Portrait Of Children On Outdoor Activity Camping Trip Having Fun Playing Game Together

7 reasons to be optimistic about the future of your children’s activity business

We’re nearing the end of 2020 and what a year it’s been. 

Across the children’s activity sector, you’d struggle to find someone who hasn’t been significantly affected by Covid-19 and the impact it’s had on businesses.

It’s seen providers tested operationally, financially and emotionally and in alllikelihood been the most challenging few months most activity providers have ever experienced in their business.

However, we think there are reasons to be optimistic ahead of 2021(and not just because there might be a vaccine on its way!)

In a bid to change the narrative and dispel some of the gloom around our sector, here’s 7 reasons to start feeling the positive vibes.

1. Demand remains strong
Many providers who have been back operating ‘normal’ classes, clubs, camps and activity services have seen strong latent demand for their offering. We know historically the children’s activity sector has been growing year on year, healthy amounts of both supply and demand. However, perhaps it’s not until 2020 when we’ve seen activity providers forced to close down temporarily, just how important our sector is for the families across the UK. This importance breeds demand, demand breeds not only sales but also further awareness and awareness eventually leads to even more sales so it’s a compounding effect in play, and we should absolutely feel confident that our sector has a bright future.

2. You’ve shown resilience
Something that isn’t spoken or celebrated enough in business ownership is the small wins, the successes along the journey. Quite often we forget to pat ourselves on the back and the same can be said this year. 2020 has needed activity providers to dive deep into their resilience stores and in the face of adversity continue delivering excellent programmes and customer service, be it online or offline. This along with everything else providers are dealing with in their personal lives, shows incredible courage. The challenges are clearly far from over, but we think high 5s, fist bumps and double pats on the back for everyone are well deserved right now as we enter the final few weeks of the year. We spoke recently about ‘pragmatic optimism’ being a belief system that might hold providers in good stead over the coming months too.

3. Digital skills have been developed
At the beginning of this year, many providers delivered their services exclusively in person but a significant chunk of the sector have been forced online in some shape or form. Now, while we know many providers haven’t exactly been thrilled by having to deliver online, some have thrived and others have made significant changes to how their business operates and how their model will work in 2021 and beyond. During this period, digital skills have been learned by many and not only this, public speaking, confidence in front of cameras, adaptability and creative thinking have all been developed. While some say it’s been a year to forget, perhaps reframing some of that narrative to be more positive about what we’ve learnt about our businesses would be more productive. 

4. Online offerings are strong
We were extremely impressed by the speed and agility of providers to move their offering online back in March – not only did it happen essentially overnight, but the quality and consistency by many providers was great. There were no doubt bumps in the road in this period, but is that not essentially what business entails a lot of the time? Since then, we have seen many national franchise and independent brands develop a really strong online product able to compete comfortably and potentially rival their in person classes in the future. The power of building an online audience has become even more evident than before and business assets have been strengthened by those who have worked hard at an online offering.

5. People are developing their business
Sometimes it can be hard to see how your business is developing unless revenue and profits are increasing year on year. But we argue development can come in more than just financial growth (which may be a relief to those of you who anticipate a low income year). You need to understand your businesses weaknesses to be able to plug gaps, strengthen areas and tighten control – all these things, if acted upon, will serve to build your business asset and to some degree future proof your offering so when the next major challenge for your business arrives you’ll be more ready to take it in your stride and adapt easily.

6. Franchising will do well
If you’re a Franchisor, you’ve likely had to be much more reactive with support than normal. Supporting a franchise network is rarely plain sailing, even for the most successful of brands and this year has been tough. We acknowledge it’s likely that some franchisees simply won’t make it through this year still running their business for a multitude of reasons, so while franchisee churn might increase, we fully anticipate franchising will do well over the coming months/years. Historically it’s always done well in recessions, and while we face a different type of economic environment right now, the sheer number of redundancies, people changing career and those disengaged at work will lead to growth in franchising. If you’ve been considering franchising your business you may want to start here or download this guide.

7. Our sector’s voice is amplifying
There has been wide acknowledgement that the Government doesn’t particularly understand how the children’s activities sector works. While part of us is frustrated at this thought, we also understand that, as a sector, we are very young and fragmented. There have been a large number of people across our sector, including ICAP, lobbying for clearer guidance and in general better understanding of the integral role we play in educating, supporting and inspiring children and parents. This work has amplified our voice across the UK and this is a great opportunity to continue building on that as we move into 2021 so we don’t continue falling through gaps and that providers are better represented by membership bodies.

We wish the best of luck as we enter the final weeks of 2020.

If you liked this or any of our advice and support in the past, you may want to join the 200+ professionals benefitting from ICAP membership.

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.