How to Leverage Great Relationships in Both Your Personal and Professional Life—Richard Huffman, Founder/CEO, Celebree Schools and Franchise System

Today is a big Milestone for the Multiply Your Success Podcast. This is episode number 100! There is something about crossing that threshold from double digits to triple digits that makes an impact. I want to say thank you to all of our guests, to our staff and team members, and to you, our loyal listener for making this possible. I wanted to make sure we paused for a moment to thank you and all of the people that make this podcast possible.

And, we have saved this interview with Richard Huffman specifically for this our 100th episode. If you recall in our very first episode, I interviewed my dad. If you haven’t listed to that one, I think it is a great way to get to know yours truly a little better and also hear how the show has grown over the past 100 episodes. 

In today’s episode, we interview Richard Huffman, founder of Celebree a national preschool franchise with more than 60 locations. Richard shares with us how he has applied his successful business practices to help him foster and cultivate great family relationships with his wife and children. You are going to love this interview and I challenge you to think about how you can apply some of these lessons to your own family and personal life.


Richard Huffman started Celebree School in 1994 and over the course of two decades, grew the brand from a single owned preschool into Maryland’s largest, privately held chain of childcare centers. In 2019, Huffman expanded the Celebree School brand into a franchise model and after just two years, he has been able to award 60 new franchise territories in that time. The franchise brand has already received numerous industry accolades, including the 2021 Fran-Tastic 500 Award by FranServe, and is on track to open to 100 new schools by 2025.


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Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:00):

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, today’s episode is a big milestone for the Multiply Your Success podcast. This is episode number 100.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:23):

And there’s something about crossing that threshold from double digits to triple digits that just makes an impact. And I want to say thank you to all of our guests, to our staff and team members and to you, our loyal listener for making this possible to get to episode 100, and to continue moving forward. So thank you. And I wanted to just make sure that we paused for a moment just to give thanks and to just say thank you again.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:50):

And we’ve saved this specific interview with Richard Huffman specifically for episode 100. And if you recall on our very first episode, we interviewed my dad. And if you haven’t listened to that one, I think it’s a great way for you to get to know Yours Truly a little better, and to hear how the show has grown over the past 100 episodes coming up nearly on two years. The other reason I wanted to feature Richard is because of his focus on his family. Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day is just around the corner. And my first episode was an interview with my dad released right around Father’s Day. So I thought that had some great connection and commonality between those.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:29):

And in today’s episode, we interview Richard Huffman who’s the founder of Celebree, a national preschool franchise with more than 60 locations. And Richard shares with us, how he has applied his successful business practices to helping him foster and cultivate great family relationships with his wife and children. You’re going to love this interview and I challenge you to think about how you can apply some of these lessons that you’ll learn in the episode today to your own family and personal life. So let’s go ahead and jump into my interview with Richard Huffman.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (02:02):

Yeah. Tom, thank you for having me. My name is Richie Huffman. I’m the founder and CEO here at Celebree School. We are a chain of franchise and corporate owned preschools.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:13):

Great. Well, I love early childhood education. It’s something that I have an affinity for. I have three kids shortly removed from that, three kids in grade school right now. And so we’ve just crossed through most of that in our lives, at least as it stands today, but I’ve always had an affinity and affection for preschool education and just that whole foundation there. So what is it that got you involved or interested in this?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (02:40):

I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. My parents owned a preschool, started their first school in 1985 when I was just about to graduate from high school. Didn’t think I’d ever get into the preschool business, because back then it was really, I guess viewed as a lady’s business, something that I didn’t have a whole lot of male friends that were getting into the preschool business.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (03:06):

So, along the way I tried other things, real estate. And in the early 90s, tanning salons were a big, I guess, fad or hit and tried that for a little bit. Opened a couple tanning and nail salons, couple apartments, and real estate, bakery business at one point, distributing bakery products. And then in 1994, I got my opportunity to open my own preschool. So I always say that I was Celebree’s first official franchisee, meaning that I was coached and mentored and guided by my mom and dad that had already been in the business for many, many years.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (03:51):

