A Model for Excellence in Early Childhood Care
Primrose School of Five Forks is one of the shining lights within a beloved nationwide franchise.
Gil Benjamin spent 25 years in the insurance industry before deciding he wanted to do something different.
“Growing up, my parents were in education,” Gil explains. “I was a camp counselor when I was younger, and I had been thinking about what else I could do with my career. I looked at my strengths. I looked at what I wanted my life to be, and it led me to Primrose.”
With more than 40 schools in the Atlanta area and locations across the country, Primrose Schools has become one of the most trusted names in early childhood care. It’s common for young parents in many communities to make advanced application to Primrose an immediate priority upon welcoming a baby.
Finding himself as the new Franchise Owner of Primrose School of Five Forks in October 2012, Gil’s first task was to not disrupt the great work already being done. He looked to its longtime existing Director, Jeanne VanEmburgh, and the many teachers and staff as experts he could learn from.
“It was an emotional first day,” Gil remembers. “The staff weren’t fully aware of the sale, and so initially it was kind of a shock. But I went to Jeanne and said, ‘You’ve been here 18 years. You’re the one who’s been running the school – that means I report to you. I’ll ask you every day what you need, and together we’ll figure it out.’”
Gil’s philosophy of servant leadership with a balance of recognition and accountability has resulted in significant success. The school has gone from being 80% filled when Gil took over to currently having a waitlist. There are 32 teachers fostering a supportive educational environment where children can learn and grow. It’s consistently recognized as one of the premier schools within the Primrose system.
But the journey hasn’t always been smooth.
While the Covid-19 pandemic caused far-reaching consequencies across many industries, there were perhaps few businesses hit quite as hard as private schools. Primrose School of Five Forks was not exempt from those challenges.
“In April 2020, we had 200 children enrolled. And I had to close the business,” Gil explains. “We reopened 17 days later with 15 students, and half were teacher’s children paying only 50% tuition. Every dime I had saved went into teacher salaries.”
Through his commitment, Gil was able to navigate an incredibly difficult time. And he’s aware of just how important a reliable banking partner can be – with David Sims, SVP, Franchise Finance Relationship Manager at SouthState, playing a vital role in his day-to-day management of the business.
“It helps when you’re working with someone of Gil’s caliber, and in an industry as important as the one he’s in,” David says. “But it was tough. We did everything we could. We found local grants, every available resource to keep his business going. It was a collaborative process, and I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
“During the pandemic, things were so chaotic in this industry,” Gil confirms. “There were so many rumors flying around regarding what was available and what wasn’t. It was extremely comforting to know I had David to rely on for the truth in all of it.”
Thanks to SouthState’s ongoing support through business financing and deposits, Gil has been able to get back to doing what he loves: making Primrose School of Five Forks the absolute best it can be. Renovations to its main building and investments in the latest educational technology are just two examples of how he keeps his school at the top.
“We try to empower people here, both students and teachers,” Gil says. “I try to make sure I say thanks, in multiple ways and often. It’s nice to be in a position where I wake up, and I can do that.”
SouthState helps franchise owners like Gil Benjamin keep their business growing. To learn more, contact a Franchise Finance banker today.