Explore four franchises keeping kids in the best mental and physical shape
by Daniel McIntosh
All parents want is the best for their child. The franchise teams behind these brands are committed to supporting children and their families by keeping kids active, fed, and healthy.
As these franchises prove, supporting children supports their families and communities, as well. Moreover, the children’s services market offers franchisees variety, with brands focused on food and meal prep, health and hair care, and sports training. These four brands began serving one thing but adapted to grow their service offerings as their systems grew. Read on for four brands staying current while keeping kids healthy, before and after the school bell rings.
British Swim School
British Swim School began in a basement swimming pool in Manchester, England in 1981. After emigrating to the U.S. 10 years later, founder Rita Goldberg struck success for the second time, offering lessons from her pool in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“We started to franchise the company in 2011,” says Steven Waterhouse. As the brand’s director of strategic projects and a franchise business coach, Waterhouse says it’s about more than just swimming. “British Swim School is more than just a business and a profitable bottom line; we’re a business on a lifesaving mission!” Today the brand operates in more than 300 pools across the U.S. and Canada.
The mission of water safety can begin for babies as early as three months, although Waterhouse says the oldest student the system has seen was 85. “Our approach is way more than just an extracurricular activity for children,” says Waterhouse.
Given the prevalence of community and city-run swimming pools, British Swim School had to work hard to develop a strong presence. After 42 years, the brand has developed a curriculum-based approach to survival lessons that appeals to parents and students alike, and a business model that creates opportunity for franchisees.
The first lessons focus on survival-based skills and getting new swimmers acclimated to water, before introducing them to swimming strokes. “We have the reward of developing safer and happier swimmers,” says Waterhouse.
And they do it anywhere they can. One of the major selling points of British Swim School is its use of pools in hotels, gyms, and retirement homes, meaning franchisees can use existing facilities rather than building costly pool facilities.
“Our business model competes strongly as a commercial opportunity because of our special and very personal approach to working with our pool partnerships, the margins we can offer owners, and the core mission of spreading awareness of drowning prevention and water safety.”
Franchise owners get access to an in-person and online blend of aquatic, marketing, and business coaching instruction. “Our franchisees are taken through business training, where we provide module-based learning objectives with hands-on, in-person, and virtual training,” explains Waterhouse. “In addition to business training, we also provide in-depth aquatics training with the same methodology as our business training. With our aquatics training, our franchisees have a combination of online and in-water training.”
And British Swim School’s franchise owners can take pride in their community contributions as well because, as Waterhouse says, “In their own communities, franchise owners are making a difference by providing children—and adults—with the lifesaving skills they need to survive and then enjoy being in and around the water.”
Lice Squad.com is a head lice removal, hair care, and product distribution company focused on providing hair care remedies for head lice in an atmosphere that is private and comfortable for families.
The concept was born when Dawn Mucci contracted head lice from her then daycare-aged son. She began providing treatment for her son and students in his class, quickly realizing she was filling a niche between traditional hair care and chemical-fuelled hair salons and products.
“I didn’t want to have to use pesticides and chemicals on myself or my child,” says Mucci. “I just made it my mission to research ways of dealing with the issue and I started helping people in Toronto about three months after I dealt with it myself.”
Twenty-three years on, Lice Squad’s growth has spread organically, with prospective franchisees seeing the value of the service and asking directly to purchase their own locations. There are now 36 franchise and corporate locations, with 250 service providers from coast to coast.
Much of the system’s processes were developed by Mucci herself, drawing on her previous career as an aromatherapist. “I used essential oils in the beginning and then I migrated into products with enzymes and eventually started using minerals and cosmetic aids to help in the removal process and the physical removal of lice combined to make ‘the Mucci method,’ which is what we use to train our franchisees.”
The selection process for prospective franchisees is based on one’s ability to build interest in the business in their community. “We really want people who are good at networking and marketing, and who are really good with people and want to be of service and value to their community,” says Mucci. Of course, experience with haircutting and nitpicking (the act of removing lice eggs from the hair) is always an asset.
Regardless of experience, Lice Squad.com provides complete training and support to franchisees. The initial training runs for four days, with an even split between practical and hands-on training. Lice Squad.com even has specialized training modules for handling clients with autism.
