Ever since Neil Yaeger was a teenager, he’s dreamed of owning his own business. After spending more than 20 years in the corporate world, Neil eventually grew tired of the daily nine-to-five grind—but still, making the leap as a first-time entrepreneur seemed like a goal that was still well out of reach.
Then, Neil’s wife, Jane, fell ill. Her condition at the time required a serious operation, and Neil decided to stay home from his job to care for her. In a way, it was the wakeup call that Neil needed, and it forced him to reevaluate where he was in life, and where he wanted to go in the years ahead. That’s when he revisited his dream of business ownership—and he quickly realized that franchising would be the first step to making that a reality.
“Without a doubt, we wanted to pursue a business opportunity within the child care segment. Jane was a teacher for more than 15 years—she loved everything about children and the world of education. I watched as her students grew up and would run into her time and time again—they were all so grateful and appreciative for everything she had done,” Neil said. “Knowing that you’re able to impact people’s lives made it so much more than just a job. I had always envied that connection.”
After realizing that they wanted a future in the child care industry, finding the right brand to invest in was easy. Lightbridge Academy, with its upward trajectory and strong growth potential, stood out above all other brands the Yaegers had researched. But even more than its promising future, it was clear to both Neil and Jane that Lightbridge Academy was a brand that truly cared about each and every one of its franchisees.
“Lightbridge Academy is an emerging brand in the midst of an exciting growth mode. And the fact that it operates like a family-owned business was very attractive to us. They care about the success of every single franchisee, and they’re always available for one-on-one help,” Neil said. “I could call up Lightbridge Academy’s founder and CEO, Guy Falzarano, whenever I had an issue, and to me, that was very reassuring. He’s incredibly genuine and takes a lot of pride in his business. I know if I ever need any support, he’s there for me.”
Coming from a teaching background, Jane was especially impressed by Lightbridge Academy’s “Circle of Care” philosophy.
“This was clearly a brand fueled by their core values. Lightbridge Academy has created this incredibly nurturing community, and that is so important in a child care setting. With the ‘Circle of Care’ philosophy, everyone has an equally important role throughout the entire Lightbridge Academy system—whether it’s staff, parents, owners, children or the community,” Jane said.
The Yaegers officially signed their agreement in June of 2015 for the first Lightbridge Academy center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. With mountains to the west and the Atlantic to the east, Virginia has as diverse a landscape as the people who live there. Virginia’s wealthy, developing and underserved areas are all in need of quality child care, but with no locations currently in Virginia Beach Metro, it’s an area that’s wide open for development. Right now, Lightbridge Academy currently has 85 child care centers that are either open or in development throughout Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. And with the help of the Yaegers, the brand is continuing its outward growth from its headquarters in Iselin, New Jersey.
The Yaegers’ Lightbridge Academy center, which is slated to open in fall of 2017 (just in time for back-to-school season), is a major milestone for the brand—the location is the furthest away from the company’s headquarters in New Jersey.
“We’re excited to spearhead this continued growth. We feel like we have the opportunity to serve as a flagship center for others to come, and this location will be instrumental in closing the geographic gap for the brand as they look to move from New Jersey to Virginia and beyond,” Neil said.
According to Jane, introducing Lightbridge Academy to Virginia Beach will be especially important due to the region’s large military population. Located near the largest Navy base in the world, many young families are often split up as husbands and wives are deployed overseas for extended periods of time. With the help of Lightbridge Academy’s ParentView® internet monitoring technology, these military families will now have the chance to check in with their children even when they’re hundreds of miles away.
“These sailors will be able to go online and with a click of a button, check in on their children—they can see them smiling, laughing and having a positive experience. That was a huge reason for us wanting to open a location in Virginia Beach,” Jane said.
As the Yaegers continue to work toward getting their first Lightbridge Academy center up and running this fall, they’re already eager to discuss plans for the future. Both Neil and Jane envision opening up to three Lightbridge Academy locations in the coming years—and it’s easy to see why. With demand continuing to grow in the child care segment, an unrivaled corporate culture and unparalleled support, the Yaegers are confident that this is just the beginning of their career with Lightbridge Academy.
“If I had to describe our experience with Lightbridge Academy so far, I’d do so with three words—they’ve been honest, transparent and helpful. We’re thrilled to have finally made the leap into business ownership with such an incredible brand, and even more thrilled for what our future has in store,” Neil said.