In 1997, Guy Falzarano left the corporate world behind in pursuit of a better—and more rewarding—business venture. The answer came in the form of a child care center, which he opened alongside his wife, Julia, in Iselin, New Jersey, near the Metropark train station. Their goal at the time was a seemingly simple one—to provide early education and child care to children ages six weeks through kindergarten.
What the Falzaranos quickly realized, however, was the need from parents for something more. Located near the Metropark train station, they noticed that when trains ran late, parents would frantically run into the center to pick up their children just before the doors closed. Tired of seeing parents so stressed out, Guy vowed to alter his business model to make a normally taxing experience a little easier.
“With three children of our own, we knew exactly what the parents felt like and wanted to find a way to support them. It seemed as though the child care industry only cared for the needs of the child—the needs of working parents were often forgotten,” Falzarano.
Fueled by the belief that a child care center should cater to the needs of both parents and children, Falzarano set the foundation for the Lightbridge Academy upon which thousands of families have relied. Nearly 20 years later, the brand boasts more than 80 child care centers, open or in development throughout Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia--solidifying Lightbridge Academy’s stance as an emerging leader in the industry. The brand has a new milestone to celebrate in its storied timeline—for the first time ever, Lightbridge Academy has been ranked in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 38th Annual Franchise 500 ranking.
The Entrepreneur 500 list is often referred to as one of the most comprehensive franchise rankings in the world. The magazine’s formula is based on factors like system size, growth and financial strength and stability—among other things.
“We’re thrilled to be ranked No. 279 out of 4,000 franchise brands. We’ve been in the business for 19 years and franchising since 2011. We were happy to be operating under the radar for a while as we solidified and perfected our systems before franchising. It’s time to spread our wings and lead the child care industry forward,” Falzarano said.
Lightbridge Academy has made tremendous strides over the past few years, and in 2016 alone, centers opened their doors for business in three states, and new franchise agreements were signed in four mid-Atlantic states. With over 85 franchises sold—60 of which are currently open, under construction or in development—the focus is on prime territories still available for throughout NY, PA, VA and MD and the company is perfectly positioned to continue experiencing rapid growth and development.
As Lightbridge Academy continues to grow, Falzarano is especially proud of the fact that the company has never lost sight of what matters most—its core values. Lightbridge Academy’s cultural advantage is evident in just about everything the brand does. While many companies often say they have a vision and core values, few actually live, foster and reinforce them on a daily basis. Since 1997, that’s exactly what has made Lightbridge Academy different from the rest—they’re not just in the day care, child care or preschool business. They’re in the business of transforming lives. At the center of Lightbridge Academy’s culture is its Circle of Care philosophy, which puts a strong emphasis on the needs of parents, staff, the local community, owners and children to form a supportive relationship that inspires a nurturing, learning environment.
That Circle of Care philosophy and the core values of the company are what set Lightbridge Academy apart in its industry—and it’s a culture that Falzarano is proud to say flows from the top down and from the bottom up. Which is why, in 2016, the brand was recognized by SmartCEO for its unique corporate culture. Lightbridge Academy was amongst 49 other businesses honored with SmartCEO’s Corporate Culture Award.
“There’s a certain vibe you experience when you enter a Lightbridge Academy—it feels like home. People tell us that all the time. I believe that comes from our core values. You need integrity, you need to be a caring and happy person. These are must-have traits when joining the Lightbridge Academy family,” Falzarano said. “Parents feel good about bringing their children to Lightbridge Academy. We truly are an extension to their family and we take that responsibility seriously. And that has been—and will continue to be—our key to success.”