The Little Gym of Chicago is more than just Adam Stone’s business, it’s where families and friends reach milestones and make lifetime memories.
“Little Gym is my happiest place, it’s the place where I watched my daughter take her first steps,” said Stone. “I've seen parents watch their children take their first crawls. I've seen my coaches develop as amazing instructors.”
The Little Gym, a children’s gym franchise, is a motor skill development facility for children between the ages of four months to 12 years old that uses gymnastics as a foundation for its curriculum. Stone is a franchisee and his location has ranked as one of Little Gym’s top performers in regards to enrollment, with over 1,000 kids registered. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, 2020 was shaping up to be another successful year for Stone.
“We were tracking approximately 5% higher than expected for the year, pre COVID-19,” said Stone. “When we did have to close our doors, we were at 1,002 children, which we were insanely happy about because, system-wide, enrollments were averaging at approximately 378 children.”
Stone told Fox Business that he suspended operations at Little Gym Chicago on March 16 with every intention of reopening on March 30th. That, however, was not able to happen until July 6, and Stone jumped into action and pivoted by April. He proactively added makeup classes and family credits to all accounts in order to cover missed sessions during the pandemic closures. He also began arranging online classes-- first on Facebook, and then on Zoom.
“Facebook classes felt one-sided, but once we were able to implement Zoom classes, our instructors were able to see the smiles on the children’s faces and that really energized our instructors,” said Stone. “We were able to see how the parents were really excited that their children were once again being able to interact with their instructors.”
Stone explained that it was tougher to teach the younger children via Zoom. For the older age groups, he was able to arrange Zoom private lessons, which enabled the children to maintain the skills they had learned pre-pandemic.
When he was finally able to reopen on July 6, Stone explained that the business still had to pivot to adapt to the new COVID-19 landscape. The changes include altering the lobby and adding floor markers to support social distancing, limiting the numbers of children and parents in classes, and maintaining Zoom private lessons and makeup classes.
“We're shifting our class offering perspectives to support families that need multi-hour experiences for their children during the work day, so now we are offering camps that we've typically done throughout the summer -- in the fall,” said Stone.
Stone also launched private play dates as an opportunity for families to have exclusive use of the facility to let their children burn energy and have fun in Little Gym’s safe, clean environment. Stone told Fox Business that given the expectations and the specifications of social distancing, he’s hoping to hit capacity again, which is now about 500 children or approximately 60% of the enrollments compared to the same time last year.
“We've been around for 17 years and I really want the Little Gym Chicago to be back to being full of laughing and happy children and instructors that are excited to see kids grow and hit all these new milestones,” said Stone. “We're all going to make it through this, and it's going to be one day at a time. We're going to do it.”
For more on how Little Gym Chicago franchisee Adam Stone is adapting his business during the coronavirus pandemic, watch the full video above.