Early Education Entrepreneurs
Early education entrepreneurs Ed and Jeanee Cwieka have a big dream! They own The Learning Cove Preschool in Palm City, Florida. They want to take their preschool model and develop it in other markets throughout the United States! They believe the key to success in early education is a highly trained staff. In fact, according to their press release, The Learning Cove Preschool has become the first known school of its kind in Florida. And, it is only one of a handful in the country to require college degree educators as lead teachers. Their philosophy is with a better trained staff, children will be exposed to greater educational, social, and emotional learning! Their thinking aligns with Bill Gates who believes investing in better teaching is a key to greater academic success. It also agrees with an Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council report that conclude all lead teachers in the nation’s preschools should have a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood development or early education. (See Education Week article below).
Ed and Jeanee Cwieka have a vast amount of business experience. Ed started out his business career in the temporary staffing field. Subsequent to managing 2 locations for a major healthcare staffing group, Ed decided to venture out on his own in 1994. With 100 square feet of office space and thirty thousand dollars he borrowed from personal credit cards for working capital, Ed grew his staffing business to 8 company owned locations in 4 states. In 2006, Ed sold the business, but the entrepreneur bug was still thriving inside him. After meeting Jeanee in 2006, they started a chain of tutoring centers, Summit Learning Services. They quickly grew Summit developing it into an Inc, 500 company in 2012. Ed and Jeanee used a similar strategy of hiring highly trained people to grow Summit. “The strategy challenged the business models of a handful of multinational tutoring companies,” said Ed. “Our outcomes were far superior.”
After consulting with leading preschool experts in the USA and Europe, the Cwieka’s felt their model could easily fit into early childhood education. “The space is fragmented with only a dozen or so national chains making up less than 5% of the market share,” says Ed. “I knew going in, if we could educate parents about the importance of not just preschool, but teacher pedagogy in their children’s early years, parents would be willing to spend $10-$20 a week more.” Nationally, preschool classroom labor costs make up 20-30% of expenses. The Cwieka’s model puts that figure closer to 40%.
“The tough part is making the numbers work. Our main goal is to hire and retain the highest caliber preschool teachers, and we are willing to pay them top dollar. The outcomes will justify it,” says Ed. “The bar has just been raised in the industry. Parents are asking for better outcomes and this will provide it.”
The Learning Cove is looking to expand their model into other markets. “Right now, the top 1% of preschools located in New York City, San Francisco, and LA use this model. “We did not invent it,” states Ed. “We were just one of the very few outside those cities to implement it.”
Reading and Resources
Education Week: All Lead Preschool Teachers Should Have B.A.
CNN – Bill Gates: Invest in better teaching
Ted Talks: Annie Murphy: What we learn before we are born
Rafe Esquith: Hobart Shakespeareans
Amazon Book – Rafe Esquith: Teach like your hair is on fire