And as you just mentioned, Tom, I have five children of my own. When I started Celebree at the age of 26, was not married, didn’t have any children but I can guarantee it’s made me a better dad according to me, I think, I don’t know if you’ve asked my children. But it really made me put early education in perspective, especially as a young dad and raising five children. Never thought I’d get into the business, but 27 years later here I am. And as you mentioned, it’s a business that is so rewarding in so many different ways, not only from an impact that it has on a community, but also the kind of financial blessings that it’s brought to the Huffman family.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:39):

Yeah. Well, in speaking of your family and business and kind of merging these worlds together and really your family grew as your business was growing.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (04:50):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:51):

So talk about how your business has… How you’ve been able to kind of manage this process of successfully planning for a business and family and kind of merging these things together.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (05:05):

You know it has not been easy. I mean, before I got married before Dawn and I, my wife, started having children, it was all about the business. I remember working six, seven days a week just to focus on the business and to be honest with you, I really didn’t have anything else to do because I wasn’t a dad yet and not a husband yet. But I was blessed enough to get that started at a very early age at 26. So by the time I got married and had started having children, I wouldn’t say we were well on our way, but I was very focused and knew what I wanted and knew what had Celebree to become one day. So I would say about three years ago and timing is always perfect.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (05:48):

And I’ve always been a [Tech 00:05:51] member and back then, now it’s called [DesTech 00:05:54] as a CEO was a big part of that. And I remember sitting in these meetings with these other CEOs and remember looking around the table and these CEOs they were so successful in business and what they did but their family lives and their personal lives was all screwed up.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (06:13):

And so I thought myself, what if you took all these business tools that we use every single day, for example, vision statements for the company and missions and values and one-to-ones and huddles. What if I applied that to my family? And it was like almost an epiphany because your family it is like an enterprise, it is like a company. And why wouldn’t you have one-to-ones with your son and why wouldn’t you have one-to-ones with your spouse and make sure that our vision is right and we want the same thing for our family.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (06:54):

So I started that about three years ago, and as our children started getting older and our oldest one’s now 20, I have five children, or we have five children, they’re 20 down to 13. And we just have recently started applying those principles. And so we came off as family mission and a family values and initiatives that we have for the family. So for example, faith in God is very important to us and so what initiatives have we put in place to demonstrate that, and then hold the family accountable to those results. So it’s far from perfect but I can definitely already see the changes that are happening, same principles, same tools that any great company uses to drive success.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:47):

Well, that’s fascinating. And I’d love to dig into that a little bit, just as someone probably will end up listening in and say, “Well, that’s interesting. I’d like to try that with my kids or my spouse and see how that goes.” So talk through a little bit about how you came up with a family mission or vision statement. Was that a family affair, was everybody involved? How do you start? Where’d you begin that?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (08:12):

Again, Tom, I think it’s just like any great leader or CEO. I think the leader really has to start and paint the vision. I’m not a big fan of getting other people’s really opinions on that, because I think that deep down inside to me, it’s not negotiable. I kind of have the vision that I want for Celebree and I have the vision that I want for my children and for my family. That doesn’t mean I’m bowhead and don’t listen to everybody else’s opinion, but that does mean that, I think you have to go first.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (08:47):

So we laid it out there. I shared it with them. No one argued it because I’m the leader and I think I know what we want. I think I know what people want and I think they want to be a part of something special. And as I mentioned, it’s not perfect. We just started about a month ago, actually bringing in a coach for our family to help us through the process. Because as you know as a dad, like dads don’t know anything.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (09:19):

So I was tired of that battle. So I had to got to bring in a moderator to help with it. And it’s been absolutely amazing. I mean, we have a Huffman family huddle packet and we have our initiatives and our goals and it’s extremely important to me because I’ve seen what it has done on the Celebree side and I want that for my family. I couldn’t imagine and I don’t understand why any parent would want their children to go through life alone or try to figure it out.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (09:54):

So I want to be there for my… I have four boys and a daughter and I want to be their coach. I want to be their mentor. I want to help them, guide them toward whatever vision they have of their life and whatever they want to get out of it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:09):

