Have you ever run into a legislative or legal roadblock in your industry? Maybe it was some unnecessary regulation or a law that is more than 100 years old and irrelevant today.
Our guest today is Jen Legere, and she shares how she decided to take action in her local state to change the law to support her industry as well as provide a way to help grow her franchise system.
Be creative in all areas of business and problem-solving.
LINKS FROM THE EPISODE:
- You can visit our guest’s website at: https://www.aplacetogrow.com/
- Attend our Franchise Sales Training Workshop:
- If you are ready to franchise your business or take it to the next level: CLICK HERE.
- Follow our guest on social:
ABOUT OUR GUEST:
Jennifer Legere, founder, is a recognized innovator in holistic learning practices for children and sustainable business practices in early childhood education. Her background in natural science, math, early literacy, and business management is coupled with an enthusiastic approach to discovery and creativity. A Place to Grow was chosen as the 2022 NH SBA Woman Owned Business of the Year.
ABOUT BIG SKY FRANCHISE TEAM:
This episode is powered by Big Sky Franchise Team. If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):
Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where, each week, we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. And as we open today, I’m wondering if you have ever run into a legislative hurdle or some kind of legal roadblock in your industry or with your business locally.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:22):
Maybe it was some sort of unnecessary regulation or law that was created by people that maybe are not as familiar with your industry as you, or maybe it’s a law or a rule that had been in place for a long time, maybe a hundred years or more, and it’s just irrelevant today. It doesn’t make any sense. Well, our guest today is Jen Legere, and she shares with us how she decided to take action in her local state to change the law to support her industry, which then led to a way to help her franchise system grow as well. And I’m so excited for Jen to be here. She’s a long-time client, someone I’ve known for many years, and I just think she’s excellent and wonderful, shares great insights throughout this interview.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:03):
Now, Jen is the founder of Place To Grow, and she’s a recognized innovator in holistic learning practices for children and sustainable business practices in early childhood education. Her background in natural science, math, early literacy, and business management is coupled with an enthusiastic approach to discovery and creativity. Place To Grow, her business, was chosen as the 2022 New Hampshire Small Business Association Woman-Owned Business of The Year. You’re going to love this interview, so let’s go ahead and jump right into it.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (01:36):
I’m Jennifer Legere, and I own A Place To Grow, LLC and APTG, LLC in New Hampshire, and we are a childcare franchise.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:46):
Great. Well, Jen, we’ve worked together for several years, and I’m so excited to have you on the show to talk about, of course, your business and some of the things you’re doing and really about what you’ve been able to accomplish on a legislative front as a small business owner in your state. So give us a little overview about your business and what you do.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (02:06):
So I own a nature-based childcare center in Brentwood, New Hampshire, and we decided to franchise our company. And in that franchise process, we realized that there were some gaps in the legislation for childcare and its ability to be located in every kind of facility across the state, whether it was family, business, homes, center base. So we’ve done a lot of work to make sure that childcare was accessible to everyone in every space possible in the state.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:37):
And one of the things that’s been so great to be a part of your growth and watch you as you’ve been growing and developing and building a business, your national expansion is starting, right. It’s on its way. It’s happening-
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (02:49):
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:50):
… right now, which is amazing. Really, what stood out was your interest in going to state legislators to address these childcare deserts, I think is how you describe it. So tell us what a childcare desert is and what that looks like, not only locally but across the whole country here.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (03:10):
So a childcare desert is when, for every one childcare space that’s available, there’s three children actually waiting for that particular space, and 46% of the country is within a childcare desert. So what that means is moms, in particular, can’t return back to work. I mean, it could be either family member, but typically, it’s moms who are affected by this childcare desert. So women being able to rejoin the workforce and being part of the economy is really stymied by this childcare desert situation.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:42):
As you are growing A Place To Grow here to try to solve this shortage and to reduce the number of deserts out there, you were running into some obstacles in your state. So talk about what some of those obstacles you noticed that needed to be addressed.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (03:57):
Yeah. When we were licensing our first franchise location, it was a really unique business relationship. So it was a childcare center inside of a business that was actually… had affordable housing attached to it. So it was… And we all need affordable housing across the United States. We need childcare. So it was this really amazing opportunity to create this partnership. But because it was technically in a side-by-side apartment where the franchisee would own and have their childcare center next to it didn’t quite fit into the existing rules that were on the table for childcare. But we knew that it was allowable by building code and fire code regulations.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (04:39):
So we needed to actually create a piece of legislation last year to help open this area so that businesses can put small childcare centers inside of their businesses without it having to be a residence necessarily. So we really have gone beyond just family childcare or your typical 100, 200 kids in a childcare center to being able to operate these micro centers for less than 12 children that can be used for businesses to open small childcare centers to help with recruitment and retention onsite for their own employees. So it’s small but giant. It’s going to empower businesses to be able to take that recruitment and retention piece back and help create these spaces for their employees.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:29):
So when you noticed this challenge because, as you described your business model, it’s a little different. It’s a little unique. It’s not 100 or 200 student or a child facility. It’s smaller. It’s micro, and because of that, it can now go into lots of different non-traditional-type spaces. What were some of those steps and things that you did as you went to start working on addressing that?
