Sherpa Kids Franchise – An Engaging Child Care Franchise Model
Name: Genevieve Allen
Franchise: Sherpa Kids South Africa
What is Sherpa Kids?
Sherpa Kids is an Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) business available in the country as a successful franchise model. OSHC is a new category of childcare in South Africa and comprises aftercare, holiday care and before school (breakfast club) care. The centres are run directly on school properties. Centres are staffed by qualified personnel who meet minimum standards as prescribed by the brand as well as International Best Practice and managed by the owners of the Sherpa Kids franchise. Each franchisee may operate multiple, closely located and similar – in – profile schools.
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose your franchise?
After 20 years in the corporate sector, I was looking for an opportunity to enter into an entrepreneurial venture. I wanted to focus on the education/childcare sectors as I have a deep passion for this and a strong belief in the transformative power of education.
Understanding the sector well and therefore the barriers to entry in certain sub-sectors, I chose from a relatively narrow list of prospects. The “safer” nature of franchising appealed to me as I have respect for operations-focused professionals and I value that franchises offer operational support. The collective traction that results from a brand that is professionally managed and developed is powerful and has the capacity for an exponentially compounding effect.
On investigating and understanding the Sherpa Kids model:
I absolutely love the “everyone wins” paradigm in which the business operates. There are numerous audiences that benefit from Sherpa Kids franchises. These include:
- Families – managing time/stress and priorities through reduced fragmentation of out of school hours care
- Schools – supporting them through educationally beneficial outsourcing and with a solution that allows principals and teachers to focus on their core function
- Children – improvement of self-esteem through improved results and social benefits
- Communities – the collection of all the positive benefits together with providing jobs/business opportunities for local suppliers/entrepreneurs
- Teachers – potential career-pathing post teaching careers
From a business model perspective:
The combination of the proven business model, strong brand equity, multi-market approach in an affordable, accessible franchise format translates into a business proposition which opens up business opportunities for a broad spectrum of South Africans to participate as business owners. The offer is internationally benchmarked in premium education markets and is accredited in the markets where it operates and has been running for over 15 years.
From a transformative perspective, this resonates with me personally as broad spectrum ownership is critical to securing the future of South Africa where more of us see ourselves as self-sufficient contributors and less of us as state reliant.
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
I was involved in the education industry for 20 years. I worked within the extremely dynamic private for profit higher education sector in South Africa.
How did you raise the finance?
I bought the licence for Sherpa Kids Southern Africa using my savings and share capital.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
My team and I attended training sessions in Australia with the founders of the business. The training was invaluable and very helpful in terms of how to set up sites and what each site entails.
I am the licence holder for Sherpa Kids in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, so my main responsibility is to encourage potential franchisees to purchase a Sherpa Kids franchise. On a day to day basis, I co-ordinate with Sherpa Kids International, manage my team of consultants, select and retain franchisees and staff, build key stakeholder relationships and manage the operational side of the business.
What challenges have you faced?
The Out Of School Hours Care (OSHC) category is new in South Africa, so we need to spend a lot of time educating schools about what it means and how offering OSHC services will benefit their learners and parents alike.
Has becoming a franchisor changed your life, if so how?
I have gained ownership of my time and my priorities. I am not working to an agenda that is unclear, misdirected or owned by too many participants who are not meaningfully accountable and responsible. I lead and direct a small team of dedicated professionals and work with my international partners who are experts in their fields. This system is driven by meritocracy.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
People should really understand the costs and risks of things like lease agreements with third parties. Starting a new business is daunting and certain costs are large. Agreements and liabilities remain in place even if the business is not as successful as you have anticipated. This is very evident within for example the food and retail franchise industry.
Sherpa Kids operates within a different model. It does not require lease agreements and cost of marketing is very low as your target market exists within the school you are operating.
Products that are fads or seasonal are dangerous. A product category where you need to convince your market why they need it is a higher risk. A better prospect is one where customers already understand the need and your job is to present to best solution to that need.
Most importantly – this is a cliché but it is a critical success factor – own a business in your area of interest. Owning your own business does not have an “off switch” unlike your salaried job (they don’t say 9-5 for nothing). Love what you do!
What are your plans for the future?
I want to establish Sherpa Kids as the market leader in South Africa for OSHC as it is in New Zealand. This is a critical needs sector. It is growing! It is under-serviced and there are no internationally benchmarked providers (therefore no direct competition) in South Africa currently. This means we can only go from strength to strength.
Would you do it again?
Yes, most definitely! I am a firm believer in entrepreneurship and the transformative power of investing in children – this business blends both beautifully. Buying the license for Sherpa Kids South Africa was a carefully considered decision that involved market and product category research, two trips to Australia, a trip to the UK, many hours of Skype calls and consultation with industry experts.
The successful base model with its strong operational system, proven ROI and commitment to relationships makes Sherpa Kids an excellent investment opportunity. A well-recognised franchise name along with proven methods and ongoing support are the added benefits.