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It All Adds Up With Kumon

To own a franchise that has a good name, you have to have a sizable lump sum to invest, right? Wrong actually, since the arrival of Kumon. This highly effective tutoring method, born in Japan half a century ago, now helps around 45,000 students in the UK improve their maths and English results. Around three and a half million students worldwide follow the Kumon method.

This is a franchise opportunity ideally suited to educational professionals and others who want a more flexible lifestyle but cannot afford high start-up costs. There are 550 franchises in the UK already and the company has capacity for over 400 more.

Instructor Ella Ritchie opened her study centre in Linlithgow in January 2003. “I have a degree in maths and English and I also worked as an accountant for many years,” says Ritchie. “I have young children so I wanted to do something that was flexible. I was also keen to have my own business. Kumon combines a lot of attractive things for me.”

Ritchie runs her classes in her local borough hall, which she hires by the hour. “I recruit my own staff and organise all my own classes. You have a fair bit of latitude to do things in your own way. Because I work from home I can do a lot of my work while my children are at school.”

The hours Kumon instructors work depend on the number of students they have, says Ritchie. “ I started with six students which took up a few hours a week. Now I have 85 students and I probably work 20 to 25 hours a week.” Likewise, potential earnings depend on how much the individual wants to put into the business. “Some people want to keep costs to a minimum but I like to use incentives like giving medals and prizes to students. I also employ several people as classroom assistants, so my costs are probably higher than other instructors. It’s very individual.” <

Ritchie believes that location is an important factor in the success of her business. “I am very fortunate in that I live in a town where parents are willing to pay for after-school activities for their children and they take education very seriously. Now that parents have seen the results we achieve, most of my enquiries come through word of mouth.”

Her aim is to have 100 students by the end of this year. “When I started out I didn’t think I’d cope with 30 students, but once I had 30 I thought it was fine. You add staff accordingly and find different ways to do things.”

Kumon offers very good business growth opportunities for the right applicants, says Terry Kelly, Kumon Educational’s business development advisor. All applicants need to have good secondary school level maths and English, but Kelly points out that it’s not only about results on paper. He says, “In addition to aptitudes for the subjects, the focus is on strong communication skills. What we’re looking for is someone who can communicate on all levels.”

New instructors build on their initial training every three months for the first year, focusing on the syllabus and classroom management as well as issues such as identifying potential markets for Kumon teaching. Instructors continue to attend local and regional meetings and workshops each year to keep their skills current. In addition, each instructor is allocated a Kumon centre development advisor who monitors the classroom work and business-related activities.

The cost for the franchise licence is £400 and instructors pay royalties of 40% on student fees (this amount is 45% in the first year). Students pay £41 per month per subject. Kumon also offers subsidies on rent for teaching premises in the first year. The company is currently particularly keen to attract franchisees to 35 locations in Scotland.

*Article taken from Business Franchise Magazine June 2004