Franchise Development Team

Get to know the Executive Leadership team at Childrens Lighthouse Franchise Company.

Michael Brown

Michael Brown


The Children’s Lighthouse brand was founded on integrity, passion, and excellence. Michael has a passion for inspiring innovation in the Children’s Lighthouse business model, giving our Franchisees the tools for success, and of course, providing the systems that guide each and every child who attends a Children’s Lighthouse Early Learning School to achieve their goals in life.

As the son of a Children’s Lighthouse founder, Michael has been engaged in the family business from its beginning in 1997. He joined full-time in 2006, following graduation from the University of Texas with a B.S. in Finance. He supports Franchisees by assisting in obtaining lender financing, financial modeling, project management, and many other areas. As President, Michael oversees all aspects and functions of Childrens Lighthouse Franchise Company.

Stephanie Russ

Stephanie Russ

Vice President & General Counsel

Stephanie is passionate about instituting processes designed to make the brand stronger and make Franchisees’ lives easier and their businesses more profitable.

Stephanie is the Vice President and General Counsel for Children’s Lighthouse Franchise Company (CLFC). In her role as General Counsel, she represents CLFC in legal matters, but the majority of her time is spent leading the company’s strategic initiatives. As our Vice President, she leads the development and implementation of processes that are aligned with CLFC’s mission of giving franchisees the tools, guidance, and opportunity to operate a profitable business that is designed to give children a safe, loving place to learn, make friends, and build confidence. Stephanie joined CLFC in 2019, after having served as its outside counsel for the previous 10 years. In addition to her legal expertise, Stephanie brings with her 30 years of experience working with large, national franchisors in operations, training, and human resources. Stephanie has a B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a law degree from Texas A&M School of Law.

Steve Dixon

Stephen Dixon, CFE

Chief Development Officer

Stephen is passionate about helping people achieve their vision of creating their own future. He enjoys learning the goals and aspirations of prospective Franchisees, communicating the benefits of small business ownership in the early learning school environment, and leading the real estate discovery process. His favorite part: attending grand openings and witnessing Franchisees’ accomplishing their dreams!

Stephen joined Children’s Lighthouse in 2010 and is responsible for creating and executing the company’s development, real estate, onboarding, and other strategies. He leads the development and real estate teams in opening new Children’s Lighthouse Early Learning Schools across the U.S. Stephen has more than 20 years of franchise development experience and holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University, an M.B.A. from the University of Denver and a Certified Franchise Executive (C.F.E.) designation from the International Franchise Association.

Shelly Pair

Shelly Pair

Vice President of Operations

Shelly is passionate about helping others achieve success at the highest level. She brings vast knowledge of the educational childcare industry, a strong customer-service mindset, and an enthusiasm for helping Franchisees make a difference in every child’s life by giving them a safe, happy place to gain a lifelong love of learning.

Shelly joined Children’s Lighthouse in 2019 and leads the Operations team. She is an accomplished educational childcare leader with 26 years of experience where she served leadership positions with two national childcare systems directing new business, brand development, and operations for multiple locations. Shelly has a B.S. in Family Science from the University of Nebraska. Shelly’s experience is a key part in the success of Children’s Lighthouse Franchisees across the country. She has demonstrated the ability to drive a company’s annual revenue growth by 159%, to $22 million.

Dr. Kristi Smith

Dr. Kristi Smith, D.ED., M.ED., CFE

Director of Education & Training

A young child’s play is their work as they embark in learning for a lifetime. Understanding how a tiny human learns and teaching adults how to be brain architects is the life passion of our Director of Education & Training, Dr. Kristi Smith. Kristi is committed to using her 30+ years of “boots in the field” experience as an early education administrator to provide our schools with fun and creative proprietary curriculums that outshine our competitors. Because she has experience teaching early educators all over the world and teaching Masters of Education courses, she has the unique ability to insightfully design custom instructional materials for a variety of audiences.

Dr. Kristi oversees the curriculum, accreditation, and training for our schools. She has 23 years of experience as the Executive Director of Early Education for Harvest Academy. For six years, she was a university adjunct professor, teaching Masters of early education and Masters of organizational leadership courses. Kristi has a Doctorate of Education in Leadership and a Masters of Education in Early Education Administration. She volunteers her services to a variety of early education organizations and has led accreditation efforts in R.E.A.C.H. protocol. Kristi has served on the Advisory Committee to Texas Child Care Licensing; she’s also served as a mentor of childcare Directors for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She is a published writer, and her training expertise has been enjoyed at U.S. and international conferences. She was named the first recipient of both the Celebration of Champions Administrator of the Year Award and the Phyllis Jack Moore Professional Development Award.

Colin Berry

Colin Berry

Director of Marketing

Implementing effective marketing when building a business is an important pillar of success. Colin is passionate about helping Franchisees achieve their goals and drive their business forward. Colin brings a customer-service mindset that focuses on top-line revenue and profitability, as well as creating value-added awareness in local communities.

Colin joined the company in 2019 and not only helps with the development of School-specific marketing strategies, but also develops and manages marketing strategies for the Brand at a national level. He also leads Franchisees through the initial development process as they start their journey to becoming a Franchisee. Colin is in his second decade of leading franchise marketing efforts, having served roles at other well-known brands such as T.G.I. Fridays, MOOYAH Burgers, and Mr Gattis Pizza. Colin earned a B.A. in History from Union College in Schenectady, NY and has received marketing accreditation in Digital Marketing Strategies from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Lori Headshot

Lori Ashmore, CFE

Franchise Development Manager

Lori finds fulfillment in helping franchise owners achieve their goals of business ownership. Watching Franchisees’ dreams become reality is a true passion. Her extensive knowledge of the educational childcare industry allows her to give Franchisees the tools and guidance needed to reach their full potential. She appreciates that choosing to open a franchise is a life-changing decision, and she works to ensure that every Children’s Lighthouse owner is supported throughout the process.

Lori joined Children’s Lighthouse in 2017 and leads Franchisees through all aspects of the Franchise Development process. She manages the sales process, contract completion, project management, and guides Franchisees through loan closing. Lori has more than 20 years of early childhood franchise experience as a School Director and a Franchise Business Coach. She earned a B. S. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Houston-Downtown and a Certified Franchise Executive (C.F.E.) designation from the International Franchise Association.

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