Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leading Preschool Franchise Positioned for Consistent Growth

CEO Gail Johnson Leads Rainbow Station’s Expansion through Careful Planning and Execution

GLEN ALLEN, Va.There is a spectrum of options for working parents in search of quality early care and education. However, in the arena of comprehensive early childhood development, leadership, emergency backup care, and summer recreation, Rainbow Station has no competition.

Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, the Rainbow Station brand was conceived and refined by CEO Gail W. Johnson and a passionate and dedicated leadership team with over 187 years of combined experience in the children’s education sector. Beginning her career as a pediatric nurse, Johnson identified a shift that was occurring in society. More women were joining the workforce in the 1980s, and were then left to find suitable care for their children.

“I wanted to make a genuine difference in people’s lives,” she said, recalling the nexus of her concept. “Although early education wasn’t a new field, I noticed a lack of businesses that provided comprehensive care, education and a focus on developmentally appropriate practice.”

Johnson also recognized the stress that unexpected illnesses placed on both parents – illnesses that create the dreaded “whose job is the most important today?” conversations as well as the lack of services available for children with special health care needs.

Launched in 1989, Rainbow Station not only provides the world-class, proprietary PLAYWORKS® curriculum-based learning for children from birth through kindergarten, but also delivers the industry’s most unique and differentiated wellness element: the Get Well Place, a haven for mildly ill children whose care needs otherwise would necessitate a missed day of work for mom or dad. The  Get Well Place is staffed by a pediatric nurse and accepts mildly ill children with colds, flu, gastrointestinal illnesses, etc.,-- all conditions that  are regularly excluded from school or other out of home arrangements.

“I wanted to challenge a family’s perception of what early learning truly means on both academic and personal levels,” Johnson said. “It was also very important to me to provide the necessary support for parents with ill children and those with chronic health conditions.”

Rainbow Station expanded in 1996 to include a unique school age program that teaches children key decision-making skills and is designed to promote freedom and choice. Within this separate facility adjacent to Rainbow Station’s original facility (now reserved for preschool children), the company constructed a miniature indoor community where children can actively engage in academic activities and learning opportunities with supervision and support. This inclusive community is called The Village at Rainbow Station, and its low faculty-to-student ratio guarantees that children from 5 to 14 are engaged in fun, brain-stimulating activities.   

Throughout her career, Johnson has been committed to innovation. She became intrigued by a magnet school that successfully integrated educator, author and entrepreneur Steve Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People into its curriculum. Her passion for leadership connected with this approach. She was convinced that the key principles in Covey's The Leader in Me module could be taught to students of any age, and integrated them into the Rainbow Station curriculum. In doing so, Rainbow Station became the first preschool system in the country to teach these concepts to preschoolers, thus establishing the brand as a place that not only focuses on getting children to kindergarten but also preparing them for success in the  21st century. This emphasis on 21st century success extends to all programs—not just the preschool:  The Village, The Get Well Place, and Camp Blue Sky.

The latest innovation at Rainbow Station is the creation of Camp Blue Sky, which will debut this summer at its Virginia locations. Drawing from the Covey-inspired leadership tenets, the camp will seek to present children ages 5 to 13 with a unique away-camp experience in a day-camp setting with a fast and furious delivery of the planned activities and curriculum.

Today, Rainbow Station is nationally recognized as the only early learning institution that offers such a premium suite of services. There are 10 Rainbow Station campuses located in the United States, including franchises in Indiana, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. In January of this year, Rainbow opened the first of what is anticipated to be 110 schools in China.  All franchisees, domestic and international, are committed to Rainbow Station’s vision of excellence and the desire to partner with teachers, nurses, and parents to promote the success of each child enrolled in their schools.

With a primary concern on establishing a solid foundation, Johnson focused on perfecting the Rainbow Station methodology before seeking wide-scale expansion. The result is smart growth and a polished, professional operation that provides the highest quality experience for its children and their families.

“We could have pushed the number of Rainbow Station franchises sky high, but we wanted to grow the right way. We wanted to ensure the highest quality experience for our families and franchisees,” Johnson said, noting that the brand sold its first franchise location in 2000. “The time for us to grow has come, and we’re prepared to do so – both in the United States and abroad.”

What distinguishes Rainbow Station from all other industry options is the opportunity for potential investors to purchase a brand with four distinct value propositions through a single franchise agreement. The company’s franchise disclosure document reflects that the total investment in a domestic Rainbow Station franchise ranges between $ 750,000 and $1,200,000 based on a project cost of $5,000,000 to $6,000,000. An $80,000 franchise fee is included in that range estimate.


