Sun04202014

Business

A mother’s desire is a boss’s beginning

For some, the business of education goes deeper than selling widgets and paper. It is the merger of passion with a business opportunity.
 
 Carlee
McCullough

For some, the business of education goes deeper than selling widgets and paper. It is the merger of passion with a business opportunity. Such is the case with Arti Balakrishna, whose desire for her children’s education opened her eyes to the possibility of operating a Math and Reading Center.

Carlee McCullough, Esq.: Tell us about yourself.

Arti Balakrishna: I was born, raised and educated in India. I earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and was pursuing my Ph.D. in Melanoma when I got married and moved to South Korea with my husband, who was working in international trade at the time. Our oldest child was born in Korea, and then we moved to Japan, where our second daughter was born. Finally we moved to the country of our dreams: the United States of America. We had our third child in Los Angeles. And, by then, I had left my dreams of becoming a famous scientist in one of the delivery rooms.

CM: What inspired you to get into the business of education?

 
 Arti
Balakrishna

AB: It began with wanting the very best for my own three daughters. In order to get to know the education system here in the U.S., I taught two years of high school in San Fernando, Calif. That was when I realized that I was meant to be a teacher. We moved to Tennessee after the two years I spent learning the challenges that face our children and teachers in the schools. I was so moved by the plight of so many bright young minds who did not even know that they had a chance to get a decent education and earn the way to a good life. I knew that it was a good education that had given me the life I lived.

CM: How did you decide on Kumon franchises as a business?

AB: I learned about the Kumon method when we lived in Japan. As the mother of a three year old, I became interested in the philosophy of the program right away. Kumon promised to create independent students – to empower them to become self-learners with all the tools they needed to succeed in all subjects and in all grades of school. It promised to help lay a foundation that would support them through their entire academic careers. So we enrolled our children in a Kumon center in Japan and, once we moved to the U.S., in another center in California.

Then, in 1999, our family moved to a small town in Tennessee. The education system was night-and-day different from what we had experienced before. I looked for a Kumon center and the nearest one was in Nashville and even a “dedicated” mother like me could not drive the nearly four hours it would take to get my kids to Kumon! So in January 2000, I opened my own Kumon center in Jackson, Tenn. In other words, I was really not looking to start a business. I wanted to have full access to the program for my own children. And the rest was history….

CM: How has the Kumon experience impacted your children?

AB: I can say with a sigh of relief that all three of our children completed the math and reading programs. They did really well in school and were accepted into the premiere colleges in this country. The oldest graduated from Yale and is now the CEO and co-founder of “The Future Project,” a national education initiative for high school students across the country. Our second child graduated from Harvard and is a medical student at Yale. And the youngest is a sophomore at Yale majoring in American Studies. Kumon taught them to push themselves to achieve their full potential, which made getting accepted to the best colleges less of a challenge… and also took the burden off of me and my husband!

CM: What areas of opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in education?

AB: The education field needs dedicated people who believe in the importance of supporting children of all ages and abilities in becoming their best selves and laying the foundation for powerful futures in which they can truly make an impact.

CM: What advice would you give to others interested in the business of education?

AB: If education is viewed merely as a business it ends up providing neither a good place to learn nor a profitable business. Education initiatives must always put the children first.

(Please send your questions to Carlee McCullough, Esq., at 777 South Main St., Suite 202, Memphis, Tenn., or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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