It’s amazing how much kids grow and develop in their first decade. From helpless babies, they become rounded individuals with their own tastes, talents and opinions. And in just 10 short years, Kidicorp has undergone a similar transformation.
The Tauranga-based company was founded by Wayne and Chloe Wright after they offered to help some friends who had a centre, and so began their vision of making a positive difference in the lives of children.
A decade on, Kidicorp has 240 centres throughout New Zealand and, having just completed the purchase of ABC Learning Centres’ 124 childcare centres, it hopes to build up to eight new early childhood centres a year.
As well as the core Kidicorp brand, the company owns several other brands including Edukids, First Steps, Early Years, Top Kids, Community Kindy and Montessori. Kidicorp chief operations officer, Fiona Hughes, says that’s because every parent wants something a little different for their child.
“We’ve built a very professional organisation and our ability to improve quality has become our key focus,” says Hughes. “We’ve also created what’s regarded as the country’s leading professional development programme for teachers. Our size means we re-invest in our centres and can focus on making sure we rejuvenate and upgrade our centres regularly so that our quality facilities continue to stretch and challenge the children.”
Kidicorp has also had to adapt to some challenges itself – including regulation changes, the GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes – but its adaptable and robust business model has seen the company continue to grow.
The purchase of the ABC Learning Centres essentially doubled Kidicorp’s portfolio of childcare centres overnight. Growth on such a scale requires the help of a supportive and understanding banking partner, and BNZ has been working with Kidicorp since the beginning.
“Our relationship with BNZ was probably a happy accident,” says Wayne Wright. “On our return from the United States, I had several banking relationships and we ended up choosing BNZ. We began getting into early childhood education and care around 1999 with only a handful of centres and we’ve grown quite quickly with the BNZ beside us.
"As we bought more centres and brands, BNZ helped us by providing money. Last year, when we acquired ABC, we really saw the capability the BNZ offers. They helped us make this happen and showed us how many ways they can support a business client. It's been a steady relationship.”
Wright says BNZ also understands how a childcare business operates.
“BNZ is genuinely interested in our business – how it works, and what our goals and aspirations are.”
David Blakey, BNZ head of corporate and specialised finance, agrees that understanding and continuing to support Kidicorp’s business has been a key aspect of that ongoing relationship.
“Kidicorp is a classic example of a small, privately owned family business that’s grown very quickly,” Blakey says. “Up until recently, the banking relationship was managed by BNZ’s Tauranga corporate partner, Timothy Bell, who has been a strong advocate for his client.”
As businesses grow, the expertise required to support them changes, says Blakey. The strength of the BNZ Partners model recognises this, with commercial, corporate and institutional banking working together for its clients. The expertise of institutional banking manager Rob Downie and his team has now been brought in, with Bell continuing to provide local-level contact and private banking services for the company’s owners. BNZ’s corporate and specialised finance team in Auckland has invested a great deal of time into understanding Kidicorp’s business and devising a structure that’s enabled the company to make an acquisition such as the ABC Learning Centres.
“BNZ has always worked hard to provide the right specialist advice and services Kidicorp has needed,” says Blakey. “While the company is privately owned, its size and value and the potential risks involved make it a large corporate client. The move to Institutional Banking gives Kidicorp access to an additional level of expertise and support from us."
“Kidicorp has grown into a clear market leader of quality preschool childcare and they’re very passionate about that. Our people get a lot of satisfaction out of supporting an ambitious business like this that’s doing something good in the community. Most of our staff have kids and can relate to what Kidicorp is trying to do. It’s important that quality preschool childcare is made available to as many people as possible.”
Naturally, it’s a sentiment that Wayne Wright has espoused from the very beginning.
“I’ve been in many different businesses over the years, but this would have to be the most satisfying. I feel like I’m living the dream, and being able to make such a significant difference in children’s lives is a great motivator.”
From a single childcare centre, Kidicorp now has a portfolio of more than 240 centres. BNZ has been its banking partner throughout the journey. BNZ has a strong business banking model focused on what is best for the client to support business growth. BNZPartners and Institutional Banking work together to provide Kidicorp with additional skills and resources to suit its needs
To find out more about BNZ Partners or Corporate and Specialised Finance, phone 0800 273 916 or visit www.bnz.co.nz