Rainbow Station is the nation’s premier provider of early education, school age recreation, emergency backup care and leadership development. Its comprehensive approach to building the future one child at a time incorporates Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and teaches each of these tenets throughout its programming as part of its The Leader in Me initiative. Curriculum-based learning using the proprietary curriculum, PLAYWORKS®, is offered for infants through private kindergarten as well as programs for school age children. The Council on Accreditation (COA) provides accreditation for the programs at each Rainbow Station. Each Rainbow Station features the Get Well Place, a facility within the campus staffed by a pediatric nurse that accepts mildly ill children. Additionally, Rainbow Station created a school age program called The Village, an interactive learning environment based on freedom and choice where children can receive tutoring, complete their homework and engage in active play before and after school hours. Its latest innovation, Camp Blue Sky, a dynamic summer camp concept, debuts this summer at its Virginia locations. To learn more about the leading early education franchise, please visit

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rainbow Station featured in Richmond Times Dispatch for Small Business Week

Rainbow Station was featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch last Friday in an article leading into Small Business Week (June 17- June 21) where the Small Business Administration met with two women-owned and led companies in Richmond. Gail Johnson, CEO, discussed her relationship with the SBA, being named Small Business of the Year in the 1990's and they have been assisted for nearly $12.5 million in loans to Rainbow Station owners. The article also combines information about Gail with info about More than Moving for Seniors Inc., another local woman-owned business that was recognized by the SBA. They also attribute information to Rainbow Station Vice President Susan Bishop and President of Rainbow Station International Rick Sample.

Two women-owned companies recognized in advance of Small Business Week

With almost no business background, Susan Campbell set out with an idea for a company that specializes in moving the elderly.
When it came time for her company to expand, she was unsure of the next step.

“We just wanted to talk to someone who had been there … to help navigate the waters of business,” Campbell said.
Campbell received mentoring through a program associated with the U.S. Small Business Administration. She recently received a $50,000 loan from the SBA for an expansion.
Gail Johnson needed similar help with her specialized day care center and preschool. The SBA helped her secure a loan for $750,000 to open up a second facility when her school’s waiting list was supersaturated.
On Friday, the SBA recognized the two small, women-owned businesses in advance of Small Business Week that starts Monday.
Campbell established More than Moving for Seniors Inc. in 1998 after helping her father move from his home of 48 years.
She saw a niche in the market for a company that would help focus on the senior’s move and make it easier for the family. (To continue reading article, click here)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rainbow Station featured in the San Antonio Express News

Our new Rainbow Station in San Antonio was featured this week in the San Antonio Express News and for the opening which occurred on May 18th in a northern suburb of the city. The article discusses Jennifer Hirncir's second location shares some insight into the unique program that Rainbow Station offers to both parents and children up to age 14. Gail Johnson who is the CEO also discussed the proprietary PLAYWORKS program, national accreditation, emergency care programs, recreation and leadership development, as they are distinguished as the nation's first "Leadership Preschool."

To read the full article online, click here.

San Antonio Express-NewsNew Rainbow Station opens near Stone Oak area

By Jessica M. Cervantes, Staff Writer
Published 10:13 am, Tuesday, June 11, 2013
From teacher to entrepreneur, a mother who sought after better childhood care for her son opened the first Rainbow Station franchise in Stone Oak in 2003 and recently opened her second location in far North San Antonio May 18.

Rainbow Station is a nationally accredited program that provides early education, recreation, emergency backup care and leadership development.

It is, its officials say, the nation's first "Leadership Preschool,” based on adopting nationally acclaimed initiatives focusing on development beyond typical academics.

The program's proprietary Playworks curriculum mixes teacher-directed with child-initiated activities.
Jennifer Hrncir, who opened the first Rainbow Station at at 322 E. Sonterra Blvd., said the idea for starting an early childhood center developed because she was not satisfied with what she called “chaos” in similar local centers.

“After doing research we found Rainbow Station, toured the (original) location in Virginia and realized no one else was doing what they were doing,” Hrncir said.

“My father was looking for a family business (to invest) in, so we decided this was it.”

Although Hrncir had the idea for the second station, Rainbow Station at Cibolo, located at 3108 Marshall Road, since 2008, there were many obstacles she had to overcome during a time when the economy made it more difficult.

“One the benefits of opening a second location is that you have people on board who have experience and understand how the system works,” Hrncir said.

Rainbow Station founder/CEO Gail Johnson said Hrncir was the “pioneer” who believed and put trust into Rainbow Station despite an unstable economy. Hrncir's local Rainbow Stations were the first franchises outside Virginia.

“Jennifer is the definition of persistence,” Johnson said.

Hrncir said one of the main things that attracted her to Rainbow Station was that the program was designed to work around the individual child and parent situation, not about how many children could fit in the classroom.

