Class 101 College Planning Franchise Review with Donna Hill
Former community college student affairs VP finds fulfilling career with our college planning franchise
Class 101 Little Rock Franchisee Donna Hill just celebrated her first year with Class 101, surpassing her personal sales goal by nearly 30 percent and finding renewed energy in a career move to launch a college planning franchise that she plans on expanding. “Working with students through Class 101 is the most fulfilling career I’ve ever had,” says Donna.
Prior to joining Class 101, Donna was a college administrator, serving as the vice president of student affairs at a local community college. She taught English at the college level for several years before moving into the administrative position, and after just three years as a VP realized she missed working directly with students. Because the English teaching position that she had been in was no longer available, she started researching “educational franchise” online and found Class 101.
Class 101 is a national college planning franchise that helps high school students get into better colleges and qualify for higher amounts of scholarships and financial aid. We provide a solution to a common problem facing U.S. families — the college application process is complicated, competitive and stressful, resulting in students who don’t get enough, or any, financial aid and who often end up at the wrong school. Our franchise is the perfect fit for entrepreneurially-minded individuals with a desire to help make a positive impact on the lives of young people.
We recently chatted with Donna about her successful first year as a Class 101 franchisee.
What was the deciding factor for you to invest in a Class 101 college planning franchise?
My husband, Kevin, and I went to Lexington in the fall of 2015 for a two-day visit with Tom. On day two of our visit I sat in on a meeting with Tom and one of his students. Seeing the one-on-one interaction between Tom and his student and realizing how this type of meeting can be life changing for some students convinced me that I needed to get on board. And since my background in student affairs and English gave me a very solid foundation for what I would be doing in Class 101, I felt like it was a perfect fit.
How has training and support from the home office helped you build your business?
Tom and Betsy Filchak are both wonderfully helpful and provided my initial training. Throughout the past year, they both have responded almost instantly any time I’ve called, texted or emailed them. While I still have a lot to learn, I feel very confident that I’ll be able to count on the corporate staff to provide the training I need.
How did your first year go?
My first year has been fantastic. I passed my personal sales goal for the year by about 30%, so I was extremely happy with my sales. Even though it wasn’t required, I immediately opened an office to add credibility to my business. Since I’m the only college planner in the central Arkansas area as far as I can tell, I’ve had to take some time to explain to potential customers what I do, and I wanted to make sure they knew that Class 101 was here to stay. Local high school counselors have been extremely helpful in telling students and parents about my services, particularly ACT/SAT prep classes, and that helped jumpstart my sales.
What were the challenges?
The biggest challenge I faced was a personal one: I decided that I would keep my first grandbaby during the day while my daughter and her husband worked until he turned six months old. I hadn’t anticipated that doing so would consume so much of my time (I guess I’d forgotten what it was like taking care of an infant!). The great thing about this Class 101 college planning franchise, though, is that I could adjust my schedule to keep him. Had I been working in any other job, I wouldn’t have had that flexibility.
What were the pleasant surprises?
My pleasant surprise goes along with my challenge. After keeping my grandson for nine hours each day, I was exhausted by the time I needed to go into the office to work with students. Many days I’d think, “I just can’t do this. I need to reschedule this appointment,” but I went anyway. Inevitably, I’d leave at night with my energy and psyche recharged. Working with students through Class 101 is the most fulfilling career I’ve ever had, and it’s kept me sane through the past few months!
Who is Class 101 ideally suited for as a business?
To me, Class 101 is best suited for people who have a passion for helping students and a willingness to learn. My background in the college environment has helped me tremendously, and getting four kids into college without having to pay anything has, too. Potential franchise owners should realize that most of their work will be done after school, so most of their evenings will be spent helping students.
Why is there such a need for this service in your community (and nationwide)?
The most common response I get when I tell someone about what I do is, “Where were you when I was going to college/getting my kids into college?” There’s definitely a need in my community, and I hope to expand Class 101 beyond the borders of my city in 2017.
How are you marketing your business?
I began marketing my business through Facebook and got quite a bit of interest that way. I’ve also been an active member of two Chambers of Commerce, two leads groups and a Women in Networking group. I’ve made mistakes along the way and spent more on marketing than I should have this past year and will make some changes next year. One thing that has been tremendously profitable is the ACT Boot Camp. I provide a free two-hour boot camp for students prior to an ACT test. In order for students to participate, their parents must attend a free information session where I talk about Class 101 services. Neither of these events cost me much, but I got several full-time clients from it. I’ll definitely capitalize on that idea in the future.
Learn more about Class 101 college planning franchise
The Class 101 business model ensures that owners have a steady stream of revenue throughout the year, not just during the school year. Franchise owners have three ways to generate revenue: classes to prepare students to excel at the ACT and SAT, organized campus trips and retainer agreements for one-on-one consulting services. Class 101 is a low-overhead business model with the potential for high revenue from day one. Several of our franchisees have surpassed the $100,000 revenue mark in their first or second year. The average gross revenue for our top 5 franchises in 2015, according to our most recent FDD, was $137,000.