The Builder of Tomorrow’s Talents
If you are searching for a franchise business that enriches a child’s growing mind, look no further than Little Neuro Tree – a unique tri-lingual programme specially developed by child experts to stimulate the early development of a child’s brain that last a lifetime. David Ng, CEO of Little Neuro Tree Pte Ltd enlightens Franchise Asia on the difference between Little Neuro Tree and other child development programmes in the market and why every child should be equipped with these fundamental skills to perform well in school and life.
What is Little Neuro Tree?
Little Neuro Tree can be described as a Singapore-based early childhood enrichment educator, which specialises in neuro-linguistic brain stimulation and development for children of ages three months to six years old. Our unique programme specialises in the use of multi-language environment to enhance language stimulation and also stimulation of various sensory systems to build a child’s knowledge, confidence and love for learning. Our products and services include the development and instruction of Little Neuro Tree’s proprietary programme and brain stimulation techniques.
Our programme adopts a unique Whole Brain and Evidence-based approach and uses Multi-language Brain Stimulation technologies to design fun-filled activities to develop foundation skills and to shape a child’s learning attitudes. Among the essential skill-set lessons taught are Memory Skills, Creativity, Music Appreciation, Problem Solving Skills (IQ), Social Skills (EQ), Motor Skills and many more which help develop their learning abilities, attitudes and personalities.
We believe in building strong foundation in skills that will last a lifetime through a holistic brain development curriculum. We provide a stimulating environment to ensure that classes are challenging and engaging. We give parents practical advice through our home support guidance. Our programme also supports children with special needs, as well as pre-natal attachment classes for mothers-to-be.
But aren’t there similar programmes like this around?
Not really. Little Neuro Tree is unlike any other content based learning programmes out there. Content based are programmes that focuses specifically on teaching ‘contents’, e.g., math, science, English, dance, Tae‑kwon‑do, etc. Little Neuro Tree on the other hand is centred on teaching ‘skill-sets’, focused on three major areas to:
- Cultivate strong interest in language learning although ours is not a language programme. Studies show that children who have a good flair or command of language tend to articulate effortlessly and learn better;
- Develop strong learning abilities such as problem-solving, creativity, memory ability, social skills, etc, and to uplift the child’s potentials;
Nurture and develop positive learning attitude, confidence, great personality and social responsibility in a child.
But isn’t three months too early an age to start?
Definitely not. In fact studies show that a child should be given meaningful learning opportunities in early childhood to allow their brain to develop rich brain connections, which set the stage for active learning beyond childhood. A good age to start would be from three months of age and before six years of age. Once you miss it, you miss it for life.
Do you know that early childhood experiences are critical to the emotional and intellectual development of a child? By three years old, 75% of brain growth is completed. We understand that the attention span of a toddler is short and constantly changing. To keep the programme engaging we interchange 15 to 16 skill-sets in a one-hour programme to keep it interesting. The activities in every session are well planned according to the developmental needs of children in this age category. For older children the skill-sets are the same, except that a younger child may be attracted to the pictures while an older child will be more focused on the sentence.
Activities are conducted in an enjoyable manner so that children learn quickly through ‘play’. A class of four to six children in the same age group enables a child to learn better in a small team. Consequently, this helps the instructor guide each child with better focus and attention. However, our programme is no child’s play. Our curriculum is developed by a team of experienced corporate professionals, early childhood educators and specialists including psychologists, researchers and medical practitioners from Singapore and abroad.
When was Little Neuro Tree started and how successful is its franchise programme?
Little Neuro Tree was started in 2007 but we did not start franchising until October 2008. We had only three Little Neuro Tree outlets when we started. Currently we have nine outlets; eight are franchised while one is company owned. The programme has been highly successful with almost 1,200 students enrolled to date. It’s not surprising to see the programme getting popular as more parents are starting to see the benefits of the programme through word-of-mouth recommendations from other parents and also through parenting forums, blogs, testimonials, etc.
