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Lara Gandini wants to create a Kindy Dance Time franchise from her small business

Kids’ dance school takes the next step

KINDY dance time started in Western Australia in mid-2001, and Lara Gandini was one of those involved in the business from the start.

Three years later, she bought the company.

Within 14 months of the purchase, the business grew from just two locations with 22 students, to 16 locations employing 10 teachers, catering to more than 600 students.

Formerly a professional classical ballet dancer with more than 15 years' dance teaching experience, Ms Gandini realised there was no fully-developed program for children between two and five years old available.

“The traditional ballet or dance school could not adequately provide the emotional, physical and cognitive support for a child under five, yet many parents recognised their child's desire to dance," Ms Gandini told WA Business News.

Kindy Dance Time offers a unique program, carefully designed using resources and experience from a number of leading tutors in dance and music, specialising in the early years.

Classes are divided into different age groups, from two to five years of age, so that key areas of development for each age group can be focused on.

There are no annual productions or concerts, alleviating undue stress, and parents are permitted to stay and watch, and even participate in, their children's learning, elements of the business Ms Gandini believes are unique selling points.

While it is a goal of the business to become the market leader in the field of young children's dance classes, Ms Gandini hopes to capitalise on the company's growth and develop the business into a franchise model.

“For Kindy Dance Time, business continues to thrive and demand is strong, with turnover increasing considerably even during a time of economic downturn," Ms Gandini said.

“Many classes across the Perth metropolitan area have long wait lists. This is likely to be due to the uniqueness and quality of what Kindy Dance Time offers with its program, teachers and core philosophies."

The business currently employs 14 teachers and three administration staff, catering for more than 800 students.

Through targeted marketing and positive word-of-mouth feedback, demand has outstripped capacity for the program - within Western Australia - as well as demand from outside of the state.

This resulted in large waiting lists for many classes in WA and a strong desire to launch the program in other states.

Ms Gandini, therefore, faced some key challenges.

She needed to grow the brand in a rapid, yet sustainable manner, to reduce waiting lists and to make the most of increasing demand for Kindy Dance Time.

She also recognised the need to leverage the success of the brand and propel the business forward - so it was a nationally recognised leader in the provision of best practice, structured yet fun dance-based education for pre-school children.

It was decided that the business would offer franchises in WA regional areas, and to advertise the franchises in Victoria.

“While many applications came in for franchises in Victoria, the distance between home base for KDT being Perth, and Melbourne, proved to be a problem," Ms Gandini said.

“Franchisees needed to be trained in Perth, and also needed to spend considerable time in Perth understanding the brand and system.

“It also became clear that the brand needed to be developed and brand awareness created in Victoria first."

Ms Gandini realised that establishing a strong brand presence in some key Melbourne locations was essential to build the reputation of Kindy Dance Time further in Victoria. So she set about advertising for teachers to teach the program under a company-owned model - not under the franchise model.

This involved extensive teaching interviews, with teachers poised to come to WA in November to be trained by Kindy Dance Time.

The business is preparing for its Melbourne launch, starting classes in term one 2010.

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