2012 – Signed contract in June and opened corporately owned centre in Bologna
2013 – Opened 6 Unit Franchises
2014 – Opened 14 Unit Franchises
2015 – 10 Unit Franchises opened at the end of August
What was your background before you became the Master Licensee for Italy?
I had an English school for adults and I had been working in the language business for seven years. Before that I had a career in sales and marketing, working for a telemarketing company and as a sales consultant. I also had experience working as a centre director for a language school.
Has your experience in sales and marketing been useful as a Licensee?
Yes definitely, I think that if you have a good product to start with then the key thing is to have an effective sales and marketing strategy. That’s why we decided to look for an established, well known brand. Pingu’s English is a premium product and we would not have been able to design a course of that quality ourselves.
What was it that attracted you to Pingu’s English?
Our first impressions were very good – we liked the brand immediately and the way it was presented online. Once I understood the methodology and I could see for myself the quality of the materials I was convinced. We also conducted extensive research with parents of primary school children in Bologna and Verona and discovered that 80% of the parents were aware of the character of Pingu. We used an agency to conduct the research and we gained invaluable feedback from parents which helped us to set up the correct pricing, decide on catchment areas and to evaluate the amount of importance the parents placed on English learning for their children.
What do you feel are the unique benefits of becoming a Franchisee?
You have the freedom to develop your own model, but you do need to take on the responsibility for developing your market. I also feel that being part of an established global network is a huge benefit – when we started Italy we were unknown but we could tell everyone that we were part of a successful company with a presence in many markets all over the world. This was very useful when we were talking to parents on a B2C level and prospective Unit Franchisees on a B2B level.
How important do you feel it is to have an established character at the heart of the programme?
Pingu and his friends are great for branding, and it really helps to have such a great character set especially because it convinces the parents. They really like the fact that the children are watching and learning from the video episodes and it’s easy to explain to them about the methodology. It also really helps with the Franchising side of the business, because prospective Unit Franchisees immediately understand the sales potential of the programme once they have seen the materials.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
It has probably been that we have had to be very adaptable with our business strategy and respond to market challenges. We have had to revisit our business plan several times which is not an easy task. When you start out you can make forecasts, but you must be prepared to review and assess almost daily and make changes where necessary to improve results.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
I love seeing people happy and I love to see children learning and achieving! I am also very proud at how quickly we are expanding – we will have over 30 centres in Italy by the end of this year and I hope to expand that to 40 by September 2016.
What has been a key factor in your success?
I think you have to work very hard, be honest and you have to have the judgement to select the right people as Unit Franchisees. We look for people with sales experience as Pingu’s English is a very people focused business and requires good customer service skills.
What would you say to anyone considering investing in a Pingu’s English Master Franchise?
Have a long term vision – it’s not just about opening one successful language school. They need to think big and take on the challenge of opening a network in order to reap the rewards.