Mum of two Penny Holbrook used her experience working in Early Years to create a physical play programme for young children – and is now franchising the business across the UK. She explains how she got started.
What’s your career background?
I have worked extensively in Early Years settings for the last 20 years. Before launching Mini Monkey Gym I was a pre-school teacher at an International School in Germany.
Using both the experience and skills I obtained over the years I created the Mini Monkey Gym physical play programme.
How did your career change after you became a mum?
I was looking for an opportunity to work around my little ones as they grow up while doing something that I love. I wanted the flexibility that working for yourself brings and therefore decided to set up my own business in the early years sector.
What inspired you to start Mini Monkey Gym, and what makes it great?
Mini Monkey Gym was launched in 2009 after extensive market research. I am passionate about promoting children’s physical development and really understand the importance of movement experiences from a very early age therefore I created a unique physical play programme.
Mini Monkey Gym fills a real gap in the market as a class which uses all soft equipment on a fully soft matted area, allowing for freedom of movement, creativity and increased motor skill development.
When did you get the idea of creating a franchise?
Right from the very beginning my long term goal was to franchise Mini Monkey Gym, therefore the company was started very professionally and branded right from the launch day – so much so that people assumed we already were a franchise!
I saw the market to offer other like-minded mums and dads the opportunity to join the Mini Monkey Gym network and have worked hard the last five years perfecting all our methods.
How easy has it been to build a franchise model?
Building a franchise model has been lots of hard work and dedication. I have worked together with great franchise development professionals and a top franchise lawyer who helped me create the documents needed to go forward with the franchise operation.
How have you funded it?
I have funded part through myself and part through a business loan.
How is the business going so far?
Mini Monkey Gym Norwich is going from strength to strength as our membership base grows and the work from organisations, nurseries and private parties increases year on year as our name and reputation spreads.
We are excited to have gained our very first franchisee who will be launching classes in Yorkshire in September this year.
What’s your average work day like?
My work days vary as I have a two year old and a seven year old so I juggle a lot! On my office mornings I will spend time touching base with members, organising new contracts, ordering stock, booking promotional dates and sessions, the list can go on…!
As my youngest is not yet in full time nursery or school I do work around her as much as possible and find myself working early mornings or late nights to enable us to enjoy time together going to the park, toddler groups etc. I currently have an amazing class manager who manages all my Norwich classes to enable me to concentrate on the franchising side of the business.
We are still in contact with many of our franchise leads from the two big launch shows we attended this year and hope to announce our second franchisee very soon!
Who is your idea franchisee and why should they buy a franchise?
My ideal franchisee is someone who really understands the ethos of the Mini Monkey Gym programme and someone who loves working with children.
A real people person is also important as well as someone who has a healthy lifestyle and who understands the importance of physical play from an early age.
What’s your vision for Mini Monkey Gym in five years time?
I would like to see Mini Monkey Gym steadily grow throughout the UK with perhaps a little bit of expansion outside of the UK as worldwide interest for our programme grows.
Who inspires you?
Women who, despite everything, follow their dreams and make things happen. I really do believe that anything is possible if you are passionate and determined in what you do.
I also find women who have followed a similar route to me and created a wonderful brand from scratch and franchised the business model worldwide very inspiring!
What advice do you have for other mums who may want to launch their own franchise model?
Find out as much as you can about franchising and assess whether your business would make a good franchise model. Seek guidance and take advantage of as much free business and franchise advice available.
To franchise properly takes a lot of money, time and hard work, but if you are determined you will succeed!
You can find out more about Mini Minkey Gym on their website.