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Online Exclusive: From Star Student to Successful Franchisee

Jonathan Lingaratnam shares insights into his journey from UCMAS student to young entrepreneur and UCMAS franchise owner

By Jessica Burgess

UCMAS is an abacus-based mental math program for children ages 5 to 13, offered to students at locations across Canada. When he was only 16 years old, Jonathan Lingaratnam, a former student at UCMAS, expressed interest in becoming a franchisee. At 18, he would go on to make the dream a reality—and now, at 21, he’s running a successful UCMAS franchise in Laval, Quebec.

A creative approach

Jonathan had experienced UCMAS from the student side, focusing on the mathematics programming. But when his interest turned to business operations, he saw the brand as a fit with his personal ideals. “I chose UCMAS because of the philosophy behind it,” he says. “The company’s fundamental values and the principles that it follows were important to me, especially since I did the program when I was younger.”  

Jonathan explains that UCMAS approaches mathematics through the lens of creativity rather than memorization. “Creativity is also important when it comes to solving problems in business—for example, how can you solve a problem to maximize the customer’s results and the company’s revenue?

“People often say that a business is just a money-making machine, but at a young age, I drew the conclusion that entrepreneurship is a creative output for solving problems,” Jonathan shares. “All that is to say, improvement is all we want for our students and our business. I like the philosophy of improvement every day, every hour, every minute, every second. That’s all we’re looking for—and even if you don’t improve every time, the next time you are going to try a little bit harder. If you give your best every single time, you will see improvement.”

It’s clear that this philosophy is central to the UCMAS approach, as well as to Jonathan’s personal method.

Student becomes teacher

Being able to put his own unique stamp on his business is something else that Lingaratnam values about UCMAS. While the company has an umbrella of core values, such as creativity and discipline, each UCMAS franchise owner can manifest these in their own particular way. With this diversity comes greater unity, as franchisees learn from one another through the UCMAS franchise network. “They always help and support you,” Jonathan says. “Everyone’s trying to bring out the best in their students and increase their income, so everyone is trying to figure out what will be the most valuable to the students and the business.”

The UCMAS name and reputation have helped Jonathan find his way in business at such a young age. “I realize how important the network is, how valuable it is.” If someone were to ask him for advice on starting a business, he would recommend franchising, the young business owner says. “That would be a crucial point.”

 “There’s a lot of credibility that comes with the UCMAS franchise. Their name and reputation are at the top of the list, and they’re always reliable,” he says. This strong foundation has helped Jonathan and other UCMAS franchisees weather the pandemic, as well. At the beginning of the pandemic, UCMAS was one of the first of such programs to move online. “We were one of the first ones to say, ‘You know what, let’s go online, let’s go on Zoom, let’s not waste a single second,’” Jonathan says.

Ever ambitious, Jonathan is not only a franchisee—he is also a university student, studying economics at Concordia University in Montreal. “For me, university is simply a tool toward obtaining my objective. The business is obviously my heart, and my mind is always going to be within the business,” he says, adding, “university is simply a tool. I use whatever I learn there and I apply it within the business.” This offers Jonathan a unique perspective on both theory and practice, as he is able to put into action in real time the lessons learned in the classroom.

Looking ahead

“For me, with my students, for example, when they reach a new level of work ethic, when they win a competition, or when they’ve been improving a lot, that gives me joy. That gives me pure joy. I’ll jump for joy, I’ll be celebrating, because that’s all I want to see. I want them to improve, I want them to become better,” shares Jonathan. “I don’t want them to think they’re the best in the world. Rather, I want them to say, I am capable.”

On top of that, hope is a key message Jonathan wants to convey to his students and anyone considering franchising. When Jonathan hears that his story has inspired someone in his community, he knows he’s following the right path: “I believe in people and the merit that people acquired. ‘We’ll help you’—that’s the attitude that franchising fosters.”