Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
Kevin Lee believes there’s something wrong with the education system in the United States: there simply aren’t enough teachers in the public school system to give each student the attention he or she deserves. So, he decided to take action. Lee began franchising with Best in Class in 2006, while continuing his career as a property manager. Today, he runs two franchises, with plans to open a third in 2015. Here’s what he has learned.
Name: Kevin Lee
Franchise owned: Best in Class Education Center in Oakland and San Francisco, Calif.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have been in franchising with Best in Class since 2006.
After I found out about Best in Class and the opportunities available I chose to purchase the San Francisco – Chinatown territory. I loved what the founder, Hao Lam, was doing with the brand and the level of support that comes along with being in the Best in Class system.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Before I became a franchisee, I attended University of California-Berkley where I studied math and physics. While a student, I also worked various jobs. In the mornings I would attend classes at UCB, in the afternoons I worked as a waiter and in the evenings I would work at the post office. But most importantly, I also found time to tutor. I have a great appreciation for education and helping others achieve their goals.
After graduating with a degree in mathematics and statistics, I entered the corporate world and pursued a career in banking. I continued to tutor on the weekends and work full time during the week.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
In America, the teacher to student ratio in schools, especially public schools, is unbalanced. Students really need help and extra attention in order to succeed. That’s where Best in Class comes in. I knew I had an opportunity to be part of a great business model that would help kids learn and better the community.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The franchise fee for Best in Class is $30,000 and the all in cost is $60,000 to $100,000. For new markets, Best in Class applies $10,000 of the start-up fee towards grand-opening marketing expenses.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
After meeting Hao I became very interested in the opportunity. I did a lot of research on my own but I knew the importance of a system where the leader is passionate about the end result. Hao’s dedication translated very well to my own personal views of education and business.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The most unexpected challenge was being able to manage my fulltime job with franchise ownership. In the beginning there were bumps in the process but we have since smoothed them out.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
In order to have a successful operation, you really have to focus on the business, who you hire to be a part of your team (tutors) and the communication between the parent and student. Although the business grew slowly, it has grown exponentially over the years, primarily by word of mouth advertising.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are currently looking at a third location located in Pinole, Calif. (north of Oakland), which we plan to open in February with a business partner.