5. Primrose Schools
Being a pharmaceutical rep, Ashley Clemens had the flexibility to help out her husband's brother and sister-in-law by picking up their son from day care. She noticed her nephew was happiest by far once he started attending Primrose Schools, a private day care facility that focuses more on being an early learning school than a babysitting facility.

"That's initially I think what really sparked our interest into looking into opening a franchise," says Clemens, who has a degree in education.

Primrose takes in children from infancy through elementary-school age for full day, summer, before and after-school care. The company has more than 231 schools in 16 states.

The difference in the format was noticeable. "When you go, someone takes you back to the classroom and introduces you. You've got the sense of security as someone checks your identification. It just feels like a home," Clemens says.

Clemens and her husband, who previously worked in custom homebuilding and land development, own two Primrose Schools in Ohio. She was so impressed with the school that she even got her husband's brother and sister-in-law to open one and an aunt and uncle to run a Primrose School franchise.

"There were a ton of franchises we could have picked," she says. "What really sets Primrose apart is just how educationally focused we really are. I wholeheartedly believe in it. You're able to see the growth, and language development is phenomenal. The kids are so engaged all day long with their teachers."

Taking a page from her sales career, Clemens says she focuses primarily on child enrollment and showing potential parents the benefits and uniqueness of the facility. Her husband mainly does the bookkeeping, but "Mr. Luke" -- as he's known to the kids -- also takes a page from his prior career by being the in-house fix-it man. Parents know the couple too.

"How many parents can say they know the owner of their child care center?" Clemens says.

Even with her education background, Clemens says she needed to learn how to run the business. The company equipped her with two weeks of training plus additional training for the teachers before the facility was opened. One of the hardest lessons was making sure state- and company-regulated teacher-to-child ratios were met.

In other businesses, "you have to make sure you're staffed for the day, but if someone calls in you just fill their spot. Here it's completely different. You really have to open your mind in dealing with those situations as they arise. Primrose does help you to prepare," Clemens says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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