You’ll have heard Kumon ads on the radio. Along with an active print campaign, this is part of the organisation’s ongoing marketing efforts under the leadership of Masaki Tsuda, GM of Kumon South Africa since 2010.
The supplementary education franchise has been in South Africa since 1991, but has been revitalised under Tsuda, who is originally from Japan. He joined Kumon in 1993 after a stint in education in Massachusetts, which made him realise how keen he was to help children achieve better results at school.
“I have a science background, but I fell in love with education during a year I spent in the US,” he says. “I didn’t want to be a school teacher though;instead, I wanted to do something that combined education and business. Kumon was the perfect option.”
A method proven by millions
Kumon claims to be the world’s largest after-school maths and English education provider. The Kumon method has helped millions of children achieve more than they ever thought they could and to build skills that lead to success inside and outside the classroom.
The programmes aim to help children of all ages and abilities become independent self-learners. Unlike tutoring sessions, Kumon helps children learn how to learn on their own and develops strong academic skills.
“Our students gain a sense of confidence that will help them in the classroom and beyond,” says Tsuda. “There are currently around 20 000 Kumon students learning at 250 study centres across South Africa, with more than four million students worldwide in 47 countries.”
The Kumon method of learning was developed in Japan by Toru Kumon, a parent and a teacher. He discovered his son was not fulfilling his potential in maths at school and so created worksheets for him to do at home every day. Kumon believed that all children have enormous – and often untapped – potential and that, through developing strong maths and English skills, they can experience all-round academic success.
The Kumon Institute of Education was established in 1958 and since then, for more than 50 years, this unique method of learning has helped children across the globe to excel academically and develop a love of learning.
Learning how to learn
“We believe all education must focus on delivering a maximum, long-term benefit to each individual child,” Tsuda adds. “All Kumon instructors are skilled and committed individuals with a passion for education and a strong desire to see children develop.”
Franchisees or ‘instructors’, help students actively develop self-learning skills in three ways:
- Each student progresses at their own pace through an individualised programme of worksheets carefully planned by the instructor.
- Students do daily assignments that take about 30 minutes per subject – in two sessions a week at the Kumon centre, and the other five at home.
- Step by logical step, students steadily build a solid grasp of maths and reading, and become more confident and motivated with each worksheet solved.
Worksheets are the key to the Kumon method. They cover everything that students need to know about maths and English, and are carefully designed and continuously fine-tuned. The worksheets provide examples of how to solve each problem, enabling students to self-learn new concepts on their own.
Each worksheet teaches a lesson that’s one small step more advanced than the lesson before, so the student is less likely to hit a wall and become discouraged. An assignment is complete when a student has done every problem correctly. When that happens, the student ’owns‘ that knowledge, and is ready for the next assignment.
“Our franchisees have to be passionate about education,” says Tsuda. “They do not necessarily need to have an educational background, as they will be trained according to our specific method.”
Tsuda says that although there are several private after-school programmes available in South Africa, none is as popular or as trusted as Kumon. This is no doubt due to the franchise’s long history in South Africa and its international presence, as well as the fact that the programme is universal and not based on any country’s school curriculum.
“Parents’ trust in Kumon has been built over time, and we continue to encourage them to see the programme as a long-term investment in their children’s future. Sometimes parents come to us and say that their children have a problem with multiplication or division, which is why they enrol them with Kumon. Over time, they see that we offer much more than a quick fix – our goal is to enable the students to be the best they can be.”
Who is the ideal Kumon franchisee?
At present, Kumon’s total franchisor revenue in South Africa is R40 million. The standard expected revenue per franchisee is just under R1 million, based on a centre with 150 students and one or two assistants, so this is not a ‘get rich quick’ franchise opportunity.
Tsuda says it takes about two years for a franchisee to break even. However, a successful instructor can expect slow yet steady growth, which can result in a very successful business for people who are prepared to be in it for the long haul.
Kumon instructors should have the desire to develop a thriving business. They should be passionate about helping children of all ages to learn and grow, and they must be comfortable with primary, secondary and higher level maths and English.
“You will have your own business to run and therefore need to be organised and able to juggle the different demands of the role,” says Tsuda. “As a Kumon franchisee, you not only have to support students, but recruit them as well, so having excellent interpersonal skills is a must. You must be energetic, self-motivated and willing to invest the time, money and effort needed to build a successful Kumon Centre.
“We look for people who are prepared to commit themselves to the Kumon method, and who are seeking a long-term career. It takes time to build a successful study centre, so we want franchisees who will take this on as their life’s work.”
