1. Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your gym.
Hello we are Barb, Jenn, and Nicole: Owners of We Rock the Spectrum – Northeast Philly. Not only are we the first gym to open in Philadelphia, but we are the only gym currently in the state of Pennsylvania. We opened our doors on November 12, 2016. Our space is 3200 sq. ft. Besides all of the swings, zip line, imaginary play, rope and rock walls, our gym also features a tween room filled with games, books, and lounging area for those children who are a bit older. Our calming room features a book nook, donated by the free library of Philadelphia along with our tranquil turtle and comfy pillows to relax on.
2. How did you first learn about We Rock the Spectrum?
Nicole first came across the franchise through an article on the Huffington Post about the grand opening in Buffalo, New York. We were all immediately eager to learn more about this gym and possible franchise opportunities for our community. Barb reached out to corporate, and soon after we signed our contract and began our eventful journey as fellow members of the We Rock the Spectrum family.
3. What is your professional background?
Barbara was a part-time paraprofessional aide substitute in early intervention and autistic support classes for SPIN, Inc. in Northeast Philadelphia beginning in March of 2013. In September of the same year, she was hired for the permanent part-time position of Family Resource Coordinator. In that position, Barbara provided emotional support, as well as resource information, for parents. She held parent support group meetings at two locations each month, was the facilitator for sibling support groups, and served on the Philadelphia Autism Centers for Excellence advisory board.
Jenn and Nicole began their professional career the day after college graduation as Therapeutic Support Staff members at SPIN, Inc. We have had the opportunity to help children with autism in both the school and home setting while also creating connections with the families we support. Jenn also worked at the Summer Therapeutic Activities Program (STAP) and the afterschool program at her company.
4. What are three words that describe you?
Jenn: caring, passionate, and determined
Nicole: loyal, understanding, respectful
Barb: passionate, compassionate, and nurturing
5. What inspired you to open a We Rock the Spectrum gym?
Our biggest inspiration for opening this gym is Barb’s son/Jenn’s brother, Lenny. It would have been so amazing to have a place like this for Jenn, Lenny, and their brother Matthew to go to when they were young. It was always a struggle to find a place that all three could enjoy. It was obvious that Jenn would eventually work in some capacity with special needs children. She and Nicole are TSS for children with autism and after only one year working in their field, they knew there was a huge demand not being met in the community for children with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. Nicole found an article on Huffington Post about We Rock the Spectrum – Buffalo Southtowns and we knew we had to bring one to Philly.
6. How have you seen We Rock the Spectrum benefiting your community?
Not only have we been able to witness the beauty of all children playing together, but we have also seen the gym providing learning experiences for parents who no longer feel the need to apologize for their child’s behavior but rather are comfortable enough to teach other parents about their children. To have families leaving and saying how they feel “at home” with us brings us so much joy and shows that what we are doing is bigger than just providing a safe and fun environment for children to come together. We share in little moments of turn taking, social interactions, or even waving goodbye and know that for some of the children here that these are actually huge milestones being achieved.
7. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a franchisee?
We can all attest to how scary and difficult at times it can be to open up your own business. This journey was long and required all of our family and friends’ support to make this dream a reality. Waking up every day now though, knowing that we are helping the children of our community makes every step and setback we faced more than worth it in the end. Our advice is don’t let fear hold you back; if you have the passion and determination, you will do great things.
8. How has being a part of the We Rock the Spectrum family impacted your life thus far?
All three of us our first-time business owners so it was great to be able to reach out to owners who are already up and running with questions on things we had no prior knowledge to. We have the opportunity to hear from the owners all over the country (and now Malaysia too) and it’s nice to know that we have their support and are not on this journey alone.