Yeah. Well, I’m curious, your older children probably they understand the concepts and kind of get what’s going on. I’m curious, especially with your background and running Celebree and early childhood education, being very familiar with working with children, how that works for maybe younger kids and how do you have those conversations? Or I’m just curious maybe because my kids are younger, so I’m listening.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (10:35):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:35):

I’m paying attention to apply.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (10:37):

And I think you just gave my answer. They are listening and it’s amazing. I mean they did some vision boards for themselves on an exercise that we went through just like you would do with your executive team. And it was amazing what my 14 year old daughter and my 13 year old, 12 year old son what they put on that vision board. It was absolutely so impressive. Even at that early age they’re so smart. They’re so witty. They pay so much attention. Just the things they put on that board just let me know that we’re doing a really good job as parents the best we can. But more importantly it’s not what we say, it’s really what we’re doing and what we’re demonstrating as parents. And I think that also is an amazing trait as a leader or a CEO of an enterprise.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:39):

Yeah. Well what’s interesting, hearing what you’re doing at home and I’m just curious, this just kind of popped into my head here but is there an opportunity or do you see this being applied is maybe a way to work with the families that come to your centers around the country. Is maybe a training tool or a training lesson, a parental something rather. You certainly are in uniquely positioned to make an impact in that way.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (12:09):

Yeah. I think your spot on, Tom. I mean, when we started franchise… I haven’t mentioned this yet, but we’re early adopters of the franchise. We started franchising in March of ’19 and as of today we’ve awarded over 60 agreements. So, I didn’t want to be just another franchise company and what I mean by that. And I don’t think we ever will be because at heart with 27 of our own Celebree Schools, we’re really a preschool business. Always have been, always will be. And I think that’s extremely attractive to families that want to get into this industry because there’s nothing they can say or ask that I don’t have firsthand experience with.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (12:57):

So to answer your question, my goal and dreams to help our franchise is just not be a franchise and be a support for them in their preschool. But deep down inside, I think what families really want, they really want a couple things. They want to create a legacy for their family, they want to create an impact or have an impact on their communities and they want to create wealth for their family.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (13:21):

And I want to be able to help them and coach them along all of that. Give them my insight, share with them my advisors that I have, my family advisors that help me make those decisions and help the Huffman family protect and increase their wealth. So that’s one of the promises that I’ve made to our franchisees. I understand that Celebree School is a platform. It’s an amazing platform, but it’s a platform being used to create wealth for families. And I want to take this thing to the next level and share those resources that I have. To your point, whether it’s inside the business or it’s outside the business. Meaning tools that we can apply or they can apply, I have applied for my children, for my family.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:13):

Yeah. And it’s interesting thinking of your model and how you’re supporting your franchise system and the people involved. Certainly, there is a financial wealth aspect of this, but it sounds like it’s much more enriching than just money. It’s a whole combination of life, just personal wealth, family relationships, just a better enjoyment in life in general.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (14:39):

Tom, again, I’m a little … This is the only thing I know for 27 years, but we get it all, right. It’s absolutely amazing. We get to make major impacts on our community with bringing a high quality preschool to families. Something that they may have never experienced or been offered before. And now we can offer that and it’s life changing. You know as well as I do, every parent wants the best for their children and they’ll do anything to find it. And so once they find it, and once we bring a school into a community, a Celebree School in the community, it’s just so rewarding.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (15:17):

The number of families that you’ll meet, I think each Celebree School will have about 150 families or 150 children. So you’re going to get invited to a lot of birthday parties. You’re going to know what’s a lot of things that are going on in the community and also in their personal lives. And you’re going to play a role in it because you’re already playing a role in it. And so it’s exciting. And also you’re creating wealth for families and for your families.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (15:47):

If I’m having a bad day, you’ll find me in the infant room, that’s where you’ll find me. It puts everything back into perspective, life’s too short and this too shall pass and so let me go see some smiling faces in one of our classrooms and I’ll be back in a little bit.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:03):

Yeah. Well, I love that community aspect of it. It’s really building and fostering social capital within the local community for those owners that are living in that community with the franchisees and giving back and contributing not only through their business, but just through providing the service and then the connection back to that community.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (16:27):

