Franchise Fun November/December 2021 Women in Franchising Women in Franchising Article

Franchise Fun: A Love for Learning

Oxford Learning Centres president Lenka Whitehead hones in on her passion for improving the lives of students and franchisees

Oxford Learning Centres are where children go to develop their pedagogical skills and grow into intelligent and resourceful adults. Lenka Whitehead, president, describes the brand as a “a comprehensive system for successfully developing not only critical academic skills in children but also a meaningful, community-based business for franchisees. Our franchise concept is built around improving the lives of our franchisees and our students.”

Throughout the pandemic, Oxford Learning accelerated the launch of its online learning platform, Virtual Table®, successfully transitioning the entire curriculum into a digital format that mirrors the in-centre experience. Whitehead says the brand is “excited to announce that we will be releasing version 2.0 very shortly as a completely proprietary program that’s fully integrated with our proven, in-centre learning model.”

Here, the self-described decisive, high-spirited, and straightforward Whitehead shares what she believes makes for a good franchisee and franchisor, her love for “active” pursuits, and the precious person who’s had the most positive influence on her as a businesswoman.

A.    The most interesting thing I’ve done recently is… Hired a new director for franchising to help us expand into even more communities to help children who are struggling due to the pandemic.

B.    In its best form, work is… Not work. It’s a mission, a passion, and a journey.

C.    A good franchisee is… More than just a business owner. Franchisees are passionate and innovative partners who share the mission and vision of the franchisor.

D.    A good franchisor… doesn’t sell franchises, but rather provides a framework for entrepreneurial individuals to become the masters of their own destinies. Through franchising, they receive the opportunity to live their passion and make a difference in their communities.

E.    My top advice for prospective franchisees is… To self-reflect on what gives you purpose and meaning in life and select a business that aligns with what drives you, motivates you, and fills you up. Do thorough research into any area to which you want to commit for many years. It makes for a long day if you don’t choose the right thing. Find a franchisor who fits with your vision of your future.

F.    My top advice for new franchisors is… To ensure that you focus on creating and continually developing a quality franchise system backed by comprehensive support and training. Remember that your goal is to establish a tried-and-true system, complete with manuals that are easy to follow. Also, start expanding close to home so you can be hands-on and adjust as you learn what you need to do to strengthen your system.

G.    The most important thing in life is…. Good health, everyday joy, and being grateful.

H.    One of the most enjoyable things to do is… Watch my children and grandchildren reach milestones in their own lives.

I.    The hardest thing for me to do is… Relax. I can’t sit still. That’s why even my pastimes (i.e., Sea-Doo) are “active” pursuits!  

J.    My favourite drink is… A very nice class of buttery chardonnay.

K.    If I could change one thing… It would be that every person held themselves accountable for their own actions.

L.    If I could meet anyone, it would be… Ayn Rand. If you know me, you get it.

M.    The person who has had the most positive influence on me as a businessperson is… My husband, Oxford Learning founder Nick Whitehead.

N.    Canadian franchising is… Essential for the success of the economy and individual small businesses.

O.    My franchise system began because… We wanted to help kids learn in different ways so they could understand and succeed.

P.    The most positive influence on my life as a person is… My spirituality. That helps me get past anything that comes my way. I wake up every day grateful.

Q.    The key to success is… Determination, perseverance, and hard work. And joy in what you do.

R.    I’d like my friends to describe me as… Funny and kind…which I am, by the way!

S.    The accomplishment I look forward to the most is… To live a long life of making a real difference.

T.    My personal motto is… “Challenge yourself, have imagination, and believe in yourself!”

U.    One necessary item on my life’s “to do” list is… To help empower First Nations children to break out of the cycle of negativity that they find themselves in. This is both a personal and professional goal for me. We want all children to feel confident and valued, and we want to help develop them into strong leaders in their local communities and in the world.