The Women on the Safari Kid Franchise Leadership Team: Aparna Parashar, Auxillia William, Shy Mudakavi, Candace Gatewood and Piroja Montgomery
March is Women’s History Month, which began as a local tradition in Northern California in 1978, and by 1980 it became a national celebration. Safari Kid as a brand has been a champion of women since before we began franchising.
Safari Kid founder and CEO, Shahdokth “Shy” Mudakavi began her preschool franchise when she was inspired to create a company that nurtured and encouraged the women within the organization alongside her students. As a result, Safari Kid franchise has flourished, with many women in leadership roles throughout the company.
“When you begin to think about how we can ever achieve a brighter tomorrow, you think about how there has to be the most nurturing at the beginning,” Curriculum Designer Piroja Montgomery explained. “This is essentially Shy’s vision. She wants to figure out exactly how to nurture future generations in the best way possible so that we all benefit. Imagine having a boss who truly wants this—Shy is that boss.”
Finding Meaning at a Unique Preschool Franchise
Piroja began her career as an elementary school teacher who was recognized for her ability to create unique lessons which engaged children. She was then recruited by a former principal to help work on a unique curriculum for a private school in Orange County, CA, and later a charter school in LA county. After these experiences she was offered a corporate position at Scantron, designing assessments and lesson plans for classrooms all over the United States. These invaluable experiences gave Piroja the confidence she needed to take on her next role as a curriculum designer for Safari Kid. During her interview, Piroja recalls how hearing Shy speak about her vision for Safari Kid sparked joy inside of her. She knew this was going to be the right fit.
“Shy has a vision that isn’t blurred by dollar signs. At the core of it all, what she wants is exactly what I wanted when I first got into teaching,” Piroja said, reflecting on what drew her to the Safari Kid franchise. “It wasn’t until I joined Safari Kid that I realized what it felt like to truly work with a team. I have to attribute the reason I joined the team, and the reason why this is a team I feel good about being a part of, to our leader, Shy.”
She found an attentive and trusting leader with Shy, who empowered Piroja to trust in her abilities as a leader in her own right. This trust has allowed Piroja to expand the possibilities of what Safari Kid can do for children and their parents. As the Curriculum Designer, her goal is to create activities and learning experiences that reinforce the mission of Safari Kid in an active, hands-on setting. Her curriculum sparks a love for learning and compassion for others.
How Shy Inspires All the Women at Safari Kid
Piroja has experienced firsthand Shy’s ability to draw out strength in the women around her. “When you feel this confidence exuding from her, no wavering in her expectation that you are the perfect person for the job, you begin to believe it,” Piroja explained. “This is how a smart woman in power cultivates a thriving workplace.”
Safari Kid franchisee Shanu Mathur can attest to the unparalleled support she receives from Shy and the other members of the leadership and support team. “From a business perspective, the best thing about Safari Kid is that they really care about each of their franchisees. They’re always supporting us, and they really are just a phone call away.”
All of the Safari Kid centers are currently owned and operated by women and many started off as parents who saw the quality of education and care their children received for themselves and wanted to contribute to the brand’s growth. Another significant portion of those franchisees are teachers who believe in the curriculum and the brand’s philosophy. While many of these franchisees may not have owned a business before, Shy has a talent for inspiring confidence in all the owners to live out their dreams of becoming business owners and leaders in their communities.
The power of what Safari Kid franchise does is in the fact that Shy has built a brand full of empowered women who share a common goal. Shy isn’t just paying lip service to gender equality: women’s strength, ingenuity, independence and compassion of women are integral to what sets the Safari Kid franchise apart as a brand.