by My After School Headquarters (MASH)
last updated 22/07/2019
Kids Love MASH
by My After School Headquarters (MASH)
last updated 22/07/2019
My After School Headquarters are the Canterbury childcare superheroes going nationwide
We were appalled!’ That’s how Craig Fortune and Nicole Pickard remember the experience that changed their future and added value to the lives of hundreds of five- to fourteen-year olds.
Back in 2011, teacher Craig and wife Nicole, a member of the New Zealand Police, were evaluating after-school care for their young family. ‘At one centre we visited, the supervisor sat at the edge of the play area yelling at the kids, “You can’t do that, stop doing this!” There was no structure and the kids looked bored and lost.
‘From my 10 years’ experience in secondary school teaching and management, I knew this was in no way benefiting the kids or providing any real value to either the children or their parents. We both agreed that this was not somewhere we could leave our children, and that with the skills and knowledge we possessed we could offer something different – a programme that was still fun, safe and stimulating but also professional.
‘One of the consequences of the Christchurch earthquakes was the desire to spend more quality time with our own five children, so we decided to open our own centre. Together, we developed an age-relevant programme that we believed would add real, well-planned value to out-of-school care. The basic tenet was structured activity – not an extension of school work.’
‘We opened just a year later. Did it work? Better than we ever expected! Today there are 30 MASH sites and, not long after we started, the Christchurch City Council asked if we would take over their school holiday programme and we still have a very close relationship through our programmes in Council Sport & Recreation Centres and Sport Canterbury.’
If the cape fits …
MASH stands for My After School Headquarters – a catchy name for a very professional outfit, ‘Although, kids being kids, they call it My After-school Super Heroes,’ laughs Craig. ‘Who are we to argue? If the cape fits, we say wear it!’
The first MASH opened at Elmwood Bowling Club in Merivale, but most centres since have been sited within school grounds – convenient for parents and familiar for kids. ‘We can’t be everywhere at once so we have a team of brilliant, dedicated managers supported by a fantastic head office staffed by trained teachers who share our passion for making a positive contribution to children’s development – physically, mentally and creatively. But to take MASH beyond Canterbury requires people on the ground with the commitment and autonomy to manage their own local centres, and franchising is the best way to deliver that.’
Craig and Nicole (who left the Police to become full-time director of finance and marketing) have worked with two experienced franchisors and professional advisors on the necessary structures, processes and support systems to create a sustainable business model for new franchisees.
‘First and foremost, we are looking for people who are motivated by passion, not profit,’ says Craig. ‘Although a MASH franchise can be highly profitable, we want people to invest in MASH because they’re passionate about children’s development and can see the value in what we do – people who want to bring the best out-of-school care to kids, caregivers and communities all round the country.’
Training, programmes and treats
MASH provides full training, proven management systems and programmes to help new franchisees get started and comply with all the various regulatory requirements. Centres are eligible for MSD funding and OSCAR subsidies, and the company is a member of the Primary Principals’ Association and the OSCAR network.
‘There’s a research-based structure and a collaborative approach to programme planning to suit local needs; fantastic support from a dedicated and professional team; and awesome opportunities. In fact, we’ve negotiated reduced costs on induction, first aid and child protection training.
‘Our size has also enabled us to forge special relationships and discounts with national cinema chains, bus companies, gyms and school suppliers and equipment companies. It means MASH centres can afford to provide cost-effective off-site excursions which some of our children might otherwise not be able to access.’
Love kids, like fun
Craig and the team are keen to hear from anyone interested in setting up MASH centres in their local community. ‘We pride ourselves on being non-discriminatory towards children and the same applies to potential franchisees – it’s your personal qualities and passion for doing your best to make a positive difference in children’s lives that are the major criteria for us. You don’t necessarily need childcare experience as long as you love kids, like having fun and can manage a successful business.
‘We’d also like to hear from people already operating out-of-school centres. By converting to MASH, we can provide all the systems you need to meet compliance standards while providing the best programmes to your community. Conversion costs in the region of $7-10,000, while establishing new centres takes a bit more. And if you’re looking for an established business with ready cashflow, we are now offering several of our Christchurch, Timaru and Nelson MASH sites as turn-key franchises for $30,000 to $35,000 +gst – see our website for locations.
‘If you want to learn more about joining the MASH movement, get in touch with us today.’
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