When I interview possible franchisees for AHEAD Tutorial & Review Center, I always look at whether the person shares the same passion I have for education. Cecille Cuna, who runs an AHEAD franchise in the Philippines, is one such person. In my book, she is one of our star franchisees.

Whenever I visit her branch, it is always buzzing with activity. Parents inquire about enrolling their children in review and tutorial classes. Students feel at home and call Cecille, Tita. And long after they’ve finished their classes, these students come back to visit, telling their Tita how much they miss the camaraderie and the fun of learning.

What is Cecille’s secret? She says it’s just luck.

“It’s flattering to be called a star franchisee because I never considered myself as one,” Cecille says. “Actually, I was just lucky to start at the right time. I opened the business in time for the college entrance test review, which was the summer of 2007.”

Putting up the center in the right location and having a wide network of friends also helped. “Since I’m based in Alabang, I never had a problem advertising the center. I have a lot of friends who helped me promote the business,” she says.

But I know that location, luck, and a wide network can only get one so far. There is still no substitute for hard work and perseverance when it comes to making a business venture a successful one.

At first, the going was tough for Cecille. The AHEAD franchise marked her first time to go solo; this meant she had to do everything herself. That’s why we were always there for Cecille. We gave her the proper training and armed her with reference and review materials. When she conducted orientation seminars, we were present to lend her moral support.

One challenge that she had to overcome was looking for good tutors who could match AHEAD’s exacting standards.

“Hiring a tutor is the most critical factor of all,” she reveals. “He should be knowledgeable and intelligent. He should know how to handle and teach students. He must have a pleasing personality and must be flexible.”

Tutors are the lifeblood of the business, so Cecille took great pains in finding and hiring the best.

All in the Family

Cecille is very hands-on. She checks the progress of every student and e-mails her comments to their parents. Way before the deadline for filing of college applications, Cecille reminds parents through text messages. She really cares about her students, and their parents are very grateful.

Her children, Patrick and Simon, have also gotten involved in the business. Patrick helps organize events while Simon cleans out the drawers.

“It has strengthened family ties because our office is my children’s second home,” Cecille says. “They would go straight to the office after school and bond with me. They would finish their homework under my supervision and we would go home together.”

Cecille can easily rest on her laurels but she wants to help more young people reach their dreams through quality education.

“I’m planning to put up another franchise after I’ve settled the renewal and expansion of my Alabang branch,” she says.

But whatever happens, Cecille will always be grateful for her experience and how it transformed her into a better person.

“Securing an AHEAD franchise completed me as a person. I became stronger, maybe because it taught me to be independent.  It helped me conquer my fear of facing difficult people and I learned how to psyche them up. I was trained to be systematic and to anticipate things, to think and plan ahead.” Cecille also learned “how to survive through difficult times, how to beat competitors, and maintain the company’s good image.”

Most of all, Cecille has found joy in helping the young—the future of our country.

“I could not express the fulfillment I get every time clients thank me for making their children pass the entrance tests or for getting high grades in school. Honestly, I don’t want to think I’m a star franchisee. All I know is that I love and enjoy what I’m doing.”