Adventuring Into New Markets

by Nate Hunter

Children’s Learning Adventure plans to open 200 locations by 2020.

Children’s Learning Adventure looks for markets with a minimum median household income of $80,000. Pictured above is the opening of the Scottsdale location in August 2012.Children’s Learning Adventure (CLA) is an education-based childcare company that is following a focused curriculum to grow and develop children, as well as its own business.

CLA opened its 12th location in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Aug. 4, 2012, and the company says it will be operating 20 stores by the end of 2013. CLA is targeting a specific demographic to help increase its presence throughout the country.

“Our target markets are family-based communities, full of young children,” says Daniel Petersen, director of real estate for Children’s Learning Adventure Childcare Centers. “Our core customer is typically a female with one to three children. Our key driver, beyond all others, is household income.”

The daycare facility targets trade areas in which the median household income is at least $80,000 annually. Locations range in size from 16,000 to 33,000 square feet, situated on approximately 2.5 to 3.5 acres, depending on the site. The company is partial to its 25,000-square-foot prototype but will build a 33,000-square-foot facility in select trade areas that can support the larger model.

The company currently operates in Arizona, Nevada and Texas with locations opening soon in Colorado and Oklahoma. Opportunities near Atlanta and Kansas City are also in the works. Other areas of planned expansion include North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and New York.

Children’s Learning Adventure has seven locations in Arizona (with a new Gilbert school opening soon) and four in Nevada. Nevada will receive new units in North Las Vegas and the Durango submarket of Las Vegas.

Similarly, there are seven facilities planned for Texas, which will join the company’s single location in the state in Pearland. The new Children’s Learning Adventures will be near Houston in The Woodlands, League City, Fall Creek, Cinco Ranch and Atascocita. West Plano and Keller are under contract in the Dallas area.

“Our real estate team’s background is retail development, so when it comes to site selection, we think more like Walgreens or CVS/pharmacy in that we seek first-class retail locations on major arterials with outstanding access and visibility,” Petersen says.

CLA is targeting these markets because of their demographics and demand. Cities that rank high on the company’s list include Denver, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Austin and Atlanta.

“Initially, our growth has been predicated on markets with relatively low barriers to entry, high number of immediate opportunities in high-income areas and pent-up demand for our services,” says Petersen. “We have developed in Arizona, both Phoenix and Tucson, for nearly 15 years, so we know this market extremely well.”

The founders of Children’s Learning Adventure developed childcare and preschool facilities for 15 years. They previously created a successful and profitable company was that was sold in 2008 for approximately $68 million. The first CLA facility opened soon thereafter in Phoenix, satisfying a void in the market.

Petersen says, “It’s a business in which demand is relatively inelastic — childcare services are viewed as a necessary expense for working families, which mitigates volatility.”

On average, CLA’s facilities operate at more than 85 percent of licensed capacity and several locations are at full capacity. CLA says it excels at retaining students and getting children, and parents, to come back on a regular basis.

“We view our business — and industry — as one that will continue to grow as the economy recovers and more households become dual-working households,” says Petersen. “Ultimately though, the difference lies in the quality of childcare and education a school provides.”

Children’s Learning Adventure places a heavy focus on the education provided in each of its facilities to children ages six CLA 2WEBCLA’s design includes themed rooms, each with its own learning objectives.months to 12 years. Even though each location is visually stimulating, Petersen says it’s not the design of each unit, but the curriculum that is the basis for all of the company’s success. CLA’s curriculum is based on the works of early child development theorists Jean Piaget, Erik Erickson and Lev Vygotsky, in addition to neuroscientist Bruce Perry’s research in brain development.
“Our curriculum provides a forum for parents and teachers to work together to ensure the best learning environment for each child,” says Petersen.

The company’s proprietary Lifetime Adventures curriculum is taught by a trained team that has received 60 hours of mandatory training prior to interaction with children. Each center also features education specialists who train and mentor teachers.
Children’s Learning Adventure also offers specialty rooms, each with its own trademarked theme supporting a specific subject.

The Laboratory Lagoon is a science and math environment that encourages questioning, experimentation and scientific discovery. Nature’s Nook teaches children how to appreciate the outdoors, while Reading Reef is a library that models positive practices in reading. Imagination Island is another specialty room that allows children to enhance their practical experience through social and personal growth.

Every location is company-owned. Petersen says this ensures that the quality of the brand and the concept will be consistent. Security is another factor that is important at CLA.

Each facility has only one entrance and exit — the main rotunda. The rest of the building and the playground is fenced-in. Every patron must enter and exit through this one point, which never remains open. All other doors lead to the fenced-in playground. Employees also maintain the building’s security by using electronic swipe cards to gain access.

Parents can not drop their children off at a Children’s Learning Adventure location, but must escort their child in and out of the building every time. The entrance includes a fingerprint scanner that requires parents to “scan” their children in and scan again upon pickup. Parents then enter a pin after scanning their fingerprint and use a computer terminal inside to log in.

Each CLA location is monitored by a security system equipped with 20 monitors that view all areas of the building from a single location.

“CLA maintains a competitive advantage in the market through state-of-the-art, amenity-filled facilities and an investment in staff that far exceeds anything established in the industry,” Petersen says.

Children’s Learning Adventure plans to open 20 locations by the end of 2013, with an additional 20 to 30 new facilities opening each year after that throughout the country. The company is on target to have 200 operating units by 2020 in major markets and is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. For more information, contact Petersen at [email protected].”

— Brittany Biddy

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