The early-education and childcare franchise enables the international-business-management expert and former elementary school teacher to combine their passions for business and education
Two years ago, John Minnebo decided to venture outside of the corporate world. This marked a major change in direction for the 27-year veteran of DuPont whose master’s degree in international management sparked a career that began in finance and ended in corporate strategy for the $30 billion conglomerate. Since then, John has worked to help small businesses start up and become an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management, but his primary focus has been opening his Lightbridge Academy Center outside of Philadelphia.
Like his wife Beatrice, who taught French at an elementary school after leaving a logistics position with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, John has a passion for education. He was determined to find an opportunity that both he and his wife could contribute to and combine their shared passion for education with their business-strategy experience. John said it didn’t take long for them to choose to open a Lightbridge Academy.
“We knew we wanted to own something, so we started looking into franchising, and explored a number of different concepts,” John said. “Lightbridge Academy was the first we saw that really appealed to us, and the more we learned about it, the more we liked the brand.”
As they compared education franchises, John said Lightbridge’s commitment to quality content became the key factor in the couple’s decision to invest in the franchise brand.
“It became obvious that Lightbridge was about finding the most effective ways of educating young students from every angle,” said John. “They are constantly striving to improve and enhance the experience so students can learn more easily and more effectively. For instance, Lightbridge teaches American Sign Language to children as young as 6 weeks old. They did the research and found that children can learn this very early on and it contributes to the development of their cognitive abilities. It’s just healthy for the brain. That level of commitment is what really impressed us.”
When the Minnebos attended a Lightbridge Academy franchise discovery day, they were pleased to find that same commitment to quality extended to the brand’s franchisees.
“There were two things that struck me at the discovery day,” John said. “The first was a clear value for open, multi-directional communication. That is built into their DNA. They are always available for franchisees, and they want feedback. Other franchisors just give you a package and say, ‘go make it happen.’ Not with Lightbridge. It’s a partnership and a process. The second thing was that they were very selective about who they brought on as franchisees. They carefully interviewed us to make sure our values aligned with theirs. It was obvious that they care deeply about their company and want to partner with people who feel the same way. We left that discovery day totally convinced.”
The Minnebos opened their first Lightbridge Academy center in the Garnet Valley suburb of Philadelphia earlier this year, and they’ve already earned high praise from the franchise’s corporate team.
“We’ve been very impressed with them,” said David Falzarano, Lightbridge’s vice president of franchise development. “John brought a unique business experience, and he’s extremely detail oriented and process driven, and Beatrice has fantastic management skills. It’s clear they are going to be great franchisees.”
Gigi Schweikert, Lightbridge’s president and chief operating officer, agreed. “They are totally involved and completely process oriented, which are essential traits for success as a Lightbridge Academy owner. Their passion and dedication to excellence is evident.”
Now that the Minnebos’s Lightbridge center is open for business, John said the qualities that initially drew them to the brand have proven even more beneficial.
“The open communication with the corporate team has been enormously valuable,” John said. “In business, there are always going to be little issues that you run into, but with Lightbridge, all we have to do is pick up the phone and we get a quick, effective solution. It’s all very interactive. We never feel like we’re on our own or that our input doesn’t matter. And we’re so proud to be part of this company. The Lightbridge educational program is comprehensive. We have detailed lesson plans and amazing, cutting-edge tools to implement those plans in the classroom. Both traditional tools and new technology like iPads create an engaging early learning environment. We never see a situation where we think, ‘if only we had this tool.’ Everything is taken care of.”
Despite the Minnebos’ extensive experience in both education and business management, Schweikert said it’s their passion that makes them ideal Lightbridge Academy franchisees.
“John and Beatrice bring so much to their Lightbridge center,” Schweikert said. “But when it comes down to making the business a success, it’s a matter of belief in and respect for the product, which they demonstrate completely. That’s the attitude we look for in new franchisees, and that’s what is going to make John and Beatrice so successful with Lightbridge Academy."