Friday, June 8, 2012

Helping Children Lead Healthy, Active Lifestyles

One woman's journey to become a business owner for a gym on wheels. 

Jennifer Shrodes’ journey to become a small business owner began on a very important day, when her son Emerson turned seven on March 27, 2011.   For her son’s birthday party, Shrodes rented Tumblebus, a mobile gymnasium designed for children ages 2-8 that arrived to her house in the form of a modified school bus.  “When I hired the Tumblebus for my son’s birthday party, I sat and watched 11 kids laugh for an entire hour,” said Shrodes.  “I thought ‘how awesome’ it was to enjoy the laughter of the children…I really enjoyed how I felt.” 

Before the Tumblebus party, Shrodes had already begun a thought process to find another job or start a new business to supplement her income.  Shrodes had been working as an Escrow Officer for 11 years, and with the challenging housing market, the small title company she worked for was struggling for customers. 
Inspired by the birthday party experience, Shrodes spoke with her friend, who was the owner of the Tumblebus at the time to learn more about the franchise.  Shrodes’ conversation revealed that her friend was looking for someone to partner with to sustain the business.

Shrodes began to explore the prospective business opportnity and reached out to the Service Corporation of Retired Executives (SCORE) for some initial guidance.  SCORE referred Shrodes to the Ogden Small Business Development Center, where Center Director, Beverly King, helped her explore financing and the partnership agreement.  Within a couple of months of initating the partnership, the previous owner decided that she wanted to sell the franchise.  King then helped Shrodes develop a business plan, a budget and explore financing so that Shrodes could purchase the business, bus and equipment.  

In October, Shrodes received a loan and acquired Tumblebus in November 2011.  “The whole loan process was a mystery to me,” said Shrodes.  “Had it not been for Beverly, I don’t think I would have gotten the loan.”  Shrodes continues to work with King at the SBDC for marketing strategies and bi-annual consultations to gauage the progress of the business. 

In the six months since Shrodes has acquired the business,  she has contracted with  11 day care centers and pre-schools throughout Davis and Weber county to provide weekly and bi-monthly visits.  Shrodes has also hosted Tumblebus sessions for business events, birthday parties and community events.  The gym on wheels has been a great way for children in the region to learn a variety of healthy physical activites in a fun and safe environment and play on a variety of equipment including a balance beam, monkey bars, a climbing wall and more.  

Though the path of small business ownership has been a challenge at times, Shrodes finds the experience very rewarding.  “I don’t have a business ownership background,” said Shrodes. “But with the support I have gotten from my family, customers and the community–I am a successful entrepreneur.