In our latest director briefing we spoke to Doug Downer, Franchising Director at MindChamps. Doug explores his journey with the company, the MindChamps ethos, what they are looking for in a potential franchisee and much more! Read on to learn about this passionate and trail-blazing business as well as how you can get involved in this opportunity.
Eden Exchange: Hi Doug, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Could you start off telling us about your background and your current role at MindChamps?
Doug Downer: I have been in the franchise sector since 1983 operating at all levels, having been an employee of a franchisor, a franchisee with multiple brands, a franchisor with seven brands at Director level and as a Master Franchisee. For the past three years I have been helping businesses move into and develop as a franchise system. I have taken on the role as Director of Franchising for the MindChamps business in Australia.
Eden Exchange: What is MindChamps and what services do you offer?
Doug Downer: It all started as a research institute here in Australia, with the goal of ‘filling the gaps’ that exist in education worldwide. MindChamps has now become a global leader in preschool operations and early childhood education.
Having developed a proprietary pedagogy that focuses on delivering enriching education whilst caring for preschool children, preparing them for school and lifelong learning by helping them to learn how to learn and to enjoy the experience whilst having fun in a safe and caring environment. MindChamps has developed some proprietary enrichment education products such as reading & writing programs, the introduction of theatre through its sister business Actors Centre Australia, music, numeracy and food through our gourmet delights program.
We cater for preschool children from 6 weeks to 6 years of age providing care for them and education that prepares them for future life.
Eden Exchange: How does the business model work? What is MindChamps’ philosophy?
Doug Downer: The business model works because of the investment in the development of the curriculum and the system that we have created and perfected over the past 20 years. MindChamps lends itself to franchising because it is a proven business model servicing a market that is in demand and growing by over 7% each year. MindChamps works because of its proprietary pedagogy – quite simply, it does things better than its competitors.
The MindChamps foundation model for learning in the 21st Century is called The 3 Minds – a practical, developmental model comprising three distinct qualities:
- The Champion Mind – Celebrating the individual’s uniqueness, going beyond conventional wisdom and overcoming adversity to achieve success.
- The Learning Mind – Strategies for learning how to learn that actively assist any learner to understand, store, recall and synthesise information and concepts.
- The Creative Mind – Connecting multiple perspectives and integrating them to solve problems and generate new, creative ideas.
Complementing the 3 Mind education model is MindChamps’ overarching philosophy – 100% Respect, Zero Fear. This is a way of approaching the world that leads our students to have full confidence in themselves, while considering the rights and opinions of others.
This offers our children the ideal opportunity to express their incredible potential, especially with the parents’ understanding and involvement.
Eden Exchange: Who is MindChamps designed for do you think? Is there a particular need in the market that is being catered for by MindChamps?
Doug Downer: More than 1.3 million children are enrolled and attend a childcare centre across Australia, with the majority (44%) of those aged between 0 and 5. Record female participation in Australia’s labour market and the growing number of children aged between 0 and 12 saw revenue grow by 12.0% to $12.4 billion within a year in June 2017.
Childcare plays an important economic and social role in Australia. For parents, it supports paid employment, education and training. For children, quality care can assist child development and has social and educational value, including a role in preschool education, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families. Since the 1970s the Australian government has been active in providing support to the sector and the families using childcare services. In 2018-2019 Australian government expenditure, primarily through subsidies for the cost of care to parents, assists with the introduction of the new package expected to be some $8.1 billion.
Looking ahead, the number of children aged 12 and under will grow by 7.8% within three years to June 2022; creating the need for 100,000 more childcare placements across the country. Growth in childcare has far outpaced the increase in Australia’s under 12 population.
Eden Exchange: MindChamps is located in 21 different locations across Sydney, where else in Australia are you looking at for franchise sites? Are there regions that experience greater demand?
Doug Downer: We will continue to focus on developing the NSW market and look for opportunities to enter Victoria followed by Queensland from a strategic perspective. However if opportunities present themselves in other states, we will look at growing there, too. Our initial focus will be on the eastern seaboard but we want to be represented in every state and territory throughout Australia. Focusing on regions experiencing a growth of young families is the most obvious strategy, but we believe that every child deserves the right to education and preparation for future life.
