Written by: Jyska Kuan Ken
Continuing the dream for a better education system
Holding on to the dream of better education for our
The past year and a half was a test of trust, resilience, and gratitude. AHEAD, the review and tutorial center I started, almost closed down because of the K-12 shift mandated by the Department of Education. It was every entrepreneur’s fear realized. We found ourselves at survival mode— from 4,000 students usually enrolling in our summer program down to only 300 students. There were a lot of heartbreaks, wasted opportunities, and sacrifices.
The closure of the Greenhills branch was probably the hardest. We opened that branch in 1999, the same year my daughter Darla was born. I always associated the Greenhills branch with her. Both past and present students also had good memories within its walls. They would hang out there in their free time, talking and laughing with whoever is attending the reviews. We tried holding on to the branch but eventually we had to let it go. It felt like a wave crashing upon us, the boat was sinking.
I poured my savings in the company while selling properties to keep us afloat. I did my best to hold on to keep my dream and the dreams of countless people alive.
We were more affected than other tutorial and review centers because AHEAD has a dedicated training and research team. The department had substantial financial implications but quality is in our brand promise and I will never compromise on bringing research-based and systems-backed education services.
The stress and anxiety also made me sick, adding to the burden. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism which slowed down my body and made me prone to develop other sicknesses such as diabetes. Sometimes I couldn’t lift my feet despite shouting orders at them in my head. It was a literal systems slowdown. How would I be able to run AHEAD now?
Gratefully, it is truly during hard times that show how kind and supportive people can be. When I told the remaining staff to start looking for other opportunities, they stayed and continued to work together in bringing quality services to the few students who enrolled. Franchisees and landlords lent their support to help us weather the challenges. They patiently waited for us to get back on our feet. I am forever grateful for their kindness and friendship. I would like to mention Robinsons Galleria, the owner of the FBR Building, Xanland’s owner, and the franchisees. We were saved through their help.
But the most crucial person during those trying times was my son Nicolo. He stepped up and took over some of the operations of Ahead while I was recovering from hyperthyroidism. He was fresh out of college and dealing with his own physical condition. It didn’t stop him from quickly learning the ropes and making the right decisions for the company. He later told me he learned valuable insights from my stories about Ahead in the past years that guided him to understand what needed to be done. I readied him for the position without even me knowing. I was proud of him.
Now we are back, stronger than ever because of the challenges we faced. We are rebuilding what we have lost and working hard to achieve bigger milestones. AHEAD is rebranding and opening back branches. Students are returning to a better AHEAD. I am also finishing writing a book on women entrepreneurship called, “What’s the best business for me? And other common questions entrepreneurs ask.” It is the first book from my book series, SMART SUPERWOMEN.
I am also reviving this blog to continue to share my story especially to the moms who are experiencing the same things. I hope that this will inspire you to keep going and fight for your dreams.