A Pennsylvania-based preschool chain plans to open as many as seven new centers in the Greater Hartford area over the next two years.
Goddard Schools already operates three schools in Connecticut: one in Glastonbury, one in Orange and one in Brookfield.
The Goddard School has been working for more than a year to open an 8,300-square-foot center in Farmington, said Jeff Travitz, director of franchise sales.
Goddard Systems Inc., the franchisee of the Goddard Schools, has created a niche by providing curriculum and enrichment courses to children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old in areas with high-income households.
The centers also offer after-school enrichment and summer enrichment programs. Targeted areas include the Hartford, New Haven, Fairfield and New London counties.
The company's business model is to open schools in stand-alone buildings on properties that have ample space for parking and playgrounds, said Travitz.
Franchisee Kimberly Kick opened the Goddard School in Orange in 2006 with 50 kids and 10 teachers. Today, the Old Tavern Road center includes a roster of 124 children and a staff of 23 faculty members, teachers and assistants.
Kick, who holds a master's degree in elementary curriculum, taught for 10 years before she decided to start her own business.
"When I started looking for something like The Goddard School for my kids, there were not a lot of options out there that appealed to us," said Kick, who has a son, 12 and a daughter, 9.
"So we started looking at how we could provide this service for other families," she said. "It's a feel-good business that has a positive impact on the families we serve. We maintain relationships with people even after they grow out of our school."
Kick spent two years looking for a site, obtaining the necessary permits and finding staff before she opened her school. Enrollment swelled to full capacity by 2008, the same year her business achieved profitability.
Kick and her husband, a state trooper, tapped into savings to finance the new business. Her parents bought the land and building, which they lease back to the couple.
The 8,000-square-foot schools, which typically cost $700,000 to outfit and takes 18 to 24 months to launch, house as many as 130 students, two directors, eight to 10 college-educated teachers and 10 to 15 assistants.
Anthony Martino, who founded AAMCO Transmissions, started The Goddard School in 1986 and sold the first franchise in 1988. Today the company has 380 centers in 35 states and provides services to more than 45,000 children.
The childcare and early development market is a $59 billion a year industry catering to more than 24 million children under age 6 in the U.S. who are in some form of childcare program. The sector shows no signs of slowing down as it grows at a steady 5.4 percent annually. It is poised to grow to $71 billion by 2013.
Despite a shaky economy and weak lending climate, The Goddard School added 20 locations in 2011 across the U.S. This year, the company has a goal of opening another 20 new facilities nationwide. So far, it has opened 11 centers nationally, three of which are second school sites for existing franchisees.
Allison Dell, a former preschool teacher with a background in finance — a good blend of skills for operating an educational business — plans to open a second unit sometime this year in Banbury.
Dell, who has an 8-year-old daughter and two sons, 18 and 11, enrolled her children at Goddard in Brookfield in 2006. That same year, she started exploring the idea of building her own school. In 2007, she bought the business and took over operations.
"We're doing well here. Our enrollment for the next school year starting in September is full and we have a wait list," said Dell.
The privately-held franchise company would not disclose its financials.
The Goddard School historically set up its centers in the quiet suburbs. In 2007, the company followed its clients into the metro area in Columbus, Ohio where parents could easily drop off and pick up children on their way to and from work — and even visit during the day.
"We have young, affluent families that want easy, convenient access to good childcare," said Travitz.
While tuition varies depending on the number of days and hours a child attends, full-time generally runs about $1,000 a month.
The curriculum and enrichment courses offered at the Goddard School sets the business apart from typical daycare centers and neighborhood preschools. Early childhood education expert Dr. Kyle Pruett, child psychiatrist and clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, provides curriculum material for the company.
The school also offers a wide variety of fun classes that could make working parents envious: yoga, technology and Spanish, to name a few.