The benefits are truly astounding as this is the only programme where it is compulsory that a parent attend, learn and support the child in the classroom thus spending a precious one hour with the child that helps to develop closer bond. We have even turned away parents who cannot commit themselves on this small ‘sacrifice.’ To us money is not everything as we want more children to benefit from this groundbreaking programme.
During the initial stages before we introduced this programme to the public, we made a commitment to ourselves to be bound by two key principles. Firstly, we wanted this programme to be affordable to the average income earners. Hence, we have kept the fees the same since the time we started; S$550 for a weekday class and S$600 for a weekend class (one-hour per week) for a three-month term. The second principle is accessibility; where we realised it would be of no use if many parents cannot access to something so beneficial for the children. This was the main reason for us to franchise the programme so that many parents can afford the programme and attend a Little Neuro Tree centre nearest to them. Seeing all the plus points and the great results from their children enrolled in our programme, have enticed some of the parents to become our franchisees.
What are some of the challenges faced by Little Neuro Tree as a franchisor?
As we were new and considered raw when we started our franchise programme after only a year of operation, many were unsure whether our programme would work. To allay the fear, we allowed prospective franchisees enough time to conduct due diligence on us, somewhere between two weeks to six months. We gave enough time for them to investigate our programme and our franchise model. Being new to the franchising game, we constantly benchmarked ourselves with the best Australian franchisors to learn and improve ourselves. We know we are a new franchisor but were also excited at the same time as we had something so revolutionary to present to the world.
What is Little Neuro Tree’s expansion plan for the coming year?
Being a skill-set programme, Little Neuro Tree curriculum is applicable anywhere in the world. It is about learning the right foundation before you venture into the world. Content changes overtime but skill-sets never change. The fundamental principles are the same everywhere. As such, we are targeting to open our first franchise either in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Jakarta, Indonesia in 2010. We will also expand our presence in the region by franchising into countries like China, Vietnam and Japan. However, before venturing aggressively into international markets, we have to ensure that all systems are in order as we cannot afford any trial and error. We must ensure that we get it right the first time.
How receptive will the international market be to Little Neuro Tree?
I am extremely confident that Little Neuro Tree will flourish overseas as language is universal and attitude of children is also universal. The programme does not depend on any school syllabus. We want Little Neuro Tree to spread the concept of ‘One Love’ – where the world becomes a peaceful place when we start the children on the right footings to perform well in school and life. Although Singapore is only the launch pad for the programme, it was actually developed by experts from Singapore, Australia, Germany, Great Britain and many other countries. So it has a wide appeal. As a niche programme, it has no competition so far. Moreover, ours is not a static programme. We constantly innovate and modify it according to the latest scientific findings and research to give the best to children around the world.
As a franchisor, what do you think are the factors that contribute to successful franchising?
We see our relationship with our franchisee more as a partner or a spouse in a fulfilling relationship. Communication is extremely vital in a franchisor-franchisee relationship and duty of both to make the relationship successful. In all the franchising excitement, a budding franchisor should be aware not to kill the franchise by over populating it. Greed should not be the motivating factor, which can easily destroy a franchise. A franchisor should constantly have a long term view and passion in building the franchise business.
As for a franchisee, passion is again the deciding factor in this business – not solely earning big money, which will eventually appear when you put your passion into the business.
In the recent FLAward 2009 organised by the Franchising & Licensing Association of Singapore, Little Neuro Tree was among the Promising Franchisor of the Year Finalists. What does this mean to you as a franchisor?
We are extremely happy that we were among the shortlisted candidates. Being only two years in the business, we were elated that we have been recognised for our efforts to make a difference in a child’s future. Even though being a new player in the market, we were given much support and encouragement from many sectors. Having said that, we also know that we cannot rest on our laurels. Being shortlisted is evident enough that we have been noticed and more is expected of us.
In what ways did FLA Singapore help Little Neuro Tree to become a successful franchisor?
FLA Singapore assisted us in multitude of ways, but more specifically as an advisor to guide us to become a better franchisor. FLA provided a good network for us to connect, grow and learn from. FLA organised many overseas trips to visit overseas franchise councils where we learnt many pointers and also our mistakes. As a member, we where also provided with in-house information and latest research data that we are sure not available elsewhere.