L’Autre Ecole’s balancing act to keep growing, finance growth

Since the beginning of the school year, parents in and around Courbevoie have been able to send their children from primary school to a brand new primary school called The other school† This is the fourth branch in this network of alternative schools with bilingual education, after Boulogne in 2016, then Puteaux and Courbevoie, where a first school was opened in the following years. Other openings, elsewhere than in the Paris region, should follow.

50 other schools within ten years

“Marseille should have opened this year too, but we have postponed that until next year, trust Lionel Sayag, founder of L’Autre Ecole. In total, our goal is to open 50 new branches in the next ten years, as well as a training institute for all education professionals, educators and parents. The opening is planned for the fall. After the Paris region, it is the major provincial cities that are preferred for economic reasons.

Only the kindergarten and primary school classes are insured for the time being, but Lionel Sayag has the ambition to continue until the Terminale. “We are already preparing for the launch of the college, which is due to take place within two years, and we are progressing gradually until the end of high school. The idea is to guide the first cohort of students through to the end’, continues this teacher and graduate of Sciences po.

This network of schools that he founded in 2016 aims to put the potential of the child at the center, as is the case for other alternative schools such as Montessori for example. The goal: to make them “the citizens of tomorrow’s society”, as Lionel Sayag sums it up, while training teachers. The classes are multilevel and small, with two teachers per class.

Convince investors

The issue of financing this network of alternative schools remains the main obstacle to development. Not everything is possible on the basis of tuition fees, which amounts to an average of 8,000 euros per year per child. Lionel Sayag wants schools to be as inclusive as possible, with tuition calculated on a scale determined by parental income. “We are putting the finishing touches on establishment of a foundation for patrons to increase social diversity,” underlines the founder.

The financing question remains. Not only of the opening of new branches, but also of the fixed costs. Included between 800,000 and 1 million euros per school and per year for one hundred students, are composed of 60% salary costs, 20% rent and 10% miscellaneous. “The balance is very difficult to find,” admits the entrepreneur.

– The other school

In addition to a bank loan to finance the works of the first school, the founder of L’Autre Ecole proceeded to a first collection of 1 million euros in March 2018 with business angels, including Xavier Niel, through his Kima Venture fund, and Alexandre Pachulski. Then the company made a second financing round in September 2020, this time with a CSR impact fund, for an amount that has remained confidential. The goal: to finance the opening of new schools. “It is complicated to convince investors, because we are a company with a mission. It can be difficult for some to envision reduced profitability in favor of a high-impact project. It is up to us to convince them by reminding them that we are contributing to the transformation of the education system as a whole. At the end of 2021, L’Autre Ecole closed with a turnover of 2 million euros† A fifty employees currently form the network.

Franchise Project

Awaiting getting a possible agreement with the State for a modified subcontract or a school ticket, L’Autre Ecole is considering expanding into franchises in the coming years. “Currently, the school principals who come to work with us are salaried employees, but we want to help them grow with us, to give them career prospects, which is not always easy in the education world,” assures Lionel Sayag.

The launch of the franchise concept is under study. For this, the network is looking for already established school directors, but not only. “To come to us, you must above all have a different view of society, be trained in nonviolent communication and, why not, have experience with alternative schools. †

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