Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with Lori Testa, owner of The Little Gym of Montclair, New Jersey.
About the Business
The Little Gym of Montclair offers Toddler classes, Gymnastics classes, and Parent Child classes as well as Sports Skills, Dance, and Tumbling classes, seven days a week. The Little Gym’s friendly and professionally trained instructors provide a supportive and nurturing environment for children ages four months through twelve years old to have fun while building motor skills. The equipment helps with coordination, while the professionally developed curriculum promotes listening, emotional and social skills. For Lori, a fitness enthusiast and mother of three children, opening and managing the gym fulfills a lifelong dream of working with children and promoting a healthy and fit lifestyle. When asked what she loves most about her business, Lori said “I just adore the children. I love seeing that smile on their face when they run in here and can’t wait to get in the gym. I love watching them develop.” About this time a group of six 3 year old girls arrived for dance class, and I got to see exactly what she was talking about. I saw the skipping. I saw the smiles. During class I saw the dance instructor giving out high-fives to tumblers while the girls waiting their turn were hugging each other, twirling, or waving to Mom, Dad or grandparents on the other side of the glass. Lori explained that the children are encouraged to take risks and allowed to develop at their own pace, while receiving positive feedback along the way. Instructors point out what they did right and how they can improve rather than what they did wrong. This approach helps kids develop self-confidence and a healthy mindset about athletics. For the kids, the gym is just a place to have fun, but it might also lead to healthy habits that last a lifetime. The Little Gym has full time employees and they also rely on part-timers, typically college students who stay two to three years. Lori hires students from Montclair State University who are in school to become teachers. Lori and team take time to train them to teach well, and in this way they are helping to shape the next generation of teachers. Lori explained how, for the little ones, The Little Gym is often the first interaction the kids have with a teacher. Their experience here prepares them to interact with a teacher on a positive basis.
Using Technology to Grow this Business
At The Little Gym they don’t use much paper. The franchise headquarters has developed an original and proprietary program, the Operations Management System, which provides the ability to track all of the day-to-day operations such as registrations, payments, and attendance. This tool can also output more than 20 critical reports that help Lori manage and grow her business. As a franchise owner, Lori accesses this system via an online portal which houses essential information on all aspects of the business, including curriculum, training, marketing and business operations. Lori said “We are accessing the portal all the time. Without access to the system it would be a lot harder to operate.” In the lobby, they have wireless access so parents can get online if needed,while their child is in class. The wireless password when I visited: SeriousFun
At Technical Adventures we provide a wide array of IT services for The Little Gym franchise owners at multiple locations. Lori has been a client since 2007 and she recently opened a second location, The Little Gym of Caldwell, NJ, with her partner Devlin Hunt. We make recommendations based on what we know about her environment, her business and her budget. This week included replacing older equipment running Windows XP to address security issues due to Windows XP no longer being supported by Microsoft. Next, we implemented VirtuIT™ Managed Services. VirtuIT services allow the technical services team to be proactive instead of reactive, saving the business time and money. “With our VirtuIT managed services, The Little Gym can expect to save upwards of 30% on their overall IT spending. These services will increase uptime and therefore productivity,” says Technology Advisor Danny Soares. We also deployed an Apple TV for the front lobby, turning it into a nice viewing area. This is being used to show videos about different types of classes. Many families get introduced to The Little Gym via Awesome Birthday Bashes. Now, while they are in the lobby, kids and parents will see videos showing the curriculum they offer and perhaps become interested in coming back for regular classes.
I enjoyed my visit with Lori and learning more about The Little Gym. Being in the gym brought out the kid in me, and next time I go back I would like to try out the equipment. Visit The Little Gym of Montclair at 1 Greenwood Avenue, Suite 3, Montclair, NJ 07042 Visit The Little Gym of Caldwell at 353 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell, NJ 07006 ~ Kathy Miller