Balanced Learning

In 2004, Angelo and Melissa Pettis called the Primrose School Franchising Co., hoping to open a childcare facility. They were turned down.

“Primrose has a screening process,” Angelo, 34, says, admitting that he and his wife, 38, didn’t clearly present how they would finance an operation. Once they tightened their plan, the couple successfully won over Primrose School officials and opened their school in Wake Forest, North Carolina, in April 2006.

Founded in Atlanta 24 years ago, Primrose School (www is an educational childcare facility with more than 140 schools in 13 states, including several locations in Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. The school chain plans to open 12 more schools this year, including sites in Minnesota and Indiana. The average annual revenues for one of Primrose’s schools are approximately $1.2 million.

The Pettises, whose son attended one of the schools, say the company’s mission to “provide students with tools necessary to become productive citizens” appealed to them when considering the franchise. Through its Balanced Learning curriculum, Primrose Schools promotes a teacher-directed/child-initiated approach to learning. In this way, children receive nurturing on social, emotional, physical, and intellectual levels.

The franchise says this approach helps students become well-rounded. “Through our Balanced Assessment approach, we are able to focus on each individual child’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Jo Kirchner, president and CEO of Primrose Schools. “We also can benchmark the strengths and weaknesses of our curriculum model or areas where we can focus on more professional development for the teachers.”

The Pettises applied for the Primrose School of Heritage Wake Forest in late 2004, before eventually signing an agreement in February 2005. Aside from overseeing construction of the new school, the couple, with assistance from Primrose, engaged in a marketing campaign that included mailing newsletters, placing newspaper advertisements, and attending community events — all to ensure that the Wake Forest community knew the school was opening.

Of the $240,000 the couple needed to put toward opening the school, approximately $130,000 came from their personal savings and Angelo’s 401(k), while the remainder came from family and friends.

Primrose School spokeswoman Lee Scott says traditionally, franchisees need access to $250,000 to $320,000 to purchase a Primrose School. “We look to award Primrose Schools to people who have a track record of success in business, a passion for our business, and a strong desire to make a difference in communities where they live,” says Scott. Although this is the Pettises’ first entrepreneurial venture, they had solid and successful work histories and kept clean credit records.

The Pettises charge tuition rates of about $250 a week per child. At full enrollment, which is 176 students, their franchise school will employ 25 to 27 employees, including directors and teachers. Primrose Schools accept students ranging from as young as 6 weeks old to 5 years old. In addition to the early childcare facility, the Pettises also have an after-school program for children up to 12 years old. Scott says Primrose Schools is already “exploring options to build locations in the growing urban markets