Franchisor Profile: Thomas Bunchman, JumpBunch
Simply put, JumpBunch is a highly effective business model that brings sports to young children in a fun, engaging way. It was clearly the right service at the right time, and given my years as a franchisee, I was uniquely qualified to support and mentor franchisees, assisting each owner to reach full potential.
I was a franchisee for five years before founding and launching the unique JumpBunch concept in 1997.
The methods I created are an ideal way to tap into the rapidly expanding children sports and fitness niche. A wide variety of sports offerings (over 70 different activities) are our strength and our differentiator. We call our dynamic program a “friendly introduction” to sports.
From the proprietary music to the age-appropriate curriculum and equipment, every aspect of JumpBunch has been carefully researched and developed to be both fun and beneficial to the development of young minds and bodies. Today, children all over the world, from preschool through sixth grade, enjoy a wide variety of JumpBunch sports programs as well as birthday parties, camps, and the JumpBunch Kids Zone.
By expanding the JumpBunch concept through a franchise network starting in 2002, our team has been able to carefully select and train franchise owners who share the commitment and passion required to grow a business that makes a real positive impact on childhood development.
To this day, the best barometer of success is the feedback heard as children first experience JumpBunch. Invariably, they have a great time and it’s clear to parents, teachers and host organizations that the structured activities provide enrichment on several levels.
I ran my local mobile sports and fitness business in and around Annapolis, Maryland for several years beginning in 1997.
The concept was very well received, so the search was on to determine the best way to expand. Ultimately that took the form of franchising, which made sense due to my franchisee background. The first JumpBunch franchise was awarded in 2002; that franchisee is still happily conducting her successful JumpBunch business.
Since then, along with my carefully chosen team, we have been instrumental in leading a franchisee force of over fifty JumpBunch locations in twenty-two states, as well as in India and the Middle East. I used my hands-on knowledge of the model to teach JumpBunch franchisees how to effectively conduct their businesses. But knowing I couldn’t do it alone, many professional third-party vendors and advisors were engaged. This included an advertising agency, technology companies, fulfillment centers, equipment suppliers, and class management systems, to name a few.
JumpBunch is guided by the desire to create an “experience” for kids, much like Disney or Chuck E. Cheese’s. This helps create brand awareness and loyalty.
We want JumpBunch to be a household name for young children!
The following bullet points sum up our philosophy regarding JumpBunch franchisees. It is the guiding light for our corporate guidance and direction:
- Stay focused on the core product
- Be patient in growing your business
- Analyze and increase profitability
- Provide an entrepreneurial path
- Support during challenges (but not eliminate them)
- Accountability for what you control
- Engage to give back as you take
We also have annual and regional franchisee conferences. These include top-notch speakers who provide their unique input about business. We also make regular field visits to all franchisees and have a Franchisee Advisory Council to provide franchisee input.
This has been a fantastic journey working with fantastic franchisees, but has not been without some bumps in the road. There is always competition, which means staying sharp and constantly refining and improving systems. Businesses and concepts come and go, so it is vital to “keep your ear to the ground” to stay relevant. Managing people and balancing the many different personalities requires empathy and strength. Sometimes, just listening goes a long way to help move an individual business forward. Having top-notch support staff who franchisees trust is also crucial. We grade ourselves once a year with franchisee validation surveys, which have been consistently great (Best in Category for many years), but we know we’re not perfect, so these surveys provide valuable visibility into areas that could use some improvement.
JumpBunch is a well-rounded, fun, and successful franchise business, recently earning the #1 ranking in the child services category in the 2016 Franchise Business Review’s Top 50 list. The entire JumpBunch staff provides necessary and useful leadership to maintain a happy group of franchisees. And, at the end of each day, we take great comfort knowing we’ve helped approximately 50,000 JumpBunch kids worldwide enjoy their day just a little more!