Mastering the Art of Franchising

Dispelling the myth that art is a talent a child does or doesn’t have, Young Rembrandts is teaching kids to draw through a unique, passion-driven curriculum.

Founded in 1988 by Bette Fetter, the program began at her very own kitchen table in Elgin, IL. Surrounded by eight young children, here Fetter launched what would become a winning international franchise concept.

Starting the program as a part time hobby while playing Mom to her four young children, Fetter quickly grew her business out of passion for kids and art, and before long was teaching around 3000 children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. As the demand for her art classes grew, Fetter’s husband left his corporate job and together the couple ran the home-based family business.

As an art graduate with experience in early childhood education, Fetter developed a methodology and product for the art classes and began hiring other teachers to help expand the business. Moving the program into preschools, while teaching preschool and elementary aged children, Fetter introduced concrete ideas and techniques that would enlarge and enrich children’s artistic skills, visual vocabularies, imaginations and minds.

Designed to provide young children with comprehensive art literacy and the skill based creativity necessary for academic success, people began catching on to what Young Rembrandts stood for and became active in signing up their children. Experiencing growing success with Young Rembrandts, Fetter began franchising the concept in 2001. “We ran Young Rembrandts as a business for 13 years before franchising the concept,” she explains.

“After growing so much in the Chicago area, our mission became to reach more kids and so it was time to take the business to the next level.” Today the brand has 85 franchises throughout the United States, six in Canada and three master franchises internationally.

As schools continue to dramatically cut art programs from the curriculum, Young Rembrandts is filling the void. “There is such a tremendous value in learning to draw not only in terms of artistic ability, but also in how it affects children’s learning skills and performance in the classroom, as well as their confidence and self esteem,” says Fetter. Although Young Rembrandts is a home-based business, the classes are held at host locations  such as elementary schools and park districts.

Franchisees act as managers or liaisons of part-time instructors that they train to teach classes of children ages three to five and six to 12 the fundamentals of drawing using Fetter’s unique curriculum and step by step teaching method.

Today Young Rembrandts is looking for franchisees that have experience in management and a passion for art. “A lot of people from corporate America with experience in a management role have joined the team because the business offers a flexible career and a good balance between work and family life,” explains Fetter. “It’s a passionate business, so we’re looking for personable people interested in being social entrepreneurs. Young Rembrandts is a business with a purpose and it’s about community involvement and community connection.” Franchisees should also be strong networkers, leaders in their communities and have a desire to grow a business that has a societal impact and makes a difference. Focused on growing, key areas of expansion include the east coast and central region of the U.S., as well as the vast open territories in Canada and international markets.

Young Rembrandts’ franchising process begins with getting to know one another. After submitting an online application and speaking with a franchise development specialist to learn more about the business, the candidate will then chat with other franchise owners before attending a Discovery Day. Here candidates will meet with the founder and CEO, corporate support, tech, and marketing team, and if both parties agree the  business is a good fit, a franchise is awarded and the new franchisee will begin training.

Young Rembrandts’ turnkey training process allows franchisees to effectively start up and operate a successful, familyfriendly, home-based business. Consisting of three stages, the first is pre-training. During this stage franchisees will be provided materials to cover before spending one-week of intense training in the Elgin, IL headquarters. Following this week, franchisees complete the process with post-training webinars, calls, and other materials to complete as they get started with their business. Online teacher training tools are also provided to instruct part time teachers in Young Rembrandts’  method and curriculum. The franchise training and support, together with the company’s proprietary curriculum, prepares new franchisees to begin operating immediately upon completing training. Ongoing support is available from a personal business coach and assigned mentor who will help franchisees meet their personal and financial goals.

The franchise fee to purchase a territory in the U.S. and Canada is $31,500 and includes a protected, exclusive territory, which is larger than those of leading competitors. Also included in the franchise fee is proprietary task management and scheduling software, an intranet library with extensive training, marketing and business resources, as well as easy to use online reporting and personal goal tracking software. While franchisees are responsible for finding teachers and host sites, Young Rembrandts provides all the information on how to do so, as well as the curriculum, teacher training modules, and ongoing assistance. Having recently published a book titled “Being Visual” that focuses on the value of the arts and learning, Fetter is also in the process of launching a podcast regarding the value of the program. “The podcast is not exclusively about the Young  Rembrandts program, but rather to raise awareness in the value of the arts overall,” she says.

“The Young Rembrandts difference is that it’s not just a business or product, it’s a mission,” explains Fetter. “Our franchisees are passionate and mission orientated and the quality of the product doesn’t compare to just any art class. It’s been designed very intentionally to maximize the amount of impact we believe art can have on children academically and holistically.”

The biggest benefit to being a Young Rembrandts franchisee is the personal satisfaction involved. As thousands of children across the globe participate in classes on a weekly basis in which they produce great artwork and  grow emotionally and academically from the program, franchisees are affected first hand by this. “Our franchisees love what they do, and when they get to see the kids, their art, and talk to the parents- they feel great about what they’re doing everyday.”

Recently launching a new franchise website, blog, and social media platforms, Young Rembrandts is currently working to communicate the value of its product in a very broad and international way. In doing so, these efforts directly reflect and support franchisees and their customers. A common contender in Entrepreneur’s Top 500, Young Rembrandts is also no stranger to the Franchise Business Review.

“We like that we’re in both of these rankings because while Entrepreneur Magazine focuses in on the statistics and number of units, the Franchise Business Review surveys franchisees,” says Fetter, adding, “We always  score high in it because our franchisees are very happy with the concept and company.”

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