Guy Falzarano and his wife, Julia Falzarano, don't have the oft-heard “we started in our garage” origin story.
It’s not for a lack of trying — they fixed up their garage 20 years ago to launch their child care business. It just turned out that the business, Lightbridge Academy, was better suited for a 5,000-square-foot facility down the street from their Iselin home.
They couldn’t have asked for a better market.
The Falzaranos feel their first center had everything they now look for in expanding their operation up and down the East Coast — highly concentrated populations of busy working parents who need to put children in a child care program on a daily basis throughout the year.
Each of the company’s centers provides daylong early education and child care to children ages 6 weeks through kindergarten, as well as special programming for children up to 10 years old during school holidays, breaks and summer camp.
The business model helped Lightbridge Academy become a $22 million company with a $5 million franchising business.
Biz in brief
Company name: Lightbridge Academy
Employees: About 450 employees
Revenue: $22 million in 2016
But if you think this is an old company that is surviving by acting the same way it started two decades ago, think again.
For starters, some of the company’s impressive recent growth can be attributed to offering Lightbridge Academy as a provider for backup child care services that corporations may offer as a perk to all of their employees.
About a quarter of the parents that go to Lightbridge Academy are referred to it through interactions with companies, Guy Falzarano said.
“We go to those corporations, and, at no charge to them, offer their employees a discount — all they have to do is put us in their benefits package and advertise within their intranet,” he said.
Then there’s technology. The Falzaranos feel their utilization of the latest technology is another way they stand out from competitors.
“You don’t think of child care as being technology-driven, but we employ a lot of technology in our space,” Guy Falzarano said. “And you really have to with (this generation).
“I was in a (Lightbridge Academy) classroom a couple months ago where children were studying planets with our interactive technology. I asked, ‘What planet do we live on?’ And one of the kids said, ‘Google Earth!’
“Commentary for the times, I guess.”
Technology is everywhere in the centers.
Lightbridge Academy uses a fingerprint-scanning biometric scanner to secure the entrance and track people coming and going. It also has an internet monitoring system called ParentView, which allows parents to watch the activities of their children throughout the day.
“We want to keep parents connected — we want a strong bond between the children, their parents and our staff, so everyone knows what’s going on and they’re working with us in the development of their children,” Falzarano said. “We’re using technology to bring people closer together.”
It’s part of what the company touts as its core values — and what it sees as another point of differentiation.
“We really focus on our five stakeholders: that’s the child, the parent, the employee, the franchisees and the community,” Falzarano said. “You can’t run this business without any one of those stakeholders.”
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