Chad Mussmon’s original goal with joining The Little Gym as an employee in 1996 was just to get some experience working with children, as he was fresh out of college with a brand new elementary education degree.
That was 19 years ago and today, his six locations makes him the largest single operator in the country for The Little Gym.
At first, he became a part-owner at the original location where he started working and in 1999, he became a full-time franchise owner. All six of Mussmon’s locations are in the Washington DC metro area.
Entrepreneurship in His Blood
Mussmon was inspired to become an entrepreneur from watching his uncle build and run his own business.
“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss based upon watching my uncle and knowing his destiny was in his own hands,” Mussmon said during a recent interview with Franchising USA. “Whether he made it or failed, it was him that was going to decide that and that always appealed to me. “
While his original intent was just to gain some experience for a planned teaching career, The Little Gym’s philosophy and the concept of building confidence in children spoke to Mussmon, as his own teaching philosophy lined up well with the company’s curriculum.
The Little Gym offers classes for kids from the ages of four months to 12 years that focus on three areas of development: physical, mental and social. The classes include sports skills, developmental gymnastics, dance, and karate. It also has parent-child programs for kids under three where children come with a parent or caregiver and take the class together.
Each class is designed with a specific curriculum to build off the classes that come before it, just like how it would work in a school. The classes, which were all developed by early childhood development experts, are broken into short four-week Learning Units over the course of a school year.
Mussmon said he fell in love with both the business and with franchising because of the ease at which success can be duplicated due to the systems that are in place.
For example, going from one to two units was a big learning curve. As a single unit owner, it was easy for Mussmon to be involved in the business. With two locations, however, he had to use the systems that The Little Gym had in place so he could run his locations without necessarily being there. Having these systems in place to follow appealed to him.
“It was a lot easier to duplicate success with the franchise model,” he said.
Finding the Right Place and Offering the Right Training
The Little Gym helps their franchisees with a demographic analysis of various areas. This is especially important for The Little Gym franchisees because they have to know approximately how many children are in the area they want to set up shop.
The franchisee works with a local real estate broker so he knows what’s coming a few years in advance, but The Little Gym has comprehensive processes in place for helping with site selection.
Mussmon said The Little Gym franchisee training is in-depth and includes a two-week boot camp that fully immerses franchisees in the culture and the curriculum of The Little Gym. At the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, they have a The Little Gym training location that is set up to look just like a real, operating location.
Here, franchisees will receive business and curriculum training. Then, they are assigned an internship at an existing location where they will spend another few days working prior to their own opening. When they do open, The Little Gym will send someone out to assist them as they launch.
As for ongoing support, franchisees participate in a weekly call with a Business Consultant, which is a staff member at The Little Gym International. Owners will also be assigned a field consultant, which is another The Little Gym franchise owner that works with them. This means franchisees are privy to support from both the franchisor and a fellow franchisee.
The Little Gym International also provides opportunities for franchisees to receive additional training and support, both on-site and at special training events throughout the year. For example, The Little Gym International team hosts regional workshops, traveling curriculum boot camps, and virtual trainings on an as-needed basis.
While he appreciates that The Little Gym offers plenty of opportunity for success — such as finding new ways for franchisees to generate revenue like The Little Gym’s recent partnership with Kindermusik — it’s not the financial success that is the best part of being involved with the franchise for Mussmon.
“I would say it is a franchise that has rewarded me not only financially, but with fulfillment,” he said. “I really think we make a difference on a daily basis for a lot of children throughout the world and I don’t know if I would get that from another concept.”
For Mussmon, that post-graduation job is paying off in more ways than one.