Pre-K home-school provider to open 150 ‘boutique’ programs

Afsana Khundkar cares for kids in her Gramercy Park apartmen. Photo Credit: New York Post

Afsana Khundkar cares for kids in her Gramercy Park apartmen. Photo Credit: New York Post

Thrilled to see Be Curious Partners' portfolio company, Wonderschool, featured in this weekend's New York Post. The complete article is below:

Pre-K home-school provider to open 150 ‘boutique’ programs
By Susan Edelman

January 27, 2018 | 10:07pm |

Wonderschool, a San Francisco-based venture that helps pre-K teachers and child-care providers run preschools out of their homes, plans to open 150 “boutique” programs in the New York City area.

Some may apply to join Mayor de Blasio’s taxpayer-funded pre-K or the new 3-K programs. Others aim to compete with pricey private schools.

“I really want to step into a leadership role, but still be in the classroom,” said Lisa Bruno, 36, a Montessori preschool worker who plans to open her own school — the Brooklyn Children’s House — in her Prospect Heights apartment this fall. “This is the best of both worlds.”

To draw customers, she said, the Loyola University graduate has set her fees — up to $1,800 a month for five full days — well below neighboring private schools.

Wonderschool, which has raised $4 million in “seed money” from venture capital firms since 2017, currently oversees a network of 150 home-based child-care businesses in California.

So far, it has signed up 28 “partners” in the metro area, mostly in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and some in Hoboken, Jersey City and Long Island.

“We’re coming into the city at a great time for providers who want to be entrepreneurial,” said Wonderschool general manager Ben Newton, citing the growing demand for affordable and quality child care.

The company helps its preschool partners with business and financial decisions, Web site creation, marketing, enrollment and bill collection. In return, it takes 10 percent of tuition fees.

Each provider must obtain a family child-care license. New York allows up to eight kids in a home-based program, or up to 12 with enough space.

One Wonderschool partner is already in business — Afsana Khundkar, director of Gramercy Park Childcare and Playgroup, has run day care in her apartment for nearly 10 years.

Khundkar, the mom of a college grad and middle-schooler, already had a license but joined Wonderschool to boost enrollment to capacity.

“As a family day-care provider, advertising and marketing is the most challenging and expensive,” Khundkar said. “I never had that kind of budget in my business.”

Kat Walker, a Montessori-trained teacher who works at a Manhattan private school, plans to launch her home-based Greenpoint Montessori in October. Fees will range from $1,500 to $1,700 a month.

“My ultimate goal is to provide quality Montessori education for a lower price than what big private schools charge,” said Walker.

She also hopes to earn more than her $41,000 annual salary as a school employee.

“I do expect to make more money, but I’m also doing more work,” she said. “I won’t have an administrative team. It’s just me and the families.”

Ross Kimbel