Great business start with SKIDS

16:00, Nov 18 2012

It was a joke that catapulted Dawn Engelbrecht into the world of business ownership.

When Engelbrecht and her husband moved from South Africa to New Zealand in 2000, one of their biggest frustrations as full-time workers without an established network of friends and family was trying to find decent after school care for their three children.

The school her children attended had a small after school programme called Safe Kids in Daily Supervision (SKIDS).

"I jokingly said that I should buy it and the owner said ''well it's for sale'' and that was my first SKIDS franchise," said Engelbrecht.

In 2006, Engelbrecht and business partner Bev Parsons, also a franchisee owner, bought the SKIDS franchise system. They discovered that the company was in need of a makeover as it had undeveloped systems and unhappy franchisees.

As operations manager, Parsons focused on support of the franchisees while Engelbrecht, an accountant, worked on programme development.

Over the past six years SKIDS has grown quickly from 12 franchises in 19 schools to 58 franchises in 98 schools. What has driven this ?

"The fact that we did exactly what we said we were going to do, the word spread amongst our school community," said Engelbrecht.

The SKIDS programme aims to be a bridge between home and school that ensures children were not only kept safe but nurtured emotionally and academically through a structured, well-balanced fun programme, she said.

From the beginning, Engelbrecht said she chose franchisees based on their passion for children, rather than qualifications.

About 40 per cent of SKIDS programmes are run in decile one schools, where parents are helped by Work and Income subsidies. "There is a misconception out there that after school care is only for wealthy families or middle-income earners."

They aim is to provide quality care for every child irrespective of their financial circumstances.

"There are still a lot of communities out there where parents can't go into study because after school care isn't available."

The company has eight franchises in Australia - Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide - and recently appointed a countrywide franchisee based in London, England.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

It wasn't a conscious decision but I enjoy the challenge of taking a dream and turning it into a reality.  I am a workaholic and I guess it made more sense to me at the time to put in the long hours for myself rather than someone else. Because SKIDS is a franchise organisation it gives me the opportunity to help other people reach their goals.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

The speed at which we grew surprised all of us. The Global Financial Crisis didn't help. Finding quality franchisees in areas outside the main centres was also a challenge.

Name one thing you've learnt from while in business and from who?

I've learned lots of things but the main one is always do what you say you are going to do and be ready to admit it and fix it when you get it wrong.

What are your business and personal goals?

My business goal is for SKIDS to be synonymous with Quality Out of School Care throughout NZ.   I am really passionate that through SKIDS we can make a difference in the lives of children in this country.  

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Be prepared for it to take three times as long and cost three times as much as you expect, to grow your business. Grow a crocodile skin as not everyone will love you and you will need to be able to stand firm when the going gets tough.