Kumon franchise owners come from a wide range of backgrounds: They are former math teachers, project managers and IT professionals. They are Asian and Hispanic, black and white.
So what drew them all to Kumon? And what makes them successful Kumon franchisees? Several Kumon Instructors shared their motivation for launching Kumon Centres:
Bonneva Ezekiel has always enjoyed working with children. One of 11 children, she babysat her siblings before becoming a teacher, director of a child-care centre and finally, the owner of Kumon of Florence, S.C.
“I have always found working with children extremely rewarding,” Ezekiel says. “With Kumon, I am learning from the children as much as they learn from me. And the parents are so appreciative.”
Ezekiel’s son went through the Kumon Program, so she was already familiar with how great the benefits are for children. When she was in the process of relocating back to Florence, where she grew up, a friend told her she was traveling 1.5 hours twice weekly to take her children to the Kumon Centre closest to her. “I explored the opportunity and decided it was a good fit,” she said.
She says the guidance of her field consultant and the corporate team has been invaluable. “I could not have gotten where I am without their support,” she says.
She says her background as a teacher was helpful, but the most important thing was how much she enjoys working with children. “I have colleagues who have come into Kumon from other professions. I used to feel like I had a big advantage over former bankers, pharmacists and other professionals, but once you learn the system and how it benefits children, it’s really simple to share the results with parents. The rewards are so obvious to both students and parents.
E.J. Cho, the instructor at Kumon of Stafford-West, Va., has experienced Kumon from every angle.
Cho, who grew up in South Korea, went through the Kumon program there and has very happy memories of it. When she came to the U.S. for graduate school, she worked part-time as an assistant at her aunt’s Kumon Centre.
She spent her early career in nonprofit fundraising, but when she became a mom, she started thinking about doing something different, and Kumon came to mind. “I liked working at my aunt’s Kumon Centre, and I have positive memories of my experiences as a child. When I had my own kids, my interest in education increased. And I thought, ‘What about Kumon?’”
She is now homeschooling her own kindergartner and going through the Kumon Program with her. “I’ve learned so much about how things work in real life. I have definitely learned things that have made me a better instructor,” Cho says.
One thing she has learned, she says, is that mindset is everything – both for instructors and for kids. “There is so much to learn,” she says, “and every day is a new day. You need to have the mindset that you want to continue to learn and grow. When you encounter a challenge, it will be difficult if you expect it to be. But if you think of it as the opportunity to learn new things, it can be a joyful experience.”
She adds that she tries to instill the same expectations in her students. “When you are working with little kids, especially, they have to see education as joyful. If they see it as a chore, they will never enjoy learning.”
Trung Tran has always loved math. After retiring from a career as an aerospace engineer, he wanted to share his love for math with others. He has found joy in a second chapter as the owner of Kumon of Lomita, Calif.
When they were young, his own two children went through Kumon and did very well. “I believe that the Kumon Method helped my children to be independent, and the self-learning skills helped them to succeed in college,” he says. He was thrilled to bring the program, which he credits with much of his children’s success, to other kids in his community.
Tran says many facets of owning and operating a Kumon Centre have been rewarding. He enjoys managing the centre efficiently, communicating with parents and students and hiring assistants who share his values and who enjoy teaching. “First and foremost, I enjoy helping students have fun in math and develop a love of reading,” he says.
“I find being a Kumon Instructor and having the opportunity to help students improve their grades is more joyful and meaningful than being an engineer,” he says.
Lydia Chan, the instructor at Kumon of Beacon, N.Y., had dreams of shaping education policy that would improve the lives of kids in her community. But after battling obstacles for kids with special needs, implementing STEM programs and more, she decided to take a different approach.
Chan came to the U.S. from Singapore in her 20s to work as an au pair and immediately enrolled in community college. Eventually, she earned a full scholarship to Columbia University, where she majored in policy.
“I felt very fortunate to get this scholarship, and Kumon gave me the opportunity to own my own business and give back. The policy side gave me an opportunity to work at a macro level, but Kumon gave me the chance to make a difference at a micro level,” she says.
Chan had limited previous experience with Kumon, which is unusual for an instructor. As a former piano teacher, she had a student who was enrolled in Kumon, and she knew that his parents believed in the program.
“I came into Kumon with a fresh set of eyes, as someone who never had taken Kumon classes or had a child who has done Kumon,” she says. “I had help from my field consultant and followed the template. But I also was proactive, putting in processes that work for me, working with nearby businesses and really listening to the parents at my Centre about what they want and need. And I always ask for Google reviews. I am proud of our reviews.”
The need for educational enrichment is great, she says, especially during the pandemic. “People are looking for help. They are searching for resources, hear about Kumon and come to us.”
What’s her favorite part of her work? “I love helping kids learn that they can do anything and go anywhere,” Chan says.
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