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Meet Rachel Benson of George’s Gym

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Benson.

Rachel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
George’s Gym was created in July of 2008. With only $2000 of startup money, I decided to go completely mobile, as I wanted to create a business model that required no accumulation of debt and maintained as little overhead as possible. This allowed me to maximize our profit and actually see a profit within the first couple of months.

I also wanted to create a business that would be affordable for many people. I feel all children deserve the same quality of programming no matter their socioeconomic status. With the money, we save in being mobile, we are able to charge less for our parties and some of our programs. Thus, reaching a wider range of clients.

Further, I aimed to create programs that were easily customized for each group. No child/class is exactly the same and doesn’t have the exact same needs/wants. So why should they all have the same class or party? So, I created a framework of lesson plans that can be modified for each unique class or event.

Lastly, after working in many various children’s businesses over the years, it was my goal to create policies that were truly family centered instead of profit based. For example, we allow our clients to tell us the best time slot for their class or party and length of their sessions. I’ve found this is preferred over choosing from a list of times and being locked into a session based on what works best for the company, not the client. We also allow parents to miss classes with no penalty if their child is sick. We encourage our parents to not spread germs instead of fearing they will lose out on money if they aren’t in attendance. We also charge no deposit to hold Birthday Party time slots and we allow our clients to pay week by week for classes instead of an entire session all at once!

We began in the North Shore in Glenview working in private homes with groups of multiple families. Through word of mouth we were working all over the North Shore within a year. Within four years, I began hiring staff and expanding into Chicago. By the fifth year, I was modifying our programming and pricing to create options, for schools, daycares and camps. Now as we are approaching our 9th year of business, we have even further expanded our staff and are working everywhere in Chicago and the North Shore. We still have many clients that are individual families or groups of families, but we also serve many schools such as The British International School of Chicago, Camps such as the JCC Apachi Daycamp, as well as multiple Daycares all over Chicagoland. George’s Gym has also remained virtually debt free throughout the 8+ years of business and has maintained the low overhead mobile business model, allowing families and organizations with all different types of budgets to have access our programs.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t think any small business has had a “smooth road” to success. Like many businesses, George’s Gym has certainly had some growing pains over the years. From creating exactly the right programs, to finding the right level of pricing to maintain our business model, it certainly has not been easy!

We’ve struggled in the past to create policies that allow our clients flexibility, but at the same time ensure we can pay our staff. We’ve also struggled, as many children’s businesses do, with finding the right kind of “George’s Gym Instructor” and discovering the best way to train them for such a one of a kind company. Being mobile, we’ve had to learn to navigate weather issues and Chicago traffic!

But through it all, I’ve maintained focus on putting my client’s needs first and what is best for the children we work with. I feel so long as we center everything around them, their learning and their growth, then we always come out on top!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about George’s Gym – what should we know?
We are a completely mobile business for children that brings all of our programs wherever you desire! We offer: Tumbling Classes for ages 2.5-14; Parent/Child Motor Skill Development Classes for 6 months-2 years; Fun Fitness Classes for Schools, Daycares, Camps and other organizations; Our own original program called Play-dates With a Twist for ages 2.5-12 years old; Lastly, customized themed Birthday Parties for ages 1-12.

For all of our programs we have a learning through play approach! Playing is what children do naturally and every person learns/retains the most when they are interested in the material. Therefore, our constant goal is to keep them engaged by using games and activities that children find “fun” as teaching tools.

In addition to children having an absolute blast while they learn and move, our customized programs work really well for groups of varying ages. Instead of parents having to enroll their children (who may only be a couple of years apart) in two separate classes, we create a class that works for both of them and that class comes right to your house for the ultimate level of convenience!

We bring fully trained, background checked, super energetic staff and all the equipment needed to execute your class or party. We can work in any space with almost any sized group. Our Parties and Play-dates With a Twist can also be used for entertainment at any party of any kind. From 1 child for a private lesson to 100 children at an event, we always bring the fun to you!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My Mom has been a huge support for me and my company. She has always been my biggest cheerleader and always there to talk things out. She keeps me going when I want to quit and celebrates with me when I’m soaring high. She also gives me reality checks when I’m totally losing it.

I also must credit the Lakeview Leads Clubs in my expansion into Chicago. They were hugely instrumental in spreading the word about my company. They also helped to teach me how to present myself as a business owner and really sell my brand. Not to mention how many businesses I’ve found through them, that I now use to keep my business going on a day to day basis.

My biggest supporters have of course been my clients. I have multiple clients that have worked with me for over 5 years continuously. So many families have used us for their oldest and then continued to use us as their younger children became old enough. I find it amazing how many 3rd generation George’s Gym clients we have!

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