By 2004, he was approached to “buy out” his largest competitor in Forest Hill, Maryland. They offered a traditional curriculum and simply could not compete. The profits from his first two schools made this possible.
In 2005, he built location #4 in Severna Park. The construction problems and landlord issues were significant with this project. This got Gary thinking about a better way to do it. But, the profits kept rolling in.
In 2006, he built another school in Columbia, Maryland. Once again, the construction delays were significant and landlord issues costly. There had to be a better way!
In 2007, Karen Roth joined the company on a full time basis. KIDS FIRST® built the current Home Office. This 2000 square foot facility includes a conference room, work stations and even warehouse space. It housed a growing team of people that support our field operations. We spent considerable time thinking about what activities needed to be centralized (in the Home Office) and what should stay decentralized (in the Field). We implemented those changes. And, we started to explore automation as a solution for a number of functions. KIDS FIRST® was preparing for what was to come.
In 2008, we formed the KIDS FIRST® Construction Company. We brought onboard a full time President, Dan Muffoletto, and charged him with developing the fastest, most efficient way to build theses facilities. We knew that in order to grow the company at the rate we planned, that we had to have control of the construction process. We had learned that valuable lesson with the construction of the last two facilities. In 2008 the KIDS FIRST® Construction Company was building new schools.
By the end of 2010, we had added four new schools in Elkton, Bowie, Finksburg and Rockville, Maryland. The KIDS FIRST® Construction Company oversaw each of these projects and in doing so, proved that we did not have to “reinvent the wheel” each time we build a new school. Dan Muffoletto, President, has assembled a team of architects, engineers and contractors that know and understand our unique requirements.
With each new school, we have gotten better and wiser. The “state of the art” school of today, has large benches built as learning stations across the shallow end of the pool.
The kids and instructors love them. Women’s Locker Rooms are bigger and more accommodating. We have experimented with every type of chlorination system available and decided on the one most capable of dealing with our high bather loads. We struggled with and overcame the HVAC demands that these pools produce (ask us about negative pressure!). We have determined the most suitable building materials for our facilities. We developed a training curriculum and attached it to our compensation system. We dealt with our insurance issues and have our own specially priced Liability and Workers Compensation Insurance program. We negotiated and achieved pricing breaks for all the retail merchandise we sell and all the pool and office supplies we purchase. We did extensive analysis regarding automation solutions and came to an interesting conclusion. We could go on and on. It has been a fabulous first ten years of learning and progress.
In 2010, with the guidance of McGrow Consulting of Boston, KIDS FIRST® Swim Schools began to sell franchises. We believe that we have learned our lessons well over the past ten years and we are ready to share these lessons with other aspiring swim school operators.
In 2011 Kids First swim schools sold its first three franchises in Dundalk, MD, Philadelphia PA, and Charleston, SC. We also built two corporate schools in Bel Air, MD and Hockessin, DE and this winter plan to add on Waldorf, MD and Germantown, MD. We see value in owning and operating schools and we are committed to building this company shoulder to shoulder with our franchise partners. We practice what we preach.
Who knows what the future holds for any of us. However, often our past presents a pretty good indication of what our future holds. And, if KIDS FIRST® past is any indication, the next ten years will offer tremendous growth opportunities for both the company and those that elect to partner with the company. We look forward to working with you to make the KIDS FIRST® Swim Schools the standard for swimming instruction in America and sharing with you the rewards of that journey.