Franchisee Aileen Clarkson grew her first center, Mathnasium of Savannah Islands, GA, largely through supporting the local education community and by maintaining a homey, positive, and effective learning environment that fostered a sense of ownership and belonging among her customers. This, combined with the numerous student success stories coming out of her center, resonated with families in her small, close-knit area and fueled strong referral business that enabled her to grow that center close to the 100-student mark. When she opened her second location, Mathnasium of Savannah Midtown in December 2011, she faced the challenge of growing a similarly successful center, this time in a much larger, more urban market.
Looking back, “It was much easier to get the word out for the first location,” Aileen reflects. “That center’s in a small island community where everyone knows each other. Parents are very involved with schools. And, as far as demographics go, I know that if I got a phone call at my first center, there’s a very good chance the family will sign up, because they can afford it.
“Meanwhile, the Midtown location draws from a much larger market. There are 44 schools compared with six in my first location. A lot of the areas I serve here have even better demographics than my first location. So while I feel that it’ll take longer to grow, the second center definitely has the potential to become bigger than the first.”
Aileen is exceptionally passionate about what she does, and it shows when she speaks with parents and others in the community. “I love every minute of what I do,” she tells us. “I often joke that if work was a luxury, I’d be doing this for free,” she says. “As a parent and teacher, I connect with other parents and teachers on that level. I don’t come across as a businessperson. From day one, I never felt that I had to ‘sell’ Mathnasium.”
These qualities serve Aileen well as she reaches out and supports local schools. “One thing that worked really well at my first center was partnering with the schools and establishing a physical presence,” she explains. The benefits are twofold—she gets to give back to the communities her business serves all while getting the word out about Mathnasium. For her second center, she chose to focus on 20 schools located in key markets. In her two territories, Aileen has donated both cash and Mathnasium scholarships to PTAs; volunteered her time and expertise to help parents, teachers and administrators and sponsored family fun days and other school social events.
As a result of her efforts, schools are now familiar with Mathnasium and its unique teaching methodology and have welcomed Aileen and Mathnasium with open arms. Teachers, guidance counselors and administrators frequently refer struggling math students to her centers for some extra help. By going out into the community and becoming the personable, passionate and knowledgeable face of her business, she has sown the seeds for future growth. “We have a great market and a great product,” she concludes. “As long as we keep our passion for what we do and show that we really care about the kids doing well, we’ll instill in our students a passion for learning. It’s a lot of work, and quite time consuming to get out there the way we do, but parents and teachers are noticing our commitment. They know we’re actively, every day, doing what we can to help the kids improve.”