A typical Kumon study centre operates four days a week. Beyond this, instructors need to allocate time for administration, preparation and communication. They also have to attend training on a regular basis, work through the programmes themselves, participate in meetings organised in their regions and participate in study groups and research projects.
Kumon regularly runs franchise information sessions. At present, the company is seeking to expand in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Kwa Zulu-Natal. Prospective franchisees are encouraged to attend the information sessions.
“Once they have been to a presentation they can submit a formal application. We then hold a series of interviews with them to determine that they have the right profile, passion and commitment. A Kumon franchise is not a part-time job and franchisees are not allowed to be employed elsewhere as well.”
Successful applicants undergo three training sessions comprised of three days each, and held within a period of two months. They also need to find a permanent, full-time venue for their centre and prepare it for opening, which usually takes no longer than a month. Each centre is required to be between 60m2 and 80m2, and must display Kumon signage.
Franchise investment fee
Kumon recommends that franchisees have a minimum investment of R60 000 in unencumbered funds. This fee will be used for the set-up of the centre, the furniture, branding and initial marketing, as well as working capital. Substantial subsidies are available from Kumon SA, and these are discussed in more detail during the application process.
Kumon charges a royalty fee of 40% of students’ basic tuition fee, which covers marketing material, educational material, and ongoing instructor support.
Pursuing natural talent
After completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree through Unisa and a Master of Business Leadership programme, Diane Skinner entered the banking sector. She moved rapidly from being an entry-level programmer to various management level positions in IT. Most recently, Skinner held the position of architecture executive.
Her passion, however, has always been training and helping others reach their potential. She was instrumental in ensuring that mentorship programmes were developed when budgets for training were cut. When she heard that grade 10 and 11 learners at Eikenhof were without a maths teacher she volunteered her time to teach them, and subsequently helped one of her students who was studying for a BCom at Unisa. She frequently gave time to various learners as a maths tutor and was proud to know that all the students she had tutored passed matric maths, and passed it well.
“At the beginning of 2013 I began to realise that my heart was no longer in banking and IT,” she says. “I’ve raised two children, one a practising doctor and the other completing her education degree. I decided it was time for me to pursue something my heart had always been in – the development of people.”
She knew about Kumon as her daughter had worked as an assistant at a Kumon Centre in the south of Johannesburg. Although the idea had always been in her mind, she had not found the right time to pursue it until hearing about the Kumon franchise information sessions.
“After attending a session in March 2013 I decided that this was definitely something I would be interested in. The Kumon method is firmly aligned with my own belief in the importance of self-learning and the development of potential.”
After attending the Kumon franchisee interview and completing the first draft of her business plan, Skinner was invited to attend an initial training session in April. Once she completed all the pre-opening training requirements, her Kumon Centre opened in Craighall, Johannesburg in August 2013. She now has 50 students studying with her, and that number just keeps growing.
Ashleigh Forman was enrolled in the Kumon programme as a pre-schooler, and studied the maths and English programmes for 12 years at the Kumon centre in Sandton. She matriculated with flying colours and had this to say about her experience:
“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude. Kumon helped me realise at an early age that you can excel above your grade and class. I aimed and worked hard to be the first person in the line for academic awards in primary school. This did not happen immediately but my ambition and dedication finally paid off due to discipline, encouragement from my mother, and continuous daily practice. On top of that, the Kumon programme gave me an added advantage.”
”The Kumon philosophy of repetition until you’re perfect has paid off. Maths has always been my strongest subject, thanks to the fundamentals I learnt at Kumon. Being ahead of my class or knowing more than anyone else only motivated me to work harder.
English was not my favourite subject at first, but I learnt to love it. Comprehension was always my downfall, but once again, Kumon came to the rescue.
”In my final matric exams I got 97% for maths and was in the top 1% for this subject in the IEB for the country. I achieved a total of seven distinctions, including English, with five of my subjects scoring in the top 5% of the IEB. I received an overall aggregate of 90%, thanks to my parents and Kumon.”
Fancy yourself a franchisee?
- STORE DETAILS Kumon
- Company Name: Kumon Education SA
- Founded: 1997
- Ideal franchise size: 60m2 – 100m2
- Minimum investment requirement: R60 000
- Franchise fee: R7 000
- Monthly Royalty: Percentage-based royalty
- Marketing fee: N/A
- Hot spots for development: Prime areas in Gauteng, Western Cape and KZN
- Franchisor support: Extensive head office support is provided to all franchisees from training, to operations, to marketing.
- Franchisee selection criteria: All franchisees are required to have a degree level education as a minimum.