Before Guy Falzarano founded Lightbridge Academy, he had no experience in the education industry. His background was entirely in business— he first worked his way up the ladder in corporate America at a phone company, and then went on to open his own marketing business. But when he was looking for a new career opportunity, his wife Julia—who was then working as a part-time teacher—suggested that they open a preschool for children in their New Jersey neighborhood. Despite having no experience in this arena, he decided to dive right in and learn the ins and outs of the child care industry.
“When we first started out, I knew nothing about running a preschool or child care center. But as we began building our program, it became clear that there was a real opportunity to change the industry for the better and create a unique niche for ourselves,” said Falzarano. “With three kids of our own, my wife and I know what it’s like to feel stressed out as a parent. So we decided to create a child care center that caters to the entire family in order to provide much needed support and help them out during the time they need it most.”
Since then, Lightbridge Academy has been working to raise the bar in the increasingly in-demand child care industry. The brand is backed by its “Circle of Care” Philosophy, which places the same value on the needs of children, parents and employees. That means Lightbridge Academy makes it a priority to provide the best possible care for everyone involved in a child’s life, from extended hours for working parents to high-tech systems that monitor children’s activities throughout the day.
The brand makes that mission a reality through a variety of services that aim to go above and beyond the programs offered by competing child care concepts. Its ParentView® Internet Monitoring System, for example, allows parents to watch a live stream of their children in the classroom. Lightbridge Academy’s eCommunication also keeps parents in constant contact with their child’s caregivers—teachers send pictures, videos, progress reports and other updates daily.
“When parents or teachers are stressed, it has an effect on children, so we tailor our programs and services to remove as much of that stress as possible,” said Brenda Febbo, Lightbridge Academy’s chief marketing officer. “The need for our services is universal—it isn’t limited to one specific area. That’s why we’re experiencing such tremendous and rapid growth.”
Falzarano first started growing his successful concept by request—parents came to him and asked if they could open up their own Lightbridge Academy centers. But initially, he didn’t expand through franchising. Instead, Falzarano created co-owner partnerships where he would manage the back end of the business while his partners would oversee the day-to-day operations of their location. Those centers all then held their own individual LLCs.
But after a few years, Lightbridge Academy reached a point where it was ready to grow beyond the corporate level. After consolidating the individually owned companies, Falzarano made the decision to break into franchising. The business model was the best opportunity for the brand to expand since franchisees bring a heightened level of passion and commitment to the table in order to see their own businesses succeed.
That decision has definitely paid off—what started as one school has now become 12 corporate owned stores – and an additional 70 franchises sold.,23 of which are currently open for business, with another 20 expected to launch by the end of next year.
“Our focus is now directed to the franchising side of the business. It has given us the ability to expand faster and more strategically than we have in the past,” said Falzarano. “Our goal is to open one or two corporate stores a year, and between 15 and 20 franchises. That will set an ideal pace to bring Lightbridge Academy’s unique concept to new communities across the country.”