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (05:53):
So we knew that funding was a huge issue for people who are interested in childcare. We’re typically teachers, so we have incredible hearts and a passion. We’re teaching but very tiny bank accounts, so which is fine. So we wanted to create a flexible and agile business model that was approachable for potential franchisees and educators capitalize on the benefits of being able to work from home, which is, it’s huge from a tax incentive perspective. And talk to your accountant first before you make that decision. But it really created an opportunity for you to have small childcare center in your home for six kids all the way to 100 or 200 kids if your facility could do that and you had the cash flow to be able to support that.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (06:41):
So we really saw when we first launched as a franchise, I had this vision of creating 100 of us, like 50 to 100 students, but the reality became really different because we started looking at the economics of it and ability to find funding and decided smaller was better and much more agile and it was easier to find spaces so people could use their homes a little bit more. And businesses after COVID had tons of open space available because half of their workforce is still working from home or they decided to change their business model entirely. So it’s going to allow us to kind of capitalize on some open spaces in commercial markets.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:24):
Talk through with us the process when you started addressing this at the state level and having to go through the state Congress and getting a bill put together and going through this whole iteration. And every state I know has their own little nuances. Generally speaking, there will be similar processes to it.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (07:24):
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:41):
So I’d love for you to talk through what that looked like for you from when you started and going through that.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (07:46):
It was a really unique process. I think I came at it from a different perspective than you would normally see in the legislative process because I was a business owner who saw a problem, and I knew how to fix it. So I really worked with childcare licensing and our fire marshal’s office and building inspectors to kind of craft a plan for how to write this particular piece of legislation. But I did all of that myself as a business owner and pulled all these people together to write this and draft this.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (08:18):
We even had to go out and find a senator that would be willing to sponsor our bill. And we were very fortunate. I mean, Senator Kwoka is amazing. She was definitely the right fit for this. She’s a mom. She’s an entrepreneur herself. She’s an attorney. She’s a legislator. She feels the childcare crisis. So finding the person to sponsor your bill is a huge deal because it’s not always a good fit. And then, I had to figure out how to market my bill, which is weird and different.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (08:44):
I mean, you market your business all day long, but all of a sudden, you have to market your bill to legislators and help seek co-sponsors and things like that. So I got good at Canva. I got better about making cold calls to senators that I never in a million years envision I would be making to kind of get people talking about this and really get them excited about where this legislation could go. So it was definitely a different kind of process. So my next bill this year is happening in a much more traditional sponsored by the legislator’s way.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:21):
For that first bill, from the time you started the process until it actually went all the way through, how long did that end up taking?
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (09:30):
So it was about two years. So the first draft of the bill was entered into legislation very late the first year, and it was tabled. They really wanted to hold onto it so that we could explore in more detail with the fire marshal’s office building inspectors and put a cross-functional group together to make sure it wasn’t going to have any issues. Like you change something and it impacts something else, so they want to make sure we had time to cross all those T’s and dot those I’s to make sure it was a solid plan.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (09:57):
So we had a few word changes over the course of a year, not significant. So the first year it was tabled, the second year it was reopened in the Senate. That’s another choice you have to make. Do you want to build a start in the Senate versus the House in New Hampshire? The Senate’s very small. The House has over 400 people who have to agree on something versus 50-something. So where you start is a conversation to be had.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:22):
One of the reasons I wanted you to share this story and talk about it is really just how one small business in a state can make an impact. You’re a great testament to the power of the entrepreneur and the small business owner. You’re a great problem solver, right.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:40):
I’ve always found that entrepreneurs are great problem solvers, and at times, sometimes it seems passing legislation and laws, like you described, it took two years for this whole process to ensue, but it got done. You worked through it to make it get done, and now it’s able to help not only your business but to really help the whole community of early childcare needs in the state and being able to help others as well that might go into business.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (11:08):
Yeah, it’s been an interesting experience. And after the first round, the first law, it actually went into effect. It was signed into effect this past July, and it’ll take another year to go into effect. So from the time you write it to the time it goes into effect, we’re actually looking at a three-year time period. I think our next piece of legislation will go a lot faster. It’ll be about a year and a half in its total turnaround time. But that creative problem-solving as a business owner is so important. You’re the only one who knows your business inside and out and can really understand all the little nuances and how those legislative and law pieces work together.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (11:47):
So these legislators come from hundreds of different fields and could be retired and have… aren’t connected to the industry anymore. So it’s really important as business owners that we come to the table with our expertise and pair with our legislators to make a difference and to help inform them. So actually, I participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, and a big part of that program is their Voices program, where it starts to talk about empowering you to talk about advocacy and work with your legislators at a local, state, and a national level. And finding my voice out of that program has been truly empowering. It has been the change that I needed to grow my business.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:33):
Jen, this is a great time in the show where we like to ask every guest the same four questions. And the first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two on your journey and something you learned from it?
