Freeda Jones-Stewart left her career in the corporate world to pursue a new career as a Kumon Instructor and hasn’t looked back.
She did her research, attended trade shows and had a professional background that included both business and educational instruction. But it was her personal experience with Kumon that sealed the deal and led her to sign her franchise agreement to open the Kumon Center of Woodstock, Ga., earlier this year.
“The Kumon program changed the lives of my children,” she says. “My fourth grader began the program in kindergarten when he fell behind in reading. Within three months in Kumon, he became the top reader in his class and continues to win awards for his performance in school today. My first grader is excelling in school grade levels beyond her peers.”
While she signed her franchise agreement and opened her learning center earlier this year, the work to get to those points began long before.
Kumon wasn’t the only franchising option Jones-Stewart researched.
“Kumon stood out to me as my children had attended tutoring with other competitors and Kumon’s program has been most effective,” she says.
Not only was Kumon a fit for her children and passion, but Jones-Stewart says Kumon’s cost was also a benefit for her and others who are seeking to get into the business for the first time.
“I think, looking at the franchisee industry as a whole, yes, it’s cheaper to get involved with Kumon,” she says. “I’ve been to the franchise shows and have seen Kumon’s competitors. I was just always drawn to Kumon’s methodology. I also know I’m not a salesperson. I can’t sell something I don’t believe in.”
About a year before signing her lease and franchise agreement in the Atlanta suburb, Jones-Stewart left her career as a corporate training consultant in the human capital management industry and began her training as a Kumon Instructor.
She already had extensive experience in instructing others and in the business world, but instructors come from a wide range of backgrounds. Kumon’s training program covers all aspects of the business and includes book, online and in-person instruction, along with shadowing another experienced Instructor.
“I learned so much from that experience that included how to implement the Kumon technique, manage parent communication, center operations and child successes,” she says. “Witnessing the successful center operations helps me to understand the impact that the Kumon program has on the community.”
The beginning of 2023 brought excitement. Things were rolling along.
Jones-Stewart was finishing her coursework and was starting to put that into use in real situations with her training. She shadowed experienced instructors and interacted with students. She was learning the business.
The anticipation had Jones-Stewart excited as she also signed her lease for the center and began the process of building it out.
Delays in construction, which was common across the 2023 commercial real estate market in the U.S., pushed back her expected opening into late spring. And the wife and mother-of-two began having concerns about her work-life balance.
“I developed a concern with what a healthy work life balance would be for me and my family while operating in the center, as I am a wife and mother,” she says. “The solution to my concern involves setting healthy boundaries, delegating where appropriate and building a space within the center for the family.”
Her proposed daily schedule and plan to create a space within the center for her children to study wasn’t initially approved, but through negotiation, she worked out an agreement with Kumon.
Her contacts within Kumon also had suggested she begin offering online instruction or at an alternative location, like a library, until the center could open. This allowed her to begin offering instruction earlier and begin establishing her business in late spring.
As she progressed through the process, Jones-Stewart began her marketing blitz. She appeared at local functions and spoke at community events to educate the community around her about the benefits of Kumon.
She spoke to a “mixed bag” of parents whose children needed both remediation and enrichment education. That played to her strength as a Kumon parent. She had experienced both with her own children.
She also worked hard to attract younger students to the program.
“I’ve been out talking with daycare centers and talking to parents at their kid’s graduations about getting their young children ready and ahead for kindergarten,” she said. “They don’t want to wait until something is an issue. Address it now and get ahead to prepare them better.”
As the process moved along at a hurried pace, she recalled feeling a mix of emotions – some fear but also great excitement about her upcoming center opening.
Headaches persisted around building permits and her final buildout was pushed into June. But it didn’t stop her.
“It’s been a challenge with the building,” she says. “Those kinds of things are just out of your control. But we have found creative ways to keep going. I like to focus more on the things I can manage.”
Jones-Stewart was making great progress in her marketing, recruitment and instruction of new students. She also made a partnership with Kennesaw State University to hire students pursuing degrees in education as assistants.
Once the dust and permitting red tape cleared, the Kumon Center of Woodstock was able to open in June and a ceremonial opening was held in late August, complete with a classic ribbon-cutting ceremony.
In August, Jones-Stewart had about 16 students, but she continues to enroll more and expects business to pick up quickly as the school year begins and new marketing efforts are implemented. She was also the cover story for their local community magazine, a feature that will help the new center’s visibility.
While most of her instruction has moved into an in-person format, the virtual option is now possible for future students.
“It’s an option but it’s on a case-by-case basis,” she says. “I would need to collaborate with each family to see what that solution would look like.”
Jones-Stewart is confident business will begin to increase as the school year ramps back up and looks forward to helping more students in her community. Now that the buildout and opening process is behind her, she can focus on helping those students.
“Looking back, I feel pretty good,” she says. “It’s been quite the journey. I think I’m in a better position than I planned to be at this point. I didn’t foresee making so many connections in the community so quickly.”
In business for over 60 years, Kumon is consistently ranked #1 in the education category by Entrepreneur magazine and this year, Kumon was ranked #6 in the Top Ten of the entire Franchise 500® list. Investment starts at less than $65,000 and Kumon offers up to $34,000 in incentives—veterans may qualify for an extra $10,000 bonus. Opening a Kumon Franchise is ideal for individuals with a passion for education and for helping kids. See if Kumon Franchise is right for you.
For kids from pre-K to high school, Kumon is a math and reading academic enrichment program that goes well beyond traditional tutoring, unlocking the potential of children to achieve more. Through daily practice, the individualized approach helps children develop strong math, reading, writing, and grammar skills. Students develop confidence, increase focus, and improve study habits. Kumon Instructors guide kids through their individual curriculums, helping them set and achieve goals.