On an increasing level, parents are seeking sensory-sensitive activities for their children. As the number of diagnosed cases of autism continues to rise in the United States, it becomes increasingly more important that these children have creative outlets in places that do not overstimulate them or make them feel unwelcome. We Rock The Spectrum Kids’ Gym believes they have found a comfortable solution for both children and parents. Their sensory friendly gym spaces offer activities and after-school programs for all children to enjoy.
We Rock the Spectrum’s History
In September of 2010, Dina Kimmel opened the doors to the first We Rock the Spectrum gym. Her son, Gabriel, has autism and would often have a rough time in kids’ spaces due to sensory overload. His mother tried everything, including turning her own bedroom into a gym for Gabriel. With his own space, he thrived. He began eating better, sleeping better, and experiencing fewer meltdowns. It was clear that he needed the space to let out energy that was tailored to his needs and not overflowing with distractions. Even her neurotypical daughter enjoyed playing on the gym equipment.
After a conversation with a local gym owner who was going out of business, Dina decided to expand her gym for Gabriel. She leased the space and filled it specialized therapy equipment. Knowing that private occupational therapists charge exorbitant rates of $150+ per hour, she decided to open her space for Open Play for $12 per hour. She was soon overwhelmed with the number of families finding solace in her gym. They were elated to have a place where their children could enjoy themselves and exercise in an area that is not too overstimulating.
After several conversations with parents, as well as being inundated with calls and emails requesting that she open additional locations, Kimmel and her husband decided to start franchising the gym, to give more families around the country a safe space for their children to interact and play.
They began selling franchises in 2013. Within three years, they would have over 60 locations in 22 states around the country. In 2016, they decided to expand even further, by offering We Rock on Wheels, a sensory bus that takes the services of the gym directly to customers for birthday parties, festivals, and more.
Also in 2016, We Rock the Spectrum opened their first international location in Ara Damansara, Malaysia. Their expansion over the first three years of franchise sales points to an increasing market for sensory-friendly kid spaces. Children with disabilities, as well as neurotypical children, need places to be themselves, burn off energy, and have fun, without the fear of judgement or stigma.
The Offerings of We Rock the Spectrum
For a place like We Rock the Spectrum, flexibility in terms of services is incredibly important to parents. Especially for children on the spectrum, the way kids choose to express themselves can change on a daily basis. We Rock the Spectrum provides several options for kids to get their energy out, as well as places for them to take a few calming minutes to themselves.
The original concept of the gym is centered around Open Play. Currently, We Rock the Spectrum charges $12 for this and it allows children up to age 13 to enjoy the entire gym. All of the equipment, as well as the arts and crafts room, and the calming room are available to those who are there for Open Play.
They also offer birthday party packages. As a space that is meant for children of all abilities, We Rock the Spectrum has a plethora of equipment that will keep kids entertained for hours. The birthday party packages offer access to the entire gym space, as well specialized birthday party activities. They have several different levels of packages, based on what works best for the children involved.
We Rock the Spectrum also offers after-school programs for children of all ages and abilities. These programs are three hours long in the afternoon and last from 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM. The first hour of the program is dedicated to homework, where the children can complete their work in a quiet environment, with staff on hand to help when needed. The second hour is used as wind-down time for the children to participate in arts and crafts, coloring, or snacks. The final hour allows the children to use the entire gym as part of the Open Play format. Parents may sign their children up on a day-by-day basis, or for an entire week at a time.
Joining the We Rock the Spectrum Family
In an effort to provide these spaces and services to children across the country, We Rock the Spectrum sells their franchise licenses. They seek out franchisees whom they feel are good fits for the industry and environment. Working with children, especially those with special needs, is a sensitive arena and must be done correctly. To ensure the safety and comfort of all their patrons, We Rock the Spectrum is selective in regards to whom they sell their licenses.
Passing the application process and purchasing your license are merely the first steps to your We Rock journey. The license itself will cost between $35,000 and $50,000, presumably depending on the location of your gym. This license fee also includes 10 pieces of specialized sensory gym equipment that each We Rock location has in their gym. The startup costs required to get your gym open and running are estimated to be between $115,000 and $176,000. Compared to several other franchise opportunities, this startup cost estimation is significantly lower. The franchise license fee falls in the mid to high range, but the start up costs appear to be much smaller. This is surprising, considering the amount of specialized, sensory-friendly equipment that each gym contains.