Yeah. It’s been amazing. And a couple years ago, every year we survey our parents on how are we doing? What can we do better? And what would you like to see us adding? And a couple years ago, I never saw this coming, but our parents really wanted us to build into our curriculum, how to teach your children more about philanthropy. And so we did, and it’s been amazing.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (16:50):

So last year we gave $150,000 in donations to Children’s Hospital, The H.E.A.R.T. Program specifically here in Baltimore, The Harriet House here which helps young children that get caught up into sex trafficking and stuff like that. So our children have to know about this and they want to be a part of it and they want to contribute and see what they can do, not just writing a check but the labor that comes a part of that too, whether they’re tie dying shirts and selling them for $6 and the proceeds go towards one of our foundations that we’ve established. So the impact and the joy just goes on and on and on.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:41):

Oh, I love it. Well, Richie, this is a great point in the interview here for us to transition to the same questions we ask every guest before they go. And the first question we like to ask is, have you had a miss or two along the way and something you’ve learned from it?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (17:58):

Well, Tom you know one thing about entrepreneur is, I don’t know if they dwell too much on misses, most of us just take it in and say, okay, how can I make it better? So I don’t know. It’s hard to think about a miss. But I would say in my leadership and growing Celebree and reflecting back, things take time. And what I say, it’s a journey not a marathon and I truly the older I get and the more of a mature leader that I become, I really start to appreciate that.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (18:30):

Some of the misses early might have been expecting things to happen too soon. And to be honest with you maybe being a little too harsh on some people, because I wasn’t getting it fast enough, my standards are high. I don’t like to wait, but sometimes it’s better to wait because the best things are yet to come. So to answer your questions is probably being a little too harsh when people that probably didn’t deserve to be spoken to that way.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:05):


Richard Huffman, Celebree (19:05):

That takes a lot for me to say that. But I say it for your listeners not to make that mistake. It’s just takes time and it takes patience and you have to believe that people are doing their best and they’re trying their hardest. And then as a leader, you got to make the determination whether that effort is enough for you.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:30):

Well, I appreciate that humility and reflection back, certainly in sharing that, thank you. And I’m sure your team members will appreciate that when they hear the interview as well.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (19:45):

I don’t do as much apologetic or apologies that I should because I’ve corrected that behavior.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:52):

Right. Yeah, that’s right. Well, I appreciate that. Well, let’s flip to the other side here and talk about a make or two. You’ve had a great career in building a great brand. I’d love to hear a make or two you’d like to share.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (20:05):

Yeah. I think it’s what we spoke about as far as family. I think I’ve been blessed to understand at a very early age what I wanted. Getting very clear on what I had, what I have of a vision of Celebree School, where I wanted to go backed by a desire to win, change the industry, raising quality of care, building a really awesome team to help me accomplish those goals. I think my gift is being able to know what I want. When we started or when I got into the industry, preschools were really known as daycare centers and our teachers were really called daycare workers. I wanted to change it.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (20:55):

That was not acceptable to me. So we’ve worked very hard to change that perspective, going from Celebree Daycare, to Celebree Learning Centers, now Celebree Schools and we’ve earned that respect and we’ve brought the value and the quality to our community. So I would say, my makes is having a vision, having a desire to win, and then surrounding myself with people that I know for a fact share the same vision, want the same thing I want and giving them leadway to go and make that happen.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:35):

Oh, thank you. That’s great. And let’s talk about a multiplier. This kind of goes right into that next question.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (21:43):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:43):

And this is for me, I feel like I’m on a broken record here, but this is probably my favorite question we ask, because we get such a great diverse response. So has there been a multiplier you’ve used to help you grow? Whether that’s personally, professionally, the business, whatever it might be.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (21:59):

I would say, man, did we have to find a multiplier in the last two years, right? The one thing that and it’s been our secret and we really applied it during or over the last two years with COVID is just getting focused, right? Getting focused, having a strategy, remembering what the goals were, what’s important to us. And we’ve really had to apply there the last two years. And once we figured out what was actually happening and what we were dealing with our success, Tom, was getting right back to the vision, the mission, and the strategy.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (22:37):

In March of ’19, right before COVID our enrollment was at 90%, within two weeks our enrollment dropped to 40%. So after we got our sea legs underneath of us and figured out what was going on, we got right back to the strategy, the smart action plan. And that smart action plan said that we were going to get back to 90%. And there were some that was like, “What are you talking about? Really? We’re going to get back to 90% right in the middle of a pandemic?” “Sure, we are.”

