John is the co-founder and Managing Director of Americas Franchising Group in Miami, Florida. As John takes on a new role at We Rock the Spectrum as the Franchise Development Director, we sat down with him to discuss his position with the franchise, why he got involved with our mission, and what he sees in store for the future.
Why don’t you start with telling me a little about yourself and your company?
I own a franchise consulting firm in Miami, Florida and we work with franchisors — specifically in this case We Rock the Spectrum — to help the business find the right kind of franchise owners. That’s our business model: matching the right kind of owners with the franchise for mutual benefit and long term success.
What does your new role at We Rock the Spectrum encompass?
In early August of 2015, we partnered with We Rock the Spectrum’s Corporate Office to help inform, educate, and qualify potential owners on what We Rock the Spectrum is all about. As you know this is a very special business and given that fact, we look for very special people to become franchisees.
Once potential owners contact us, it’s my job to take them through the inquiry process, starting with the initial qualifications and going all the way through to getting their signature on the franchise agreement.
There are many steps in-between for which we have a methodical process we go through — with making sure that each of the potential owners understand We Rock the Spectrum, who we are, what we do, and what our mission is — in order to make sure they understand our culture and believe 100% in our mission and vision.
What do you look for in a qualified We Rock the Spectrum gym owner?
Believe it or not, most of our owners have not been entrepreneurs before, which is very unique. With other franchise systems, it’s expected that the potential owners have some business experience. But what we are looking for first and foremost is that these owners understand the special needs community — after all, that’s what this brand is really about. We service these families in the community who so desperately need a home like We Rock The Spectrum.
We naturally attract parents of children with special needs, including autism, and even professionals in the field concerning autism — We frequently receive inquiries from occupational therapists, ABA therapists, and speech pathologists. Sometimes our franchisee candidates are parents of special needs kids who have become licensed professionals out of sheer necessity. They enter these careers as a way to help their own family and the broader community at large.
Aside from that, we want to make sure that potential gym owners understand what the financial requirements are. We review that information in detail through our franchise disclose document (FDD), but we need to make sure they have met the basic financial requirement for the franchise. We want to make sure they are a good fit culturally, meaning that they understand what we are trying to do from a business’s perspective. They need to support our mission and vision.
We are a very diverse group. Special needs does not discriminate by race, religion, age, or anything. It’s in every community and every community needs the types of services that a WRTS provides.
What is your vision for We Rock the Spectrum?
This is something Dina and I talk about a lot. This is going to be a major brand not just around the states, but around the world in this category, because — as I said earlier — special needs doesn’t discriminate by geography. It doesn’t matter what country you are in, or what age group, or income level — your life and your loved ones could be affected with special needs.
Particularly, in smaller communities, we find that there’s a lack of services and opportunities for people with special needs. In remote communities or maybe in countries that don’t have awareness of what special needs are or how to gain special intervention, we could give these families in those communities a way to support themselves and also work toward a higher goal of awareness, inclusion, and compassion.
We are more than a sensory gym; we are a platform for the special needs community. The owners really understand that and deliver on that vision. We have a tremendous opportunity, and we are growing due to the great owners and staff we have on our team.
How did you first hear about We Rock the Spectrum and what attracted you to learn more?
So it was sort of serendipitous, actually. We had a client from Brazil that was describing this kind of a business. She was a successful occupational therapist and was moving to the United States, so she asked me if there were any types of franchises that did what We Rock the Spectrum does. After listening to her for some time I said, “You know. I have no idea. It’s a great question!” and I started looking around and did a Google search of “autism and sensory gym” and the first hit that I received was We Rock the Spectrum – Boca Raton.
I picked up the phone and Gail [Owner of We Rock the Spectrum – Boca Raton] answered. After talking to her for a bit and explaining why I called, she recommended that I call West Coast Corporate. A little later that day, and I was on the phone with Dina Kimmel, CEO and Founder. We started a dialogue about her personal story and the amazing inspiration she had for the We Rock the Spectrum brand.
In a period of over 4-6 months we talked several times to discuss personal experiences. She shared her story about Gabriel with my wife and I — about how she had to take matters into her own hands as any good mother does. After Gabriel’s diagnosis, she created the solution for her family, which is We Rock the Spectrum. It wasn’t until Clearwater’s grand opening though that we actually met in person.
My wife and I have been very involved with autism awareness for some years now. We always felt an attraction to it, and we know what these families go through. It is something that we believe in. This business is not just about making money, it’s about our purpose first and that by doing good you have the opportunity to make a living as well. It’s a pretty unique opportunity.
What’s your favorite piece of our sensory-safe equipment?
The zip line — are you kidding me? I love it. Tons of fun. The monkey bars are cool too. I also like the swings. My son and I go on the swings together, and they have no problem holding me. The trampoline is awesome and I love the rope ladder. I like all of those, but the zip line is my favorite.
What are the first steps you recommend someone take who is interested in owning a gym?
Go to www.wrtsfranchise.com/franchise-benefits and fill out the “Contact Us” form and then I — or someone from my team — will contact you directly. We handle the entire process from the beginning and we give everyone personal and special attention. We want to make sure we have the right owners coming on board, and that they really understand the purpose and this opportunity and are 100% comfortable and confident that this is the right decision for them. This has got to work both ways.
We will ask questions about their financials in their opening call and we will explain the process. We want to learn more about them and their story. Sure, they should prepare for a discussion about the financial, but the introductory call is a background call.