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“Franchising offers a low-risk alternative to entrepreneurs starting a business” – CEO Q&A: Karl Fitzpatrick, Bricks 4 Kidz

By Business & Finance
06 June 2018
Karl Fitzpatrick, Brick 4 Kidz, STEM, education
Karl Fitzpatrick, Bricks 4 Kidz

Karl Fitzpatrick, CEO of Bricks 4 Kidz, talks franchising, STEM education and the power of thinking globally.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

The lack of awareness in Ireland about franchising is one of my biggest challenges. Franchising offers a low-risk alternative to entrepreneurs starting a business. In spite of this, we have yet to see Irish entrepreneurs embrace franchising at the same rate as other regions, such as the UK and the US. For example, there is a common misconception that franchising is only for food based businesses, when in reality, food franchises only account for 13% of the Irish Franchise Association’s registered members. In order to overcome this misconception, I think it is imperative that government actively promote and incentivise franchise businesses.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

From my experience, communicating my vision for the company and providing updates on the progress made is an effective way of keeping our team motivated. When staff members are aware of what you are trying to achieve in the short, medium and long term, I have found that they are fully committed to reaching these goals and therefore, they embrace the business with both their heads and hearts. Furthermore, individual and team financial incentives play a role in motivating all staff.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

At present, Bricks 4 Kidz is operating within an unregulated market. As a consequence, there are providers claiming to offer “STEM Education” services, but they are effectively play-based businesses that are using the STEM tag because it is on-trend. Unfortunately, such practices are misrepresenting the benefits of authentic STEM education activities and as a result, parents and schools need to thoroughly examine the activities from a curriculum perspective before engaging the services of any provider.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

In addition to the introduction of regulation in the children’s education sector and the publication of a

registered providers list by the Department of Education, I would like to see educational play gain more prominence within the early years and primary school curricula. Our minds are wired in 3D, but our formal education is delivered in 2D, through textbooks. Although the benefits of play-based activities are now being recognised by both educators and parents, there is scope for play to be further integrated into the curricula.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

I view Brexit and the opportunities which it will afford Irish businesses in a favourable light. Once the UK leaves the EU, Ireland will be the only English speaking Member State and as result, I predict that we will witness a significant increase in the number of international students that will be residing in Ireland. From a Bricks 4 Kidz perspective, the possible knock-on effect of such a development would be the availability of a greater and more skilled labour force, from which new employees could be recruited.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

The best advice that I have received to date is to think big. Global is the new local and our increased digital accessibility to international markets means that building a successful business which trades internationally, has never been easier.

The advice which I would impart to new entrepreneurs is to conduct comprehensive market research. Go out and speak to your prospective clients and find out if there is an actual demand for your product or service and determine if there is a niche in the market and a market in the niche.

The entrepreneur’s ability to raise funding has never been more important when building a scalable business and mechanisms to attain such funding should be explored by entrepreneurs at regular intervals.

Global is the new local and our increased digital accessibility to international markets means that building a successful business which trades internationally, has never been easier.

Bricks 4 Kidz in Ireland provides project-based programmes designed to teach the principles of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), to children aged 5-12. The programmes are designed in a fun and challenging way using LEGO®, Technic & Robotics.