Richard Huffman, Celebree (23:11):

And I’m proud to say at the end of last year, we made it back to 86%. And I would say we executed on 95% of the original strategy that was drawn up before we knew we were getting ready to go into a pandemic. So that’s our multiplier, stay focused, what are the goals, surround yourself with the right people, and then also make sure that you’re giving them the resources to accomplish the goals that you’ve put forth.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:42):

Yeah. Well, it sounds like not only… It there’s that adage about the importance of planning, right?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (23:49):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:50):

You got to have the plan, but it’s not just having the plan. Really what you are a living testament of here, what I’m hearing is, it’s executing that plan, staying focused on the plan and maybe making some incremental adjustments along the way, but not changing total course, sticking with what had been thought out.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (24:09):

We never wavered one second on the goals and initiatives that we set forth and we never wavered on the vision and the mission.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:20):

That’s impressive. Well, and the final question we like to ask every guest is what does success mean to you?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (24:27):

You know success to me is how close am I getting to the vision that I’ve set forth, right? So whether that is business related, whether that is my vision that I have of my relationship with my wife, my children, my finances, my faith, my health, my fitness, whatever vision I have of myself and the goals that I’ve set to get me closer to those visions, how am I doing towards it, right? Am I making progress? If I’m making progress towards any of those categories, then I feel like I am successful.

Richard Huffman, Celebree (25:08):

And of course, once we get somewhat closer to those visions, of course, then we got to cast another window to never get complacent. So I can look back at our early mission statements here at Celebree and it was become the recognized leader in early education. And I would say we’re pretty darn close to that vision becoming a reality if we’re not already there.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:33):

Oh, that’s amazing. Well, and as we bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to maybe share or get across we haven’t had a chance to get to yet?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (25:42):

Yeah, I just want to thank you, Tom, for the opportunity to speak to your audience and just hope that something I said or question that you asked somebody was thinking of. Right now I’m just… Here at Celebree we talk about, we grow people big and small and hopefully something I said, something that you asked helped somebody grow and prosper wherever they’re at in their journey of life.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:10):

Well, thank you. This has been absolutely fantastic. How can someone learn a little bit more about you or Celebree and learn a little bit more about what you’re doing?

Richard Huffman, Celebree (26:19):

Yeah, they can easily go to That’s C-E-L-E-B-R-E-E dot com or my emails are rhuffman, H-U-F-F-M-A-N,

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:30):

Richie, thank you so much again, for a great interview and for being a part of this special episode. So let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is how Richard applied his vision statements, mission, values, one-to-ones, and all of the things that he does in his business and he applied that to his personal life, to his family and has seen great success and impact from that already.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:00):

Takeaway number two was when he received success, when he started getting focused and knowing his goals and surrounding himself with great people and he talked about a specific example over the course of the last two years during the COVID time when he really stuck to his plan. Take away number three is when he shared a make about having a vision, a desire to win, and surrounding himself with great people. When those three elements are in place magic happened. And that’s what he talked about has gone on with his company, have a vision, have a desire to win, and surround yourself with great people.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:39):

And now it’s time for today’s win-win. So today’s win-win is referencing back to our first key takeaway and really the theme of this episode today is that when Richard talked about wanting to be the guide and the mentor for his kids and his family. And why would you not want to do that for your kids? And why would you not have one-to-ones with your kids? And Richard talked about how he started doing that with his family. And he shared how he has found changes and positive results with his own kids.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:23):

And so as I opened the episode and challenging you to consider doing this with your own family and your own personal life, I’m going to close the episode with that to take some of these lessons that Richard shared with us and think about your own business and business practices and how you can apply that to your own personal life. I know I’m going to, and I’ve started doing that. Actually since my interview, I had a little bit of a head start because we recorded this a few weeks ago.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:50):

That’s the episode today, folks, thanks for tuning in. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level. Please connect with us at Thanks for tuning in. And we look forward to having you back next week.

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