Ivybrook Academy – Weddington, North Carolina

March 27, 2024

Ivybrook Academy

Empowering Children and Communities Across the Nation


Personalized education franchise is transforming early learning

The professional early childcare landscape can be described in many ways. Regardless of the model used, several components must be in place to ensure consistent success; a supportive and safe learning environment, an engaging curriculum, and a special focus placed on young children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development.

Headquartered in Weddington, North Carolina, there is an exemplary educational institution that has managed to create exactly these kinds of conditions for its students.

For close to 18 years, Ivybrook Academy has been redefining early childhood education across the nation. The academy has grown into a large franchise that managed to create a proprietary curriculum and welcoming aesthetics that meets the needs of both its students and their families.

At the operational level, effective communication and collaboration between franchise owners and corporate support teams are essential and part of the franchise’s day-to-day culture.

Franchisees receive comprehensive training and ongoing support to effectively manage their businesses, from daily operations to managing finances and marketing efforts.

Moreover, Ivybrook is a brand that leverages technology to streamline processes and enhance operational efficiency and satisfaction.

Success for this organization is characterized by its thriving network of franchise locations across multiple states, each renowned for its exceptional quality of care and educational excellence.

The positive impact the franchise makes in so many different communities provides parents with peace of mind and children with a solid foundation for future success. As it grows, Ivybrook continues to innovate and adapt to meet the evolving needs of families, ensuring its position as a trusted leader in early childhood education and care.

Building Dreams, One Child at a Time

Jennifer & Drew McWilliams, Co-Founders

The story of Ivybrook Academy is one of humble beginnings. It was co-founded by husband-and-wife Jennifer & Drew McWilliams.

The founding inspiration came from a rare combination of Drew’s business expertise and Jennifer’s vision for a better start in education for children in their community.

“My background was in residential real estate sales, and my wife was a first-grade teacher,” McWilliams explains, referencing his wife’s calling to work with children as the catalyst for the company.

According to Drew, his wife “just had this calling that there had to be a better way to give children a better head start academically.”

The journey began with a simple conversation on a honeymoon flight where Jennifer wrote down her vision on a napkin. That napkin became the blueprint for their first school, which they opened in Charlotte, NC back in 2007.

For the next 10 years, Ivybrook Academy grew exponentially, evolving from a single napkin sketch to a second location in the Charlotte metro area. That decade of success in Charlotte helped the two founders realize two things.

First, there was an increased demand for Ivybrook Academy education from the parents who had relocated away from Charlotte and, secondly, there were no schools like Ivybrook across the Country.

Due to the alignment between the lack of competition in the market and the demand that it seemed only Ivybrook could supply, expansion became the right thing to move forward on.

Driven by a desire to make a difference, the founders made the bold decision to franchise Ivybrook Academy, allowing them to expand their reach and impact even more children’s lives.

Following that, the brand surged in visibility.  In the past 7 years, it rose from 2 to 92 locations that are now either fully operational or approved and in development to open soon.

Key Distinctions: Setting Ivybrook Apart

Two main components set Ivybrook apart from its competitors: its half-day model and proprietary curriculum.

Unlike traditional daycares, Ivybrook’s half-day model caters to stay-at-home and work-from-home parents, offering individualized curriculum and personalized attention to each child.

With the rising increase in the work-from-home demographic since 2020, the last four years have been especially fruitful for the company.

Regarding the curriculum, by focusing on quality over quantity, Ivybrook provides a unique educational experience tailored to each child’s needs, setting them up for success from the start.

“Our curriculum is proprietary… my wife took 2 years off to develop and write it just for us,” McWilliams says, explaining that due to the copyrighted nature of their curriculum, the Ivybrook educational experience literally cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

“We’re able to do testing and figure out exactly where students are… so we can adapt our curriculum individually to meet their learning curve and help them accelerate in the best way possible,” McWilliams says.

The core idea is that if you can engage a student at their level of interest, they’ll retain what they’re taught much better.

