The Lightbridge Academy corporate team possess the years of experience franchise business owners can rely on to drive success in the early education and child care industry.
We know what it takes to invest in and successfully operate a child care center! Our corporate owned child care centers have been thriving for the past 25 years and importantly, we have also proven our franchise model successful for over 10 years.
The Lightbridge Academy leadership team knows what it takes to invest in and operate your own center. That is why we’ve created the tools, technology and processes for our franchisees to follow as a roadmap on their entrepreneurial journey.
The entire Lightbridge Academy team is focused on providing an unbroken circle of support to ensure that franchisees are in control of their success but never have to work alone. As part of our inner circle, you are connected to a network that truly cares, supports and encourages one another. Together, we help create a one-of-a-kind early childhood education experience, in a high care culture built on a foundation of core values.
Leadership Team – Experts in Preschool Education and Business Management
Gigi Schweikert, Chief Executive Officer
Gigi has a history of creating innovative strategies to ensure the delivery of high-quality early education and care programs. Early in her career, she was the Director of the United Nations Child Care Centre and later developed and managed on-site employer-sponsored child care programs for numerous Fortune 500 companies.
Her advocacy work extends both nationally and internationally and includes serving as a board member for the Early Care & Education Consortium, an advisory board member for Marco Polo World School and Seton Hall University. In addition, Gigi serves as the President of the Lightbridge Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) providing over $500,000 in grants and scholarships to support the health, education and well-being of children and their families.
Gigi is an international thought leader advancing the quality of early education and child care. With 30 years of experience and 18 published books, in three languages, Gigi has appeared on CBS, NBC, Fox, and the Wall Street Journal Lunch Hour News. Ms. Schweikert has been quoted in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.
She enjoys reading, writing, and is proud of her greatest accomplishment; being mother to her four beautiful children.
Guy Falzarano, Co-Founder
Guy Falzarano is the Chairman of Lightbridge Holdings Group and co-founded Lightbridge Academy in 1997 along with his wife Julia. Under Guy’s leadership, the Lightbridge Academy brand began franchising in 2011 and received numerous accolades over the years, including a ranking on the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list, Newsweek Best Customer Award, Franchise Times Top 200 list and the Corporate Culture Award from Smart CEO Magazine.
He built the company based on a foundation of clearly defined values creating a deep culture of care. With a keen focus on meeting the needs of all those in the Lightbridge Academy Circle of Care, the company has attained a world-class NPS customer loyalty and emerged as a notable leader in the child care sector.
A commitment to the community and giving back has consistently been an integral part of his personal mission, serving on local and national early education advocacy groups and sits on Advisory Boards for Columbia Bank and Montclair State University’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship. He also founded the Lightbridge Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) that supports the health, education and well-being of children and their families. Through the foundation, Lightbridge has donated more than $500,000 to those in need.
Guy and his wife Julia have three sons and eight grandchildren, all of whom are currently enrolled or alumni of Lightbridge Academy’s Circle of Care.
Helena Beaubrun, Senior Vice President of Finance
Helena has served as Senior Vice President of Finance since 2023 after joining Lightbridge Franchise Company in 2022 as Vice President of Finance. In her current role, Helena leads the finance department, with oversight of banking, insurance, tax, investor relations, financial operations, and accounting.
Prior to joining Lightbridge Franchise Company, Helena was the head of finance for a division of Certara (Nasdaq: CERT). Her background includes experience in financial management, consulting, and investment banking, serving clients in multiple industries.
Helena enjoys reading, hiking, and taking road trips with her husband, Paul, their two children, and their dog.
Brenda Febbo, CFE, Chief Marketing Officer
Brenda has served as Chief Marketing Officer of Lightbridge Franchise Company since 2015. She joined the company as VP of Marketing in 2010 with a deep marketing and advertising agency background in client services and strategic planning for Fortune 500 luxury and beauty brands.
Her experience as a working mother, franchise owner, marketer and Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) have provided a unique 360 perspective helping to drive strategy for the Lightbridge Academy brand, inspire innovation, and resulted in record growth for both the franchise system and unit-level revenue. In her role, Brenda leads the Franchise Sales, Advertising and Marketing Departments in multiple aspects of integrated marketing, advertising and branding, including all phases of strategic planning and execution, creative and brand direction and designing marketing systems and support for the Lightbridge Academy franchise.
Brenda and her husband Tony’s two children are alumni of Lightbridge Academy. She enjoys singing, traveling and spending time lakeside.
Benjamin Blake, Chief Information Officer
Ben serves as Chief Information Officer since joining Lightbridge Franchise Company in 2020. Blake leads and oversees all technical vendors and innovation matching business needs with empowering technology solutions and services.