Eden Exchange: What training and experience is required of a new franchisee before they come on board? Do you require a certain amount of practical insight for the role such as languages or local knowledge of the community?
Doug Downer: We operate in an education and childcare sector but as a franchise partner this is not a prerequisite for our business. While experience would be beneficial, we are looking for franchise partners that share our vision: to foster the power and potential of the human mind, body and spirit for a better tomorrow.
We have a comprehensive and proprietary pedagogy and training program where we require all of our educators and franchisees to complete our ‘Champion Gold Standard’ training program that consists of up to 200 hours of additional training over and above the industry standards. In addition to this we provide business and leadership training to our franchisees before they open their own centre and then provide significant ongoing support.
Eden Exchange: How has MindChamps grown since you joined the business? Is there a milestone or goal that you are focusing on at the moment?
Doug Downer: We have just opened our first centre that was built from the ground up, it’s a state of the art facility at French’s Forest in Sydney that will set new standards in the preschool sector. We have been reticent to commit to a number but have grown to 21 centres in under two years. In Singapore, we have over 38% market share in the premium preschool market; in Australia, we have less than 1% market share – so the opportunity for growth is enormous. Our focus is not on numbers for numbers sake, it’s about opening the best centres we can with the best franchise partners possible.
Eden Exchange: What would you say are the fundamentals required of a franchisee and their approach to owning and operating a business like MindChamps?
Doug Downer: Any prospective franchisee has to have our shared values and a commitment to early childhood learning and quality care. We have developed training to assist our franchisees with our pedagogy and how to run a successful preschool business. Our values of heart, integrity, prosperity, growth and expansion are critical.
From a financial perspective, the franchise partner needs to have a minimum of $300,000 in liquidity and an ability to fund the balance of the business set up and operating costs.
Eden Exchange: What is the average day like for a MindChamps franchisee? Is there an element of work-life balance to consider? Does the role require a hands-on approach?
Doug Downer: I have a firm view on the concept of work-life balance: if you’re a business owner it’s more about work-life integration. We need franchise partners with not just a champion mindset but also an ownership mindset where they will do whatever it takes to be the best that they can be. Having said that, our core business operates Monday to Friday from 7-7, so no early mornings or late nights and weekends are all yours – that is, unless you decide to operate our Actors Centre Australia (ACA) Kids business that enables you to generate revenue on the weekends for all children.
The business is hands-on; we don’t want investors. We want franchisees that believe what we believe and that want to play an active role in the business. Our franchisees do not have to be educators, in fact we would prefer they focus on running the business. Many of our existing franchisees are parents themselves, and they understand the importance of education, quality childcare and preparing children for future life. This business gives them the flexibility to still manage their household and be their for their own children.
Eden Exchange: For anyone who is listening and considering enquiring about a MindChamps business, what are the most important things they should consider before making a change to the early learning sector and what advice can you offer?
Doug Downer: You need to have a love for children and making the world a better place. Financially the business is rewarding, but that comes from your 100% commitment to following our model. We will provide the direction, training and support to help you be successful but the prospective franchisee needs to follow our philosophy of 100% Respect & Zero Fear.
Thank you for your time Doug, it has been a pleasure.
About the business:
MindChamps was created from the belief that every child is born with the potential to be a champion. After decades of research into early learning pedagogy, neuroscience and child psychology, and drawing upon the engagement techniques of theatre, MindChamps has crafted a new approach to early learning that is designed to equip the children of today with the foundations for future success.
Founded in Sydney in 1998, we took our research to Singapore – possibly the most competitive and demanding educational environment in the world – to measure our new approach against the more traditional models. Armed with strong conviction and the backing of some of the world’s leading educators, scientists and literacy experts, MindChamps is now recognised as Singapore’s leading provider of premium preschool care.
Now, returning to Australia, MindChamps is dedicated to helping each and every Aussie kid realise their true potential.