A Culture of Partnership, Impact, and Support

The other half of Ivybrook’s success revolves around the standards and practices it holds as a franchise. A successfully operating academy hinges on finding the right franchisees—passionate individuals who share their commitment to community impact.

With an investment ranging from $450,000 to $700,000, Ivybrook offers a rewarding opportunity for individuals and couples looking to make a difference while owning their own business.

So far, being able to positively impact children in their community has been at the forefront of every single franchise owner’s decision to open up with Ivybrook.

Central to Ivybrook’s success is its culture of partnership, where franchise owners receive consistent support and guidance from the corporate team. From training and onboarding to ongoing operations, Ivybrook is dedicated to ensuring the success of each franchise location.

“I don’t know if there is a day that goes by where either myself, my wife, or someone on my team isn’t personally engaging with every single campus that we operate,” McWilliams states.

The franchise’s training follows a multi-faceted approach, where training is conducted remotely, in person, and via Ivybrook University, a training facility that was constructed next to the company’s main campus 4 years ago.

Ivybrook University has proven to be an incredibly robust onboarding resource that draws in school owners and administrators from around the country.

Franchisees are trained in daily operations and how to be a business owner. And then, reciprocally, the corporate team travels to support franchisees and help them open up their new school.

Once they are set up and functional, they are plugged into all of the backend systems that support the franchise’s operations.

The main platform that Ivybrook Academy leverages is called SchoolWise, a district-wide, multi-school management software that is used to streamline operations and enhance the educational experience for both students and franchise owners.

Since partnering with SchoolWise, it has proven to be the new technological bedrock of the franchise. McWilliams expresses this sentiment well, saying, “Without SchoolWise, I truly don’t believe we would be able to function at as high a level as we do today.  The software enables us to have school management, tuition processing, easy online registration of students and more.”

The perfect example lies at the start of the 2020 pandemic. While many schools had to pause to figure out how to transition into remote learning, Ivybrook had already moved to the SchoolWise platform one year prior, allowing them to seamlessly transition to remote learning without any disruption to the school’s activities.

Based on Ivybrook’s current performance, it is clear that the remote learning transition gave Ivybrook a decisive advantage over its competitors.


A Bright Future for Ivybrook Academy

In a testament to its success, Ivybrook Academy recently earned a spot in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 500 Franchise Ranking, placing 337th among thousands of franchise companies worldwide.

“In the next five years, I expect us to have near 200 locations open in at least 20 different states,” McWilliams says, explaining that, with the trajectory the franchise has been following for the past 7 years, such a goal is “extremely realistic.”

As the academy looks to the future, its founders, Drew and Jennifer remain committed to their mission of building dreams and shaping young minds.

As it continues to climb the rankings and gain more recognition, Ivybrook is executing an ambitious plan to double its footprint in the next five years, keeping it poised for continued growth where it can make an even greater impact on the lives of children across the nation.

In summary, Ivybrook Academy’s journey from a simple napkin sketch to a nationwide leader in education stands as a testament to the power of passion, vision, and partnership.

With a focus on quality education, community impact, and ongoing support, Ivybrook is paving the way for a brighter future for generations to come.

For anyone who feels that their child deserves a tailored education and believes that those who teach children should have the same curiosity and passion as the students themselves, Ivybrook Academy is the place to be.

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Ivybrook Academy

What: A national early childhood education franchise empowering children and communities across the country through personalized education.

Where: Headquartered in Weddington, North Carolina, with franchise locations across the nation.

Website: https://www.ivybrookacademy.com/


Morgan Stanley Wealth Management – https://advisor.morganstanley.com/the-bmp-group

Benjamin (Ben) Semmes joined Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in June of 2022 after 10 years with another firm. His focus is on providing a customized, goals-based planning approach for his clients that emphasizes the importance of risk management, tactical asset allocation, tax minimization strategies, and asset preservation. He is patient, informative, and transparent with his clients, firmly believing that a strong relationship with well-educated clients will foster the best investing decisions

Student Wise – www.SchoolWise.app

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