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (12:43):
Yeah, so I think one of the misses that we had, we had done a lot of growth in our business. We bought a new location. We were finally established. And being able to buy this location as a single female business owner was really empowering for us. I felt like we finally made it. We had 13 acres. We had a building. It was ours. We had done a ton of work, and it was super excited about it. Childcare was kind of at the cusp of being an issue at that point.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (13:12):
Really, the desert wasn’t quite so extreme at that point, and I thought we were doing great things. So I had applied to be the Woman-Owned Business of the Year through the SBA. And we were actually… our bank sponsored us that year, which was super exciting to feel like it’s not… I feel like we’re doing good things, but our bank thought we were doing good things, but we were turned down, which was a little bit hard, but I don’t ever stop. So I continued to grow and pursue making things bigger and better over time. So it definitely felt like a miss, but it’s turned into a win.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:51):
Wonderful. Well, let’s talk about the other side. Let’s talk about a make.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (13:54):
We were able to convert this into a win. I definitely did a lot of growth in our business. We franchise the company. From our first loss to the time we reapplied again, we had franchised the company. I actually participated in that Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. And out of that program, it really taught me what I was good at, which was a lot of stuff. I had no idea that you put me in a room with 30 other business owners, and I finally looked around and went, “Oh, I’m one of them. I belong. I’m not just a babysitter like you get in childcare all the time. I am truly a powerful businesswoman.”
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (14:35):
So I think that program really changed my mindset. And when the business of the year applications came out again that following year, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to throw my hat on that ring. We’re going to do it again.” And no one sponsored me. I did it myself this year, which is, I think, unorthodox. Most people would have someone do a sponsorship for them, and I won. I was the 2022 New Hampshire SBA Woman-Owned Business of the Year. And that has just been a truly amazing and powerful experience to, A, put those laurels on my head and to celebrate that win. But it’s really, it has empowered a lot of other women along the way, so it’s great.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:20):
Well, let’s talk about a multiplier, Jen, that you’ve used maybe to grow yourself personally or professionally or maybe one of the businesses you’ve been involved with.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (15:29):
So my multiplier is probably very unique. I was a single mom, I was a single female business owner for close to 20 years, and being a mom is super important to me. So my focus was definitely on my single business operation in New Hampshire. And as he started to age, I started to date and do other things, and I actually met the man of my dreams and got married again. And so my vision started to change. As my kids were aging, I was like, “Well, I need more. I don’t want to work in the business.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (16:02):
I want to work on the business, and I have more time that I can do bigger things to impact and create change for the childcare community.” So really getting older, my kids becoming more independent, and that bridge into marriage and preparing a lifestyle. My husband lives in the Florida Keys. I lived in New Hampshire, was a really different place to be. So again, we needed to have an opportunity where I could work on the business and not in the business. So we chose to franchise through Big Sky, which was awesome. So yeah.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:35):
Great. Thanks, Jen. And the final question we like to ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (16:42):
I think the most important thing to me… It’s actually two things. One is to be able to give back to communities. [inaudible 00:16:49] this childcare desert situation is dire. It creates a huge amount of stress for families, women communities, and being able to create a childcare center that is agile, and supports our community needs, and becomes a focal point of a community is so important to me. We give back to our community.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (17:10):
We have a food pantry that we share. We’ve given money to our local library, and we support a lot of local events, even including our sportsmen in town. We open our 13 acres in hunting season when we’re not in school for others to be able to use. So it’s little ways that we can give back, which is really important. But also being able to empower other women entrepreneurs. I feel like, especially in childcare, we’re teachers, we’re babysitters, and we are looked down upon, and no one really perceives us as business owners.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (17:44):
And we’ve done a lot of work in the industry for the last, I would say, 10 years of really rising to establish ourselves as strong business leaders. And our business model really continues to support other people who want to come into this industry and remain strong and become these entrepreneurs. So I love the fact that our youngest entrepreneur’s 26. She owns her own company, and she lives on her own now, no longer has to live in a roommate situation with six other roommates, and she’s building an incredible franchise for herself that she can have for the rest of her life. So I just think that’s really powerful.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:23):