“We have an amazing superhero team at our head office, and if you can’t get help from us, you can reach out to a fellow franchisee,” says Mucci.
“I don’t feel like we’ve worked in 28 years,” says Sportball co-founder Mark Gelgor. Since he and his wife, Carmella Gelgor, founded Sportball in 1995, their work has been the business of play. Sportball is a sport instruction and skills development program for children 12 and under, teaching them the fundamentals and motor skills behind soccer, basketball, baseball, and a myriad of other ball sports. Its main offering is the multi-sport program, which focuses on a play-based curriculum.
The curriculum uses creative storylines to introduce children to exercise. “If you ask a two-year-old to do a push-up, they’re going to wonder ‘what are you talking about?’” notes Mark. “If you ask them to imagine that they are a bridge, and that a boat is sailing under the bridge, they will buy into the storyline rather than the skill itself.”
This creative methodology allows Sportball to teach kids as young as 16 months. Carmella says it’s also an opportunity for parents to act as their child’s personal trainer. “Keeping that in mind, they’re able to encourage their kids and join in and practice sport at home as a family.”
Sportball coaches don’t need to have special certifications, as Carmella says the brand simply seeks leadership qualities from incoming candidates. “Whether they’re finishing high school or are in university … and particularly if they love sport and love kids,” says Carmella. “We have a deliberate training program.”
Sportball training combines workshops, practical, and theoretical components. Coaches rise through the ranks from a rookie coach to lead, mentor, and finally, master coach, increasing through titles based on the number of hours spent training. It takes a focused schedule for a rookie coach to reach the point of a mentor. By the time coaches reach the master designation, they’ve completed a series of workshops, courses, practical coaching hours, and evaluations. They’ve also taken on a leadership role and mentored other coaches.
Franchisees can be fast-tracked based on their education and experience. “Each year, over 50,000 children participate in Sportball’s programs,” says Sportball CEO Quinten Griffiths. “Our franchise partners are what make our business special and help bring our program to kids across the continent, so that they can build confidence and physical literacy skills.”
“We don’t see ourselves as only a sport program in fitness for kids,” says Carmella. “We’ve taken it to that next level, to really validate the methodology.”
For a well-proven franchise model, with a presence expanding across the U.S. and as far as Singapore, there’s still room to grow the Sportball system. For potential franchisees, Carmella says believing in the brand and in what the brand stands for is the most important factor. “If you love working with kids and you love sports and you’re passionate about community, then this is the franchise for you. I really believe that every business venture is a lifestyle choice; it’s hard work but incredibly rewarding. When you become a franchisee … it’s time for you to really dig in, make a difference, and love what you do.”
The Lunch Lady
When Ruthie Burd started supplying school lunches as “The Lunch Lady” in 1993, schools didn’t express much interest. The dominant thought was that if students couldn’t go home, parents didn’t mind making them a home-packed lunch instead.
That was not the case, which led Burd’s concept to eventually break through, and The Lunch Lady began serving its student-customers nutritious meals in schools across Toronto’s North York region in 1995.
Since 1999, Burd has been franchising The Lunch Lady, adding dedicated partners in new regions, and building a strong head office team to support them. She says the brand has been tested over the years, and was particularly hard-hit by COVID, but continues to innovate and adapt to changing times.
For incoming franchisees, Burd says a willingness to embrace change is just as important as a love for kids and the desire to make a difference in the community. “All organizations must evolve over time to serve their vision,” she says. “So much has changed since 1999!”
“It’s very rewarding to be in a business that focuses on the well-being of children,” she adds. “At the same time, there may be an assumption that if you’re in a business for children, it’s an easy sell. That’s not the case. All businesses require commitment and hard work to become successful—no matter the product or service.”
Post pandemic, The Lunch Lady has expanded its business model, offering a broader menu of services. In addition to serving lunches in schools and childcare centres, Burd delivers universal school nutrition programs, meals for seniors, and supports other social agencies that serve those experiencing food security in various municipalities.
“We believe everyone, especially our children, should have access to wholesome food in Canada, regardless of their means. That’s what inspires us now,” says Burd.