Two Washington, D.C., entrepreneurs have chosen Short Pump as their next stop in teaching children new languages.
Washington, D.C.-based CommuniKids, which offers various services to teach foreign languages to young children, opened a new location at 3111 Lauderdale Drive in Henrico County in early November.
The for-profit company teaches Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese to children from ages 18 months to 10 years old. It offers preschool, weekly language classes and summer camps.
“We have a special niche in that we blend child care with the language piece,” said CommuniKids co-owner Jeannine Piacenza. “Many people recommended Short Pump as an area that has lots of families, children and diversity.”
Piacenza and co-owner Raul Echevarria, both former teachers, opened the first CommuniKids location in D.C. in 2005. A second location was launched two years later in Falls Church, Va. An outpost in Loudon, Va., is planned for summer 2015 and a fifth center could spring up in Maryland in 2016, Piacenza said.
Here in Richmond, Piacenza said the market for children’s language programs is wide open.
“We didn’t find any language programs geared to them at all,” Piacenza said. “We feel that we are filling a void.”
Piacenza said the company is spending $300,000 to $400,000 to expand into Richmond and that the biggest expense is paying for salaries for local employees. The expansion is being financed with the help of a small group of investors, she said.
The company’s challenge now is getting children enrolled. To that end, CommuniKids is offering free classes as it looks to build up its local enrollment numbers. Tuition is $10,000 a year for five full days of language immersion preschool and $4,000 a year for three half days per week.
CommuniKids has a 10-year lease on the 11,000-square-foot Lauderdale Drive space that was formerly home to a daycare center.
Another Richmond location may be on the horizon, as well, Piacenza said. She added that parents that have attended CommuniKids open houses have said they’d like to see a location on the Southside.
“We want to gauge demand before we do that,” Piacenza said.