Afterhours childcare franchise Sherpa Kids plans to recruit 100 Australian franchisees in five years and expand into as many as eight countries, after launching in the United Kingdom.
Sherpa Kids, established in New Zealand in 1996, is an Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) program offering a variety of activities including arts and crafts, music, drama and sport.
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The Australian operations of Sherpa Kids were launched in July 2011 by Vicki Prout, four-time winner of the Franchise Council of Australia’s South Australian Franchise Woman of the Year.
There are now 10 Australian franchisees, with 10 more planned for 2013, and a five-year goal of 100 franchisees across the country. But these are not the only expansion plans.
Late last year, Sherpa Kids sold a country master franchise in the UK to John Geers, who has described the OSHC market in the UK as huge but “very immature and fragmented”.
“The service levels provided to schools, parents and their children [is] very inconsistent. The sKids brand and operational excellence will set us apart in this market,” he said in a statement.
According to Prout, the educational climate in the UK is very similar to that in New Zealand and Australia, so it was “a very easy fit”.
“My business partner is British and I lived in the UK for five years, so we had a very good understanding of the country,” Prout told StartupSmart.
“We were ready to go over 12 months beforehand but decided to just hold off [due to the economic climate].
“Then we were ready. We’ve got a very good network of other franchises over there and they’re saying, ‘Yes, it’s picking up’.”
Prout and her business partner went in search of a UK master franchisor, and found Geers at a franchising expo. The expo was unlike anything Prout has experienced in Australia.
“Instead of an expo where people just walk around, this was a show where people actually read all about your brand and your business, and book in half-hour slots with you,” she says.
“I had appointments all day… It was really good and that’s how we found our UK guy, John.”
According to Prout, Geers has an “awesome” background in advertising and has worked with child-related brands in the past.
“You don’t know what you don’t know. His main role is to get out there [and promote the brand],” Prout says.
Geers recently flew to Adelaide to finalise arrangements of the UK master franchise, which will enable him to introduce Sherpa Kids to as many 17,000 primary schools.
“The UK has 17,000 primary schools that fit our market and we will be happy with Sherpa Kids servicing anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 schools over a ten-year period,” Prout says.
“Our business model… will allow for the UK franchisee to work in a cluster of around 3,500 enrolled students, which could mean the franchisee managing between 10 to 20 schools.”
Aside from different terminology relating to afterschool care, Prout says the only real contrast between the UK market and the Australian market is the former is slightly more conservative.
“Being British, they’re a little bit slower to take it up. They’re a little bit conservative but we know that so we’ve just tweaked our presentation,” she says.
“World domination is [the ultimate goal]. My business partner and I are very, very aggressive. I’ve come from working with Cartridge World, which went into 40 countries.
“We’ve got enquiries on the go from Singapore, Ireland, South Africa and India at this point. We’d like to be in eight countries within the next two years.”