Creating local connections through a national franchise opportunity
Tara Cox has always been drawn to creating new customer experiences. She worked in corporate management for several years—first at Caterpillar Inc. and then for a Cat distributor, Hastings Deering in Brisbane, Australia. It was there, so far away from her family in central Illinois, that Cox experienced one of her greatest challenges: balancing family and work without a support system.
“When the decision was made to head back to the States, I wanted to step away from the corporate world,” she adds. Working with a career coach to help unlock her passions, she ultimately chose to work with other families who were trying to juggle work, kids and school. “If someone would have told me five years ago that I would be working with families and providing in-home care and tutoring services, I would have never believed them.”
In 2016, Cox opened the College Nannies + Sitters + Tutors (CNS+T) franchise, a part of Bright Horizons, in Peoria and Bloomington, joining over 200 territories in more than 40 states across the country. Her franchise was one of the first to bring the concept to smaller and midsized cities. “The data all supported the business would be successful in Peoria, but like any new business, it was a huge risk,” she admits. “We have a few hundred families that have joined since our opening, and we employ approximately 140 employees. We continue to grow both our team and family base every month.”
Knowing firsthand the challenges associated with quality child care and academic resources without a support system, Cox recognized that many families in Peoria shared the same struggle. “Having a child with a learning disability also made me more compassionate about the challenges families face,” she adds. “I do not think people were looking for this type of business, because they did not know such a thing existed unless they moved from a metro area. Now that it is available in our city, many families in the Peoria area are delighted and greatly depend on us.”
Filling the Gaps
CNS+T’s services cater to a wide range of needs. Nannies work directly with families on an ongoing basis, providing consistent support to one or two families. Sitters can be booked using the “MySitters” mobile app or by calling the office when needs are more sporadic—a date night out, for example. Its Learning Center provides tutoring and skills assistance to kids from grade school through college, typically utilizing professionals who are masters in specific subjects.
“We have one tutor who is a research scientist by day, and by night tutors an accelerated student who is only a freshman, but learning collegiate-level mathematics and theory,” Cox explains. “At the same time, we have a tutor who is receiving their master’s in education tutoring a young student with ADHD and reading difficulties… They provide incredible one-on-one support, group homework help and college test prep courses.”
Those students who utilize CNS+T’s services may have foundational gaps, need help preparing for a specific test or exam (like the ACT/SAT), or require accelerated learning challenges. “We also offer curriculums during school breaks and the summer,” Cox adds. “Our plan is to bring many more learning services to the Peoria and Bloomington areas in the near-future.”
These services even extend to local businesses when the need arises. For instance, an accounting firm might retain CNS+T during tax season to provide on-site childcare for employees working unusually long hours. “We also provide event care for local businesses,” Cox notes. “We have a number of churches and organizations that we support with childcare on a weekly basis.”
A Lasting Impact
Her goal is to provide lasting value to families and the community, and raise the bar on what childcare looks like. “Our name was formed with the intent that it is no longer about getting a high schooler down the road to babysit for you,” Cox explains. “It is about bringing college-educated individuals (or equivalent based on years of childcare experience) into our family’s homes, focusing on quality time through interaction, imaginary play and crafts. No TV, electronics and phones—just quality time with the kids. Furthermore, the personalized tutoring curriculums offered at our Learning Center ensures our students are prepared and have the skills needed to be successful in school all the way through college.”
Cox acknowledges the challenges of promoting a small business in today’s world, advocating her services via advertising and social media, as well as participating in fundraising activities for organizations that share CNS+T’s values. “Every penny counts when trying to make ends meet and ensure the business will be here for many years to come,” she explains. “I sincerely care about our community, the positive impact that my business is making, and continuing to help our community be better tomorrow than today.” iBi
CNS+T is located at 10322 North Centerway Drive in Peoria. For more information, visit collegenanniesandtutors.com/PeoriaIL.