Romp n' Roll

Gym. Art. Music.

Q&A with Romp & Roll Co-Founder & CEO Michael Barnett

How was your franchise/opportunity originally conceived and started?
Back in 2004, my wife, (Co-Founder & President Babz Barnett), was home with our two young children. She took them to a variety of children’s classes but always came home and said, “It was okay, but if I owned a business like that, I would…”. After a while, I realized that if we started a similar business but made all of the improvements she came up with, we’d have something unique that we figured other parents would appreciate as well.

What was your original vision for your company? How has that changed over time?
Our original vision hasn’t changed. We envisioned a place in the community that offered a wide-variety of classes, exclusively for young children, led by well-trained, enthusiastic instructors, in a bright, clean, whimsical environment. What has changed is our membership model. Over the past 11 years, parents have become increasingly busy with work and other commitments. As a result, we have developed a flexible membership program that allows parents to go online and sign in for whatever classes they would like, rather than be locked into the same class/day/time every week. We have received huge support and accolades for developing this program.

What do you believe is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise?
Obviously the business fundamentals have to be in place but beyond that I think the relationship between the franchisee and the franchisor is critical, especially in a smaller franchise system.

Why should someone choose your franchise over other similar franchises?
Most of our competitors only focus on one type of class (i.e. gymnastics) and provide that service to a broad age range (i.e. babies to teens). At Romp n’ Roll, we’ve reversed that. We offer a broad range of classes (gym, music, art, cooking, science, dance, sports and more) to a narrow age range (3 month to 5 year olds). This gives us an advantage by having a class that appeals to every child, regardless of their interest. It also allows us to be “the” experts in this age range, which is reflected in the type of instructors we hire and the way we decorate our centers.

What makes your industry attractive?
From a business viewpoint, our industry is attractive because we require limited inventory, have no receivables (tuition is pre-paid), have relatively low start-up costs, and operate with part-time employees. And, of course, early exposure to quality educational and social experience for young children is critically important.

What types of qualities do you look for in potential franchisees?
We look for franchisees who are passionate about children, families, and the communities they serve. The most important qualities of our franchisees are having the ability to hire, train, and retain great employees and also to have the ability to provide outstanding customer service. We provide full lesson plans for every class and comprehensive training materials so a background in early education might be helpful but isn’t necessary.

What do your franchise fees and royalties cover?
Our franchise fees and royalties cover initial and ongoing training and support. We have a team at our headquarters who are constantly creating and updating our curriculum, in fact, we currently have over 1000 different lesson plans! We also provide ongoing marketing and operations support to our franchise owners.

How do territories work for your franchisees?
Our franchise owners receive a protected territory of at least 5 miles surrounding their location. Since we are a smaller system right now, one of the benefits is that in most cases our new franchise owners are not restricted on their location.

Why has your franchise model been successful?
Our franchise model has been successful because we have successfully shared our passion for our product with our franchise owners who, in turn, have successfully shared that passion with their employees. In addition, there is a growing focus on parents to provide educational and social experiences for their children at a very early age and Romp n’ Roll can capitalize on that need.

Where do you see your franchise in 5 years and 10 years?
We are already operating franchises in 3 countries (U.S., China, and South Korea). I see more international expansion on our horizon. But more importantly, I want Romp n’ Roll to be the singular leader in our field in the U.S.. We don’t strive to necessarily be the biggest but we certainly want to be the best.

What is your favorite advice for new franchisees to help them succeed?
Your franchisor expanded their business because what they have done has been successful. Always follow their advice as you ramp up. I have seen franchisees in other systems invest heavily in a franchise and then ignore the advice of the franchisor. On the other hand, over time you will become as knowledgeable about the business as your franchisor so make sure you are in a relationship in which your franchisor is open to your ideas on how to change and grow the business.

What would you tell potential franchisees that may be nervous about the financial burdens of starting a franchise?
If you start a business and you’re not nervous, you haven’t thought about it carefully enough! It is nerve-wracking at times. But I always say that my worst day as an entrepreneur is still better than my best day in Corporate America!

On average, how long does it take to start a new franchise from the franchisees point of view?
From the initial contact, it generally takes 30-45 days for us to extend an offer for a franchise to a qualified candidate. Once we extend an offer, it takes 3-4 months to get opened.

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