He began programming computers at age ten, and by age 13 had sold his first application and now possesses over 20 years of experience in franchising, education and finance developing technology solutions. Previously, Ben worked as SVP of IT for Huntington Learning Centers leading multiple cross-functional teams in providing technology solutions spanning the enterprise, and at Bowne & Co. leading full life cycle development of complex enterprise-level applications.
Born and bred in Texas, Ben rode into the center of business and technology worlds in New York City immediately after receiving his Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin, ranked top three in the nation for Management Information Systems.
Ben enjoys backpacking through the wilderness, running, and spending time with his wife, Beth and two teenage sons.
Joanne Sofia, CFE, Chief Operating Officer
Joanne serves as Chief Operating Officer for Lightbridge Franchise Company since 2020 and possesses over 20 years of experience in franchising and the education sector. She is responsible for the oversight of the Operations Department and for the consistency, efficacy, and quality of all Lightbridge Academy operational systems and centers.
Her career has been centered on providing senior leadership and management for multi-unit businesses. Prior to joining Lightbridge Academy, she worked for Wilton Industries, overseeing their educational program with a focus on the retail customer experience and quality. She worked at Huntington Learning Centers overseeing over 300 company and franchise centers. Her proven track record in franchising and success operating Lightbridge Academy company centers will create consistency, efficacy, and continuous improvement to drive innovation and greater quality.
Joanne is an accomplished yogi who enjoys playing golf and spending time with her puppy Zoey.
Craig Murray, Chief Development Officer
Craig serves as Chief Development Officer since joining Lightbridge Franchise Company in 2022. With in-depth development expertise and real estate experience, he leads and oversees the franchise development team to create a repeatable, best-in-class process. He drives growth and enables the Lightbridge Academy brand to scale in a responsible manner. By identifying prime markets and delivering top-notch locations, franchisees will be well-positioned to best serve the families and communities in their Circle of Care.
Craig brings 15-years experience as a real estate developer in the dental industry, where he worked for three major dental organizations, built over 300 dental offices in 20 states and managed a $180 million book of business. His most recent role was as a Divisional Vice President for Dental Care Alliance, where he helped the company scale its operations by establishing best practices across over 100 offices.
As an accomplished development strategist, Craig’s vision and expertise in business performance has propelled growth as a results-driven project development professional in multi-site real estate, construction, and provider-based mergers and acquisitions. This expertise ultimately led to a significant increase in client satisfaction and company revenue. He brings outstanding broker relations, lease negotiations and site selection skills, with a successful track record of reducing lease expenses and identifying appropriate site selection.
As CDO, Craig’s extensive development expertise, business and leadership skills, and market knowledge is an invaluable resource for Lightbridge Academy franchise owners to help them achieve their goal of business ownership and develop their child care portfolios.
Craig and his wife Suzanne live in Lakewood Ranch, Florida with their daughter and son. In their downtime, Craig enjoys boating, golfing and spending time with family and friends. Most nights and weekends, when he’s not traveling for business, you’ll find the family either at the soccer or baseball fields.
Jim DiRugeris, Senior Vice President of Franchise Sales
Jim has served as Senior Vice President of Franchise Sales since joining the Lightbridge Academy Franchise in 2022. With a deep passion for the early education industry and a drive to lead franchise sales for emerging and mature child care brands, Jim offers extensive franchise expertise, business and leadership skills, and market knowledge for both Lightbridge Academy franchise owners and prospects.
Jim is an accomplished corporate franchise sales and development strategist with over 20 years of leadership experience, known for exceeding sales goals, market planning, and process improvement. Throughout his career, Jim has led cross-functional teams in sales, real estate, site development, construction, and finance with an exceptional track record of success driving revenue and expansion for child care and automotive franchise brands.
Previously, Jim served as Chief Development Officer for Celebree Enterprises LLC, where he worked with prospective and established franchise owners to help achieve their goals of business ownership and develop their child care portfolios. He also served as Vice President of Franchise Development for Goddard Systems, Inc. Before joining Goddard Systems, Inc., Jim held various positions with Driven Brands, Inc., where he set and helped achieve the franchisor’s business development goals for sales, real estate and construction.
As SVP of Franchise Sales, Jim understands the intricacies of franchise development and strives to recruit franchisees who are equally as enthusiastic about Lightbridge Academy as he is. He understands that choosing to open a franchise is a significant, life-changing decision, and he works to ensure that each and every prospective Lightbridge Academy franchise owner is supported throughout the processes of both exploration and onboarding. He has been instrumental in helping to grow the company to over 65 operational child care centers, expanding into nine states and is preparing to triple in size over the next five years growing throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.
Jim resides in Pennsylvania with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his spare time, he enjoys custom woodworking and riding his motorcycle through the winding back roads of Pennsylvania.
Lightbridge Academy Franchise Growth: Available Territories
If you’re looking to make a difference in your community, Lightbridge Academy has identified available territories in markets all over the country that are primed for scalable franchise growth.
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