We have another Montessori startup story! This one comes from a mother and daughter team in Brazil. They opened their school, Ziriguidum, a few years ago as a music program and added Montessori classes last year.
How did you discover Montessori and what made you fall in love with it?
My mother worked with Montessori before I was born. She raised me the Montessori way at home. Growing up it felt natural and it was easy to fall in love with the method as I started to study more about it.
What were you doing before you opened your school? Did you have experience running a business prior to starting your school?
I was working in an advertising agency before we opened the school. My mother had her degree in English and was getting her degree in Music. After we opened the music school, my mother started a specialization in Montessori. She finished her 3 to 6 years course last year. This year, in January, we had an exciting opportunity to go to Chile and start our specialization in 0 to 3 years. It was amazing! We’ll finish the course here in Brasil. Here the method isn’t quite as known as you’d think. But little by little we’re spreading the word.
What made you want to open a school (rather than just teach or send your child to Montessori)?
Actually, in the beginning our school was a music school and we created our own music method that involves Montessori activities while having a music lesson. Our students start as young as 3 months old! From then on, it was a smooth and predictable transition to a Montessori school that happens to have music lessons too. And let me tell you that the combination is fantastic!
How long did it take between the time you seriously started planning and the day you opened?
It took about one year to prepare. Studying about locations, costs, taking courses… Even now after three years we haven’t stopped studying.
How did you find the right space for your school?
We needed a big house, like a grandma’s house where you’d like to go and spend the weekend playing on the lawn. Very few neighborhoods in the city we live in provide that. We live in Curitiba, Paraná state. The ultimate location came down to liking the house, and it not being too expensive to rent.
Now we are between houses. Our Montessori rooms are growing and we need a bigger house!
What were the main things you worked on during the planning stage? (Regulations, facilities, budgets, materials…?) If you were to do it again, how would you prioritize them?
Budget was a main concern while opening the school. We bought some of the basics, such as the shelves, the pink tower, the brown stairs and so on. Most of our activities are adapted. I don’t think I’d do it any differently. Maybe I would have spent more time finding ways to teach parents how the Method works.
How did you budget for your startup? What were your startup costs? What did you prioritize spending on?
Budget came from dad! He has such a financial and entrepreneurial mind. He had some savings and that’s what kick started our school. Initial costs were rent, bills, furniture and some basic Montessori activities. Our priority has always been having a well organized comfy space that children and parents enjoy with their eyes first, then their other senses.
Describe your program in its first year. How is it different now?
First year it was basically me, my mom and two other friends who volunteered helping to get the house ready for opening. The first music students came, and it started from there. Now, Montessori wise, some of our music students transitioned to Montessori, and that’s pretty much how it started.
Now, in 2017, we have 2 experts, three assistants and a total of 13 children that come every day – 3 in the “3 to 6 classroom” and 10 in the “1 to 3 nido”. Considering the political and financial crisis the country is going through, it’s quite a change. Yay!
How did you get your first few students? What were your recruitment tactics when no one knew about your school?
The first students were the ones who lived nearby. Marketing tactics were my expertise before we started and we focused on getting the most from our tiny budget. What really worked out in the beginning was putting flyers inside neighbors’ mailboxes. Prior to that, we had already launched our website and Facebook page.
Tell us about your emotional journey. What was your biggest challenge/ hurdle during the startup phase? What gave you the most satisfaction?
It’s emotional enough to have an adventure opening a business of your own. It’s even more when you do it with your family. In the beginning it was difficult, having to separate work from home. But now everything goes smoothly.
At first the financial part was the most difficult. I’d never had to create reports like that. Now we have an accountant and I’m in heaven!
My greatest satisfaction comes from working with the little ones. I have so much pride in being a part of a project that can help create happier human beings through the Montessori Method!
Now with another year of experience, new difficulties are rising, like the relationship with all these families. Each day that goes by, I have to increase my communication abilities to share with them all the work we do and how they can continue at home. It’s so difficult to see children who we know are able to do everything not having opportunities to do them outside of school. At the same time, a lot of satisfaction comes from the building of this trusting relationship, and seeing the children blossom.
Now that you’ve been established for a little while, what are your best tips for:
Marketing your program?
Try to make the most of the internet. It costs almost nothing!
Start with friends (better if they have some skills you need for the school)
There is no one better to train your staff than you, at first.
Continuing parent education?
Take time to observe how parents usually get involved with the school. Then schedule meetings with them every month, or every two months… whatever works for everyone. It’s very important to work as a team with the parents.
Doing it all/finding balance/productivity?
Sometimes we have to take time off. Otherwise we go crazy. For me it helps to have a schedule for the most important things such as planning marketing ads, meetings, responding to e-mails and organizing classroom materials.
Have you started a Montessori school?
Let us feature your startup story! Please contact us!
You may also be interested in joining our discussion group for people who have started or would like to start their own schools. Apply here.