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Take Care

Child care isn't just baby-sitting anymore.

The trauma a working mother faces when she first drops off her baby at day care must be experienced to be understood. I witnessed it firsthand as Ashley Mad-docks' stay at her first insti-tution lasted a total of three minutes--until my wife learned our daughter would be spending the day in a crowded, snotty, Plexiglas box. In the ensuing years, our daughters found refuge in the homes of neighbors in need of a little extra cash. Eventually, we used in-home care. There was no structure, no educational stimulation and, frankly, little information regarding the background of our help. Ashley survived, but her life certainly would have been enriched had we been able to find a more nurturing, educational en-vironment for her formative years.

Fortunately for many new parents today--and there are a lot out there right now--fran-chising has once again come to the rescue. In particular, Cartersville, Georgia-based Primrose School Franchising Co. has created a wonderful place for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. Older children, up to 12 years of age, may also benefit from programs before and after school. Each weekday morn-ing, after a reasonably priced optional breakfast is served, Primrose vans roll from each of the 68 Primrose School locations to local schools to deliver their precious cargo, then pick them up after classes have adjourned.

Recently, I toured a new facility in Lewisville, Texas, with Jo Kirchner, who was named Primrose's president and CEO when the company was acquired by Security Capital Corp. earlier this year. Kirchner's tour showed me this: A Primrose School has a comfortable country charm about it, and the franchise has developed and refined a number of proven procedures, from a curriculum that includes branded multi-media software to security.

According to Luane McWhorter, a franchisee in Lewisville, one reason a Primrose franchise is a joy to operate is it's not open on the weekends, and parents are required to retrieve their children by 6:30 p.m.--hours that certainly beat the heck out of staying open in the mall until 9 p.m. every night.

However, building and opening a franchised location can take up to a year from the time the franchise agreement is signed and require a total investment of as much as $1.8 million. Primrose has formed an alliance with Newcourt Financial to lighten the burden on potential franchisees seeking investment capital. Due to the track record of the concept, Newcourt has shown a willingness to provide up to 85 percent of the initial investment in the form of a secured loan.

However, finding appropriately priced real estate can be a challenge, as you must find a minimum of 1.7 acres of acces-sible yet undervalued property in a growing area populated with dual-income families.

Potential franchisees need to have cash liquidity of $225,000 to $270,000 to be considered. According to Kirchner, only one in 50 applicants is granted a franchise. If you think you'll be lucky enough to make the cut, you can review the franchisor's earnings claims found in Item 19 of the UFOC.

Todd D. Maddocks is a franchise attorney and small-business consultant. You can reach him at TMaddocks@aol.com.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Take Care.

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