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Relationships First, Then Advocacy, Believes Primrose CEO


Jo Kirchner, with one of her clients, is CEO of Primrose Schools

Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools, believes effective advocacy starts long before a leader pushes to get something done. “The key is building trusted relationships, and before they’re needed,”she told Franchise Times. That way, “when there are opportunities to advocate, you have a voice.”

Kirchner received the Bonnie LeVine Award from the International Franchise Association in February, in recognition of her commitment to the mentorship of women, and we finally caught up with her last week for an interview. 

“When you have to advocate for something you passionately believe in, people are more open to responding to you if you’ve already built a relationship. Really good relationship advocacy does require doing that,” she said.

The Bonnie LeVine Award is given each year to a woman leader who not only has grown a successful business but also has made an impact on either the communities that those businesses serve or on a national level or both, Kirchner said. “So for me personally it’s recognition of my personal passion for children and early education, and not just the children we serve,”she said, adding it’s also “awesome recognition” for all Primrose operators who are making an impact in their markets. 

“The ability for them to step out and lead in their communities is part of what I do in mentorship,” she said. 

One of her main examples is the founding of a national organization called Early Care and Education Consortium, which advocates for serving all children via for-profit and nonprofit public and private partnerships.

“That’s been in existence for more than 15 years. We have been through the years very active” in going to Capitol Hill to meet with senators and representatives in Congress, “and working with legislation proactively, before we needed the voice.”

In recent years, “we’ve been able to affect wording in legislation in dollars being granted to states for early childhood education and using private and public partnerships,” she said.

Primrose is a children’s education franchise operating for 36 years, with 379 schools in 29 states and a pipeline of 160 schools. “We will double the size of our company in the next five years, that’s our goal,” she said. “It just depends on real estate. Most of our development is on the East Coast and West Coast and it’s very difficult.”

One new angle for Primrose is to open employer-sponsored child care centers on corporate campuses, which Primrose did with two Procter & Gamble locations in Cincinnati last year. She believes with low unemployment, more corporations will pay attention to offering early childhood education and child care. “It is an added benefit to recruit staff,” she said.

Kirchner said awards “are wonderful to receive,” but she’s more gratified by “all of what we’re creating together” as teachers, staff and franchise owners. “That brings me the greatest satisfaction,” she said.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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