I would say this, Jen, you have been impressive from the moment we first met. So I had no doubt in your skills and talent as an owner. It was evident from the first time we met several years back. So really appreciate you sharing your story here. And before we go, is there anything you were hoping to share or maybe get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (18:45):
I just think it’s really important for people to keep an open mind when you’re looking at building a business and what is meaningful to you because you want to make sure that they coincide. Your business is meaningful to you, and I love the fact that mine makes a difference in communities and empowers other women. So the value of what I do, I don’t feel like it’s work at all, ever, any day. My husband thinks it’s work, but I just think this is fun, and I get to play and do what I love doing, which makes it totally worthwhile. So I love it.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:23):
If someone’s listening in and they say, “Wow, I love what Jen’s doing. I’d love to get involved with her franchise, or maybe I know someone who might.” Or maybe they’re a small business or a local business owner saying, “You know, I’d love to get involved with some legislation for my industry in my state or my local municipality.” How can someone find out a little bit more about what you’re doing and get in touch with you?
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (19:47):
Yeah. So you can contact us through our website at aplacetogrow.com, A-P-L-A-C-E-T-O-G-R-O-W.com. It’s the easiest way to reach us. There’s contact us on there, all of our social media platforms are there, and phone numbers, all of that. But we’d love to help anyone. Are you from a different business? You want to introduce legislation? Fine. You’ve thought about childcare and creating a childcare business. We’d love to help you.
Jen Legere, A Place To Grow (20:13):
You’re a business, and you have a need, and you’re like, “How do I bring childcare into my business?” We can help you with that too. We’re actually doing a lot of… It’s almost like a staffing agency. We’re doing a lot of pairing of businesses with potential franchisees to help them work together collaboratively, which is not something I thought I’d be doing, but it’s turned into a really unique and interesting kind of pathway just following this trail.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:40):
Jen, thank you so much for a fantastic interview, and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when Jen noticed a problem in her state and community of opening up these micro childcare centers, she took action trying to figure out a way to work with legislators to create and change some rules and laws at the state to make it easier to open up childcare centers for these micro centers with less than 12 kids. Takeaway number two is how she described what she ended up doing in helping get this legislation passed. And she had to pull together all of these resources. So step one was getting a senator or legislator involved to help sponsor it.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:23):
Then, she had to help market the bill to other legislators so that they knew what it was about. And she said that whole process took about two years from start to finish, from the time the idea started moving until the bill was passed, and now it’s another year before it will go into effect. So it’ll be effectively about three years start to finish. So a long process, but ultimately with a really great outcome. Now, with this being created and this law being changed, it creates an opportunity for her industry where she’s able to create more micro childcare centers and allow for other people to help fill that void to open up these childcare centers in their homes now.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:03):
And takeaway number three is when she described some of her multipliers that she’s used in growing her business, and one is just being able to grow. And with some of these awards and recognition, she had, for example, the SBA Woman-Owned Business of the Year and New Hampshire, which is a great recognition, and then franchising with Big Sky and helping her through that. And I’ve had the great fortune of knowing and working with Jen for several years now, and she’s absolutely fantastic in all of my dealings with her. And now, it’s time for today’s win-win. So today’s win-win is really thinking about being creative.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:43):
And I think that that’s really something that stands out in my time working with Jen and just in what she did to address this problem that she identified in her industry that really needed to be addressed, that led her to taking action legislatively with the local legislators. And so I think it’s important to think that, as she had said, “To keep an open mind on your business and see what might be possible or how you might be able to make an impact.” So by making this change to open up these micro childcare centers that can open up in home and other non-traditional locations, it also provides an opportunity for her to find franchisees that might want to join with her system in these micro childcare-type locations.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:26):
So I think that’s a great example of a win-win. It’s a win for the parents and the children. It’s a win for the states. It’s a win for her franchise system and the potential franchisees coming in as well. So it’s just a win all around. So that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and to give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.