Currently there are 300 children enrolled at the Sonterra location and 75 enrolled at the Cibolo location. 

To continue reading article, click here. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Franchisee Spotlight: Kevin and Ashley Johnson, Rainbow Station at Haymarket

Kevin Johnson has a special tie to Rainbow Station, as his mother, Gail Johnson, founded the school back in 1990. After being there for the launch, he’s been involved in a part-time capacity, then transitioning to full-time over the summer, at each of the Richmond Rainbow stations doing whatever his mother needed, which included, “basically every position except preschool program director.”

Kevin grew up in Richmond, Va. but attended college at Colorado State University where he graduated with a double major in communications and philosophy in 1995. From there, he took a couple years off and attended law school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. and his law career began as a prosecutor for the city of Richmond. In 2004, he opened a defense practice there, and he still has a few cases today (though his main focus is now Rainbow Station).

Kevin’s wife Ashley, 34, grew up in Louisa County, Va. and attended James Madison University where she graduated with a degree in communications with a focus in arbitration and mediation in 2000. She was a manager at her mother’s title insurance office, but she went on to start her own title agency in Richmond in 2006. She’s since left the business to focus on Rainbow Station full-time. The couple’s two sons, Jayden (age 5 ) and Cody (age 4 ) are also enrolled in their school.

Why did you choose an opportunity with Rainbow Station?
Ashley: We got to the point where Kevin said he wanted to get out of litigation, so for two years, we looked at different business models to get him out of law full time. We committed to each other that we’d figure it out by January 2012. By the middle of summer 2011, his parents said, “Why don’t you look at the school in Haymarket, is that something you’re interested in?” We did, and doors began to fly open. We knew that was the path we needed to take, so we went for it.

Are you involved with any charities or do any community outreach with your business?
Ashley: We sponsor a race every year with two of our local elementary schools. It’s called the Alvey Gravely Fun Run, and they do it annually to promote a charity they’ve chosen for that specific year. We also sponsor the Lady’s 9 Piedmont Golf Association.

Kevin: We’re really proud of our wall of honor we created in our school last year. On one of our gym walls, we have put a very large American flag with a quote from Thomas Jefferson about patriotism beneath it. For $20 a sponsorship, we create a name plaque that’s engraved in full color with the seal of the branch for service of the particular person. It gives their name, rank and any special honor associated with that individual. If you imagine the Vietnam Memorial Wall, it’s very similar. We’re at about 20 names right now, and it teaches the kids about people’s lives that are connected to them as they come in and out of the gym. For instance, if a child has a father, mother or relative who serves our community in a different military branch, in local law enforcement or as a fireman, they might be on the wall of honor.

Both of our families are very military-oriented in that my dad, uncles and grandparents all served in the military, and the same goes for Ashley’s side of the family. We’re just pro-America and pro-patriotism, and we have a desire to be good community members. We wanted to make that a theme in our school. And here in Virginia, we have so much military. We wanted our families to know that’s important to Rainbow Station and the kids to know community service and patriotism is important.

We have a parent who served our country in Afghanistan, and he brought us a flag that flew at the time of war in that country and donated it to the school with a really nice certificate. I just took it to Michaels to get it put into a great presentation that we’re going to include on our wall of honor. This same parent gave the opening remarks at the time we unveiled the wall of honor, and just the fact we did this brought him to tears.

Our goal is to get another 20 names up there by Memorial Day. I think it’s something that’s going to continue over the next 20 years. All the proceeds from the wall of honor go to, an organization that supports Military kids and their education.

Do you have any superstar employees? What is their story?
Kevin: We have a lot of talent in the school, including a lot of artists. We have a very diverse staff with a lot of cultures represented. A lot of our curriculum comes from the different perspectives and various cultures.

Our private kindergarten instructor, Alice Walker, was our teacher of the year, and she just has a passion for teaching, a charisma with children and an ability to connect with kids. One of our two sons is in her class, and she has taken him so far in this last year.

What are your expansion or development plans? What is your end goal with Rainbow Station?
Ashley: I’m all about Haymarket, and I haven’t thought beyond that. But one of our core values is innovation, so we’re always looking for new development possibilities. Last year, we had an organic garden, and this year, Kevin’s vision is to do a bike path.

What are some of the publications you read? Local? National? What is your goal publication with your business?
Kevin: My normal week when I’m reading includes USA Today and Google news, TIME Magazine, and for recreational reading, GQ and Esquire and something hunting and fishing related. I also read Fortune and Money.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or passions?
Kevin: Hunting and fishing.

Ashley: All fitness-related hobbies, as well as an interest in organic and healthy lifestyles. From that passion, she’s put a real fingerprint on our school in the way we clean by using natural products, the way we serve our food using organic and natural when possible to create nutritious options for children.