12 months later… and children’s activities are more important than ever

We can’t quite believe it’s been almost 12 months since the sudden announcement that the UK was to be placed into lockdown due to a new virus sweeping across the world.

Most activity providers prepared for a few weeks of closure and at worse a few months understanding the need to try to fight the pandemic as a nation together. Few predicted at that time we’d still be facing enforced closure and similar challenges a year on. 

It’s safe to say it’s been an arduous year for the children’s activities sector and providers across the UK.

Governmental U-turns, tiering systems, devolved nation disagreements, unclear and often conflicting guidelines not fit for our industry, home-schooling demands, lack of financial support for many, Brexit, Black Lives Matter and an urgent need to maintain some income and semblance of routine for ourselves and our customers. Of course, the pandemic will have impacted the health of some of you and your family too.

The mental strain is palpable.

However, in that time we’ve seen the sector unite. Collaborations, new friendships, strengthened franchise networks, new business models created, new ideas started and generally working together to survive. Dare we say, ICAP may not have even been created and we think that would have been a shame.

The success of the vaccine programme has been a beacon of hope. While not all UK nations have been clear on the next steps, for those in England the roadmap has been generally well received and our sector is ready to go again. Optimism is growing day by day and week by week that there are no more major bumps in the road.

Many of you may have operated online throughout the year and had success. We’re incredibly excited to see the hybrid business models and service offerings that will continue beyond Covid-19. This said, we know the majority will be keen to return both inside and outside as soon as possible and early demand shows families up and down the country will be desperate to get children back into activities.

We cannot remember a time where our sector was so clearly needed in local communities.

TES pointed out recently that parents are more concerned right now about their child’s wellbeing over their educational achievements. Of course both areas are essential to child development and this only highlights the critical importance of children’s activity services regardless of your niche or offering.

If we put business survival aside (and we don’t say that lightly) the needs of children absolutely have to be a key focus for society moving forward and the great news you already know is, your services and programmes have been, and will continue to be, a key part of that. Activity providers should celebrate the difference they all continue to make every single day for the families they support.

We wanted to celebrate and show our support for children’s activity providers and as part of World Poetry Day this Sunday we put some creative words together (be kind, we’re a work in progress)…

One fateful evening, when we were told to promptly lockdown,
Boris’ announcement was met with a collective sector frown.

Providers re-grouped, adapted and pivoted online,
A sector united, things were going to be just fine.

Days turned to weeks, then turned to months,
Was it too much to ask for clear guidelines for once?

Terms not fitting and the great support group debate,
A sector under strain, what division this might create?

Lockdown one, lockdown two, lockdown three,
Stay at home, for us it’s online only you see.

A vaccine, a roadmap, time to go again,
Our sector is ready, resolve shall remain.

Providers educate, entertain and inspire,
So be brave, be bold and set the world on fire.

A tough year, with many losing much financial wealth,
Let’s come back stronger, to support children’s physical & mental health.

With challenge comes opportunity, we shall not forget,
Children need us now, good examples we must set.

We look forward to seeing you all return stronger and wiser over the coming months. Best of luck!

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence

Pip Wilkins

Pip Wilkins is the Chief Executive of the British Franchise Association (bfa). With 25 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry. She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge. Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a regular judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards, the Franchise Marketing Awards and Global Franchise Awards. Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Theo Millward

Theo Millward is a graduate of Lancaster University with a BBA in Management. In 2016 Theo purchased UK swim school, Swimtime from the founders which teaches 20,000 children a week. Following a multi-award- winning digital transformation, during the global pandemic, Theo and his team founded Franscape, a saas that digitally transforms Franchise brands. FranScape won New Business of the Year at the UK Business Awards.

Andy Georgiou

Andy is the Founder of ICAP and a leading UK Franchise Business Consultant. He is fiercely committed to helping children’s activity providers build successful and profitable businesses. With qualifications in Business Management, Digital Media and Marketing, he has helped build, advise and grow leading 6 and 7 fiqure children’s education, sports and activity brands in the past 17 years.

Frank Sahlein

Frank has been active in the Children’s Activity Center industry as an athlete, coach, business owner, consultant and business broker. He is a native of San Mateo, California and graduated from San Jose State University in California (USA).
Frank was a pioneer of the Children’s Learning Opportunity Center concept from 1976 – 2016 at the Wings Center in Boise, Idaho (USA) – a blend of Sports Instruction, Arts, Education, Entertainment and Outreach programs.
As a business management innovator, Frank has delivered over 1,000 presentations for a variety of Children’s Activity Center industries such as gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, martial arts/ninja and child care/education.
3rd Level Consulting is a Business Development and Service Provider Partner for private industry companies, associations, and organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Panama.
Two-time recipient of the National Business Leader Award from USA Gymnastics, Frank is the author of “Building Your Business Potential” and “Designing Your Empowered Life”. He is the creator of the SmartEDGE™ Business Applications and Management Certification Courses. He is the co-founder of LEAP Learning and the MetaSpheres Corp, and is the founder and Executive Director of the International Association of Child Development Programs.
His passions include his beautiful wife Lourdes Gonzalez, family, friends, fitness training, transformational reading and travel.