Purchasing or leasing the space and buying the equipment will undoubtedly account for most of the startup costs required. The rest of that will go toward hiring and training staff, and stocking any inventory that may be necessary. The staffing is incredibly important, as it is necessary to have the right people working with this community. It is of the utmost importance that all children and their families who choose to utilize your gym’s features feel welcome, safe, and at home within its walls. Having qualified, well-trained staff will go a long way to ensure they do.
We Rock the Spectrum will also charge ongoing fees to the franchisee for the use of the business model and name. They are currently charging 5 percent in royalty fees and 2 percent in advertising fees. The franchisee will be responsible for paying these fees for the duration of the license period, which is 10 years. At the end of that period, should the franchisee choose to renew their license for an additional five years, they will continue to be charged the fees based on the percentages that are in place at the time the new contract is signed. The franchisor reserves the right to change the rate with each new contract that is signed.
We Rock the Spectrum’s Franchise Health
With a winning idea, We Rock the Spectrum has managed to capitalize on a business that makes sense in every community. Children of all abilities need places to go where they can get physical activity, unwind, and feel safe while doing it. Responding to the needs of the community by offering these services appears to be a solid business move. Researching the performance of the locations that are already open can give the future franchisee a glimpse into what to expect should they decide to open their own We Rock gym.
First let’s analyze their growth rate. In the first three years of selling franchise licenses, We Rock the Spectrum was able to get 60 locations open in 22 states. For such a short amount of time, that growth rate is impressive. In many cases, it can take brands several years before reaching out of their immediate territory, but We Rock has managed to tap into nearly half of the states in this country in an incredibly short amount of time.
Next, we observe their turnover rate. Unfortunately, it appears that We Rock as a very high turnover percentage rate of 39.17. This means that of the locations that have opened, 39.17 percent of them have either been transferred, terminated, reacquired, or not-renewed. Considering they have not yet been selling franchise licenses for 10 years, the length of the initial license period, we can probably assume that non-renewals play no role in this statistic. Since this piece of data does not break down and tell us how many are terminations, and how many are transfers or have been reacquired, it is impossible to say just how bad this number is. Either way, it isn’t good, but if a large portion of that percent is due to transfers, it may not be as bad as if they are all terminations.
Research into the company has found no record of average yearly incomes for each location. Having this piece of information would be incredibly beneficial to the potential franchisee, as it offers insight into the potential revenue versus cost analysis that most investors wish to see before handing over money for a license. Not knowing the approximate amount of money a location has the opportunity to make in a year may turn some franchisees away.
Joining the We Rock Movement
There’s no doubt that We Rock the Spectrum serves an active, necessary role in the communities in which they reside. Owning a gym for children of all abilities is a great way to be involved in the lives of the children around you, and to provide them with a service that is beneficial to their growth and development. Since most people who are looking to purchase a franchise are doing so as a means of supporting themselves and their families, they cannot make that decision off of its nobility alone. A franchisee must be confident in their chosen brand’s ability to be profitable.
While We Rock has certainly demonstrated some attributes of being a successful brand, it does not appear as if there is enough evidence to say for certain how profitable they can be. They have an exorbitant turnover rate, and do not provide figures for estimated yearly revenue. These pieces of information point to red flags within the system. Most successful franchisors enjoy bragging about the money that each of their locations bring in every year. They are aware that entrepreneurs are largely motivated by money, and seeing a large figure for yearly revenue is likely the pique their interest faster than any other statistic provided.
The high turnover rate is also a concern because a failed location for a franchisee can be devastating. Franchisees spend a lot of money to open their locations and to get them going. To have their We Rock gym go out of business would mean a huge loss to them financially, but also to their time and sweat put into the business. A potential owner who is most interested in We Rock for their industry and work with children, and less about the actual money, would still be wise to do more research into the reason for the high turnover rate. A franchisee less interested in the work with children and more for the potential earnings would probably be better suited with a different franchise option, perhaps something with a better-proven record of financial success.
We Rock the Spectrum is a great place for families with children on the spectrum who need a place to feel welcome. If they are able to sustain themselves and stay profitable, they would also be a good fit for any entrepreneur. With the lack of information to support their success, it’s hard to recommend this franchise to just anyone. The right person with the right motives may be able to take this brand and run with it, but the average franchisee should look elsewhere.