2015 Business Class Honoree: Little Sunshine's Enterprises LLC
Kim W. Schumer
As adorable as young children are, taking care of them is not child’s play.
It is, however, a lucrative business for Rochette and Matt Dahler, the entrepreneurs behind Little Sunshine’s Playhouse and Preschool early childhood development centers.
The company that started as a small in-home child care provider now has four schools in the Springfield area, 11 around the country and a robust business model to develop an additional 10 schools annually starting in 2016. That adds up to 400 schools nationally in the next 15 years, Rochette Dahler says.
Such expansion isn’t surprising for a company that initially had room to care for eight children but a waiting list of more than 140.
“I didn’t have business aspirations to grow the company nationally,” Dahler says. “It was an evolution of determination and excitement for sharing this company that we have fallen in love with.”
Dahler says parent company Little Sunshine’s Enterprises LLC is now in rapid expansion mode.
“We have just granted a handful of new franchisees all across the country; each of those franchisees are signing on to develop 10 sites each,” she says. “It’s taking us all over the place, and we’ve got schools in development from California to Florida.”
Dahler says the company is seeking 40 franchisees to take over the market in their respective areas.
Selecting those teams goes beyond how applicants look financially and is the one thing that gives her the most anxiety, she says.
“We are ridiculously selective. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a gut feeling that can turn us away from someone that looks absolutely great on paper but isn’t quite the right culture fit for our company,” she says.
In exchange for a $500,000 investment, Dahler says those who make the cut receive support from the ground up. The corporate team assists with all aspects of site selection and school construction to provide the franchisee with a turnkey operation.
“When the franchisee walks in, the school is 100 percent ready to be operated,” she says.
Support continues after the school opens, with continued training, weekly conference calls and corporate handling of all administrative tasks, including financing, banking, bill payment and payroll.
Dahler attributes Little Sunshine’s popularity with parents to its approach to early childhood education and its focus on safety, including Kiddie Cams, which allow parents 24/7 video access to what children are doing at school, and daily Luv Notes, a proprietary system of electronic communication with parents that details the child’s day.
“That is a new evolution that you are going to potentially see in child care centers more, and we are certainly on the cutting edge of that,” Dahler says.
Little Sunshine’s love for children extends beyond the classroom. It initiated the Lovin’ Lexi fundraiser to help the family of a student diagnosed with leukemia, which led to Dahler looking for additional ways to give back.
Recently, Little Sunshine’s connected with the Pediatric Brain Association, of which Dahler will be president.
“We will be supporting and raising funds (for) pediatric brain research,” she says.
“Our goal is $2.5 million a year.”[[In-content Ad]]