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4 Franchisees Reveal How This Fun-Focused Day Inspired Them to Take the Plunge At Unleashed Brands' "Discovery Day," these fresh franchisees are signing up for a future of fun.

By Emily Holmes

entrepreneur daily

This story appears in the January 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Jason A. Frank

Let's say you find a brand you love. You do your research. You run the numbers. You and the franchisor make sure you're a good fit. And then, if you're still interested, it often all comes down to what's called "Discovery Day." That's where you meet the executives, get hands-on experience with the brand, and finally decide whether you're ready to make the leap, and put pen to paper.

So, what's it like? We sent a photographer to capture one of the franchising world's most colorful Discovery Days — because it's hosted by Unleashed Brands, which owns a fun collection of companies for kids. Its portfolio features the attractions park Urban Air Adventure Park, the enrichment and physical development space The Little Gym, the hands-on learning program Snapology, the martial arts center Premier Martial Arts, the esports organization XP League, and the college-prep company Class 101.

Unleashed hosts Discovery Days every month; they're typically at its headquarters in Bedford, Texas, near Dallas. And at its November gathering, roughly 50 prospective franchisees arrived to test-drive their futures. They included novice franchisees as well as experienced ones who are already in the system but now plan to expand. Depending on the brand they're buying into, they went off to drive go-karts, play video games, hear from executives, and then plan their future.

Four franchisees share their journeys — leading up to Discovery Day, and what happened next.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

All Photographs by Jason A. Frank

Bill Lerner | Las Vegas, Nevada

Investment banking is my life, but franchising is the dream. I did a lot of research, and Unleashed Brands was battle-tested. I'm looking to create a generational opportunity; me and my business partner plan to start with one or two Urban Airs, then scale up so our families can participate should they choose. Discovery Day was intense. It was meticulously planned and choreographed to provide exposure to every aspect of the undertaking. We spent time in one of the units, not only having fun but understanding the physical plant. The hands-on piece is critical. We got to ride in the go-karts and fly above the room in the sky rider, then ask questions about compliance, safety, and pricing. It was a deep dive into the brand in every way, and that's what we hoped for. If we take this into our own hands, learn how to execute it well, and build credibility in this space, then I think we'll have the opportunity to change the valuation paradigm for our units.

Related: 6 Franchise Umbrella Brands That Franchisees Should Know About

Casey Enders | Alexandria, Virginia

My father was a school facilities manager, and one of my treasured memories is of going to the gym with him on weekends to play with the equipment. I want to be able to create that experience for my kids. I'd taken my daughter to a location of The Little Gym before, and when my husband and I decided to open our own business, we went straight to The Little Gym's website. The whole process was super supportive. But I was nervous going into Discovery Day! My husband couldn't attend because our two-year-old daughter was sick — and because I was uncomfortable leaving our 4-month-old son back home overnight, I brought him along. I felt nervous even asking Unleashed Brands if I could bring him, but the team made us both feel welcome. They brought a Pack 'n Play, and people offered to hold him so I could do things like drive the go-karts. They really supported me as a working mother. Now our family is part of this larger family.

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Indhira LaPuma | Green Bay, Wisconsin

I can't do a cartwheel for a million dollars, but I'm opening a The Little Gym. When we lived in North Carolina, I would take my daughter to The Little Gym. When we moved to Wisconsin, I just assumed there would be one. When we found out there wasn't, we started looking into opening one. My husband is a stay-at-home dad, and we were looking for a business he could run that marries well with our family schedule. We went to Discovery Day as a couple. I was surprised by how many people there were already owners, but looking to open new franchises. We did the parachute, which was a silly, fun thing they do at The Little Gym, and then learned about Snapology. I was most impressed by the CEO's speech. I use data a lot in my current job, and Unleashed Brands does a great job laying out data and building systems to support franchisees. I want my kids to be able to say, "That's my mom and dad, and all our friends are welcome to come over to the gym."

Related: 4 Helpful Tips for Emerging Franchise Brands

Chris Fasulka | Charlotte, North Carolina

I was a NASCAR pit guy for 20 years, but that's a young man's game. So I started looking around for

a business, and I found Urban Air. When I opened my first one in 2017, the founder of Unleashed Brands flew out to personally check out my new location — and helped me paint on opening day! I have two parks now, and added a Snapology last year. When Unleashed bought XP League, I talked about it with my younger employees. Should I open one? They were all very excited. That's why I was at Discovery Day; it was my third event in total, but my first time trying online gaming like that. I had no idea what I was doing! But it was a lot of fun. My wife and I say we have 160,000 kids, because that's how many come to our Urban Air parks each year. I want to be able to provide the little kids and the teens with entertainment. It's crazy how Unleashed Brands has grown over the years, and I plan on continuing to grow with them.

All Photographs by Jason A. Frank

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