The children’s activities sector is bouncing back. Are you ready?

There appears to be a spring in the step across the sector.

A roadmap out of lockdown, some warmer weather and huge demand for children’s activities has significantly lifted spirits. This is long overdue. The events of the past 12 months have been the most testing in our sector’s short history and children’s activity providers have had to show resilience, courage and patience in equal measure to get through it, but that’s just what we’ve done.

There’s more to do of course.

While the vaccine roll out across the UK has been a success to date and it appears most of the data continues moving in the right direction, it makes sense to plan ahead with a sense of cautious optimism. With schools across many parts of the UK returning next week, we may need to hold our breathe for what could be a final bump in the road to recovery.

We know there are some concerns in parts of the UK about the return of children’s activities. We’ve voiced our concerns with MSPs in Scotland about a lack of clarity in their roadmap and how this impacts providers. We’ve also backed a new petition in Wales that’s taking off to get a date for the return of baby and toddler groups. You can sign that here.

However, overall the immediate future looks a lot brighter than a month or so ago. The countries economic recovery is being in part fuelled by strong demand in sectors like ours.

We’ve spoken to a number of children’s activity business owners in the past week who have started advertising their in person classes, clubs and camps once again and have sold out faster than ever before. Those who have been operating for key workers will know this demand has been there for months.

There’s a few useful things you can make sure you’re doing ahead of restarting in person activities:

1. Plan for a Covid-Safe return
Providers will need to continue operating with all the extra protocols they had in place last year and before lockdown so extra cleaning, sanitising, reducing the sharing of equipment, risk assessments, venue ventilation, mask wearing (as appropriate) will all need to be considered.

2. Track and traceability
If you’re still not using an online booking system, this is a good time to consider the merits from a health and safety point of view as much as a admin efficiency perspective.

3. Continue to invest in marketing
It’s easy to fall into the trap of not continue to invest in marketing simply because you’ve got fully booked classes/clubs now, but this is an area of business that pays to continue spending on. Do it wisely and keep it lean, but don’t ever stop. This list of low cost marketing ideas may be helpful.

4. Use the time you have now to consider the direction you’re heading
If you haven’t already thought about this, now is a good time to make sure your business plans are in sync with where you really want to go. Yes, you’ll need the boost of short-term cash flow and selling services should be a priority but having a plan will always hold you in good stead for both the short and long-term so try not skip this task.

We also want to mention the importance of believing in new beginnings.

Whether you’ve been running your business for 5 months, 5 years or 50 years, this year may feel something like a fresh start. We’d encourage you to use that to energise your business. Try to leave the frustrations of the past year behind and go again – don’t be frightened to go big.

You’ll see a picture below of where some famous companies once started. It’s not always glamorous running a business but with enough focus, determination and hard-work believe in yourself to build something remarkable.

Let’s use the next few months as a platform to rebuild our businesses and boost the lives of children who, as we all know, will need our support more than ever before.

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.