever increasingly international market and competition is high not just for jobs but for university places,” he says.
One way Kumon helps address this issue is by aiding students in developing skills that will give them the leg up they need to really benefit from state education. “It doesn’t just develop a child’s English or maths,” McKeon says. “It instills in a child a set of lifelong skills that teach them how to learn and study, as well as developing their self-study disciplines, problem-solving skills and analytical thinking.”
Beat of a different drum
Angie Coates, managing director of Monkey Music, the music class franchise, is no stranger to the world of music, having trained both as a musician and a teacher prior to setting up her franchise. After spending some time teaching pre-school children Coates began to realise how music can help facilitate a young child’s development. “I was a musician so I used music as a tool to support all aspect of development at the heart of the curriculum,” she says. Monkey Music was naturally born from this premise; the franchise now offers music classes from three-month to four-year-olds, giving them their experience with music learning and play.
Part of the value Coates believes education franchises offer are the benefits they can impart for both the children and the education system. “Any sort of educational opportunity that you can give your child from a very young age is absolutely brilliant for them,” says Coates. Beyond giving a budding Beethoven their taste of the world of music, this kind of franchise can impart a broad range of softer skills that can significantly impact a child’s future education. “Having done Monkey Music, they’re more confident, they’re more sociable, they listen better,” she says. “Because they’ve been involved in group activities and interacted with other children, they’re going to be better off when they start school.”
This is partly why she feels many franchisees are drawn to this kind of opportunity. “Lots of people feel passionate about education and the role that music can play in education,” says Coates. Whilst franchisees will share certain things in common – inevitably being passionate about helping children and owning their own business will be a factor – one of the things Coates finds most inspiring about the industry is the diversity of people involved. “There are so many different personalities of people that own education franchises,” she says. “We come from all walks of life so it’s quite an eclectic mix of people.”
And Coates believes that there will always be massive potential for innovation in the sector. “Twenty years ago, it was not common to sign your baby up to a course of classes,” she says. “It was unheard of really.” Monkey Music has been at the forefront of driving this expanding market, helping to cement the concept of classes for babies and toddlers. Coates feels this demonstrates the huge opportunities for innovation there are in the education market. “Everybody who’s currently in the market has just got to keep getting better and better,” she says. “And there’s always room for people to come through and do new things.”
As with any good business, the best franchises address clear pain points. Tutor Doctor, the tutoring franchise, is no exception. Having run his own learning centres in North America, founder John Hooi identified that the format wasn’t providing the best learning experience for students. “Learning centres teach at a group setting, they go at a rhythm that is not tailored to each student and the learning style of each child was not considered,” explains Rogelio Martinez, VP of international development at Tutor Doctor. To address this, Hooi founded Tutor Doctor, a franchise that focuses on one-on-one tuition and now operates in 15 countries across five continents.
Whilst the majority of franchises focus on creating a standardised model that can be replicated uniformly across the network, Tutor Doctor focuses on creating a plan that tutors can tailor to the individual child’s needs. “We don’t use a standard curriculum for all the kids,” says Martinez. “Our certification program gives tutors the tools they need to identify the learning style of each kid – kinaesthetic, visual or auditory – teach based on that learning style and adapt to the learning rhythm of the student.” This has helped Tutor Doctor create a replicable model that franchisees can use to best serve pupils’ needs.
One of the things Tutor Doctor feels makes education such a great opportunity for franchising is that it addresses a universal need. “This is not like, ‘I want to go to a sushi restaurant’,” says Martinez. “It’s, ‘our kid is struggling and, if we don’t do something, he might not pass to the next grade’.” This means that education franchises present a golden opportunity that cannot be overlooked, as they address a demand unlikely to ever go away. “The need is always there,” he says. “All parents want the best for their kids.”
And this is definitely borne out by the economics; Martinez reveals that the current value of the UK industry is £6bn a year and that it is only set to increase from there. “The growth that it’s been experiencing is 7% to 10% a year,” says Martinez. “By 2020, it’s expected to surpass $122bn worldwide; that’s about £80bn.” In light of this, it seems the opportunity for education franchises is set only to increase exponentially from here.