Building financial stability into a children’s activity business can be challenging, but a simple and highly effective strategy is to work with schools and nurseries. By partnering with these settings, providers can tap into a steady stream of customers, gain visibility in the community and build a reputation as a reliable and trusted provider of quality children’s classes with educational value.
One of the main benefits of working with schools and nurseries is that they provide a captive audience for children’s activity providers within their local target market. Many parents are looking for extra-curricular activities and their first port-of-call will be to look at those being provided and endorsed by their child’s school. Once providers have built some trust with these schools, they may also be able to up-sell other services such as enrichment workshops or curricular lessons. There wouldn’t be venue hire fees for daytime work in schools or nurseries and venue hire after school can often be minimal. Therefore working with schools to provide classes in-house can also be very cost effective for children’s activity providers who are looking for ways to save on expenses and maximise profit.
Another benefit of working with schools and nurseries is that they can help providers gain visibility in the community. Schools and nurseries are at the centre of communities and are well connected to local families as well as other organisations. By partnering with schools and nurseries, children’s activity providers can gain access to these networks and increase their exposure to potential customers. Parents who become aware that external providers have been into school to provide assemblies, workshops or clubs will often ask where they can send their children or older/younger siblings to participate in classes with them outside of school. One of my Approaching Schools Academy members refers to this as ‘The good Pied Piper effect’ and regularly attracts new children into his community classes as a result of providing a demo in a local school. It’s a strategy that worked well for me in my dance business whenever I was setting up an out-of-school class in a new location if I was looking to fill the venue.
In addition to providing a steady stream of customers and helping providers gain visibility in the community, working with schools and nurseries can also help providers build a reputation as a reliable and trusted provider of high quality educational provision. Schools and nurseries are often very selective about the provision they endorse and only work with external providers that they trust. By working with these settings, children’s activity providers can demonstrate their commitment to quality assurance and build a solid reputation. In fact, 9 times out of 10, when a provider delivers an exemplary service within a school or nursery, they can expect to be working with the setting for a long time to come. Providing long term contracts to schools and nurseries is of high value to them and can be seen as a worthwhile investment as providers are able to achieve better outcomes for the children, the longer they are there. It’s also often easier for a key decision maker to sign a budget off all in one go – it works well for them to know they will have reliable provision in place to provide continuity for the pupils.
Finally, working with schools and nurseries can also provide an opportunity to offer new and exciting provision that can help the business to grow. Many schools and nurseries are looking for new educational opportunities to offer to their pupils, so providers can work with them to create an offer that will appeal to the specific needs of the school or nursery. When needs are being met, the sale becomes the next logical step. The more problems providers can solve for headteachers or nursery managers, the more likely it is that those key decision makers will want to invest.
My tips for children’s activity providers who want to work with schools or nurseries to build a more stable income:
- Think about what problems your services can solve for headteachers or nursery managers. What are some key outcomes for the pupils who will benefit from participating in your activity?
- Jot down some ways your current out-of-school provision could be adapted for clubs, workshops or curriculum teaching. What curriculum subject (s) does your activity link to?
- Consider creating a high-value demonstration lesson for one of your services. What would enable you to showcase the value of your services and the outcomes you can deliver before getting the school or nursery’s investment?
- Look strategically at any out-of-school classes you are running that you would like to fill. Are their local schools or nurseries you could approach so they can help you spread the word about those classes?
- Make a list of local schools or nurseries that you would like to partner with in your area. How many are within your target area and which settings are you going to make contact with first?
Cerys Keneally is an award-winning trainer and speaker for the children’s activity industry. Using her unique A.C.E background in Activities, Coaching and Education, she is the proud creator of a pioneering, CPD-accredited programme, the Approaching Schools Academy.
You can find out more about Cerys and download her free guide to growing your business by working with schools and nurseries at www.ceryskeneally.com