Magazine article Working Mother

Child's Play

Magazine article Working Mother

Child's Play

Article excerpt

This month's entrepreneur mom: Babz Barnett, 41, mom of Zachary, 7, and Emma, 5; founder of Romp n' Roll, an all-in-one children's center for the 5-and-under set in Glen Allen, VA. Number of employees: 13. Projected 2008 gross revenue across 11 franchises: approximately $3 million.

My story: I never intended to head a multimillion-dollar franchise business. I had a much loftier goal: I wanted to be Supermom. My first awe-inspiring deed was to enroll my young son in the best enrichment classes available. The problem was, I didn't like any of the gyms and community programs in our area. They either looked like their decor hadn't been updated since Lynda Carter reigned as Wonder Woman, or they focused on only one type of activity, leaving me to drive all over town to provide varied activities for my child. Even Supermom shouldn't have to do that much battle with a 3-year-old and his car seat.

I knew what I wanted-gym, music and art classes under one roof with great teachers in a clean, welcoming space. My hunch was that other parents wanted this, too. Frustrated, I told my husband, Michael, that we should start up our own child-enrichment center. After several months of research and hard work, we opened our first Romp n' Roll location in September 2004, offering creative movement, music and arts classes, hosting birthday parties and leading summer camps. When classes and party spots started selling out before we even opened our doors, I realized my hunch was right. We expanded our repertoire to include additional creative classes like Silly Science, Superheroes, Princess Class and Aargh Mateys. Our slogan: "Nurture the genius. Unleash the goofball." When we opened our second location in 2005 and received the same outpouring, I knew we were onto something big.

We wanted to expand even further, possibly as a franchise, but we didn't know the first thing about that business model. Noticing that women-only gyms were popping up in strip malls across the country, my husband joked, "I need to meet the guy who works with Curves." A few days later we learned that Gary Findley, the former Curves International president credited for growing the chain to 8,000 units in 2004, was attending a franchise expo near us. We emailed asking for a meeting and got it!

Impressed with the success of our first two Virginia locations, Gary chose Romp n' Roll as one of a small number of emerging franchise concepts represented by his Waco, TX-based consulting company, the Findley Group. …

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