The Top 10 Children's Fitness Franchises A look at the smartest and fastest-growing players in the children's fitness industry.

entrepreneur daily

Note: An earlier version of this article was published on Jan. 12, 2011.

Kids can be big business—particularly when it comes to keeping them in shape. From sports clubs to dance classes to mobile activity groups, the children's fitness franchises that made Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 list this year all are capitalizing in their own unique ways on this burgeoning market. One even targets mothers who need a little exercise themselves.

Here's a look at the top ten children's fitness franchises:

Goldfish Swim School

Number of franchises: 151

Franchising since: 2008

Startup costs: $1.7M-$3.7M

Overall rank: 74

Are you ready to help your kids dive into one of the most well-known swim schools around? Goldfish Swim School offers swimming lessons to kids from the age of 4 months to 12 years. Goldfish Swim School was founded by Jenny and Chris McCuiston in 2006. The swimming business started franchising in 2008 following a rise in demand for swimming lessons. As families continue to look for quality and well-known places to train their children to swim, franchising a Goldfish Swim School is sure to meet the demand.

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools

Number of franchises: 138

Franchising since: 2007

Startup costs: $984K-$2M

Overall rank: 118

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools is an international group of schools that provides swimming lessons to children of all ages. They've been in operation since 1991 and began franchising in 2007. Aqua-Tots Swim Schools has grown to over 100 franchises in the U.S., with several dozen outside the States. They know that the lessons they teach can also be life-saving. The Aqua-Tots swimming curriculum has been tried, tested and proven to be effective. If you have a passion for swimming and promoting childhood safety, it might be time for you to jump on board with Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.

Skyhawks & SuperTots Sports Academy

Number of franchises: 247

Franchising since: 2007

Startup costs: $30K-$90K

Overall rank: 136

Skyhawks Sports & Supertots Sports Academy is a sports academy established in 1979, which began franchising in 2007. Its headquarters are located in Spokane, Washington. It includes two programs, the Skyhawks Sports and the Supertots program, to instill life skills in small children and youth through sports. The programs offer afterschool sessions, clinics, summer camps and tournaments to children between the ages of 4 and 14. So if you have a passion for teaching youth about American football, flag football, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, volleyball and track and field, you will find yourself passionate about a Skyhawks Sports & SuperTots Sports Academy franchise.

D-BAT

Number of franchises: 143

Franchising since: 2007

Startup costs: $536K-$1M

Overall rank: 223

Cade and Kyle Griffis dreamed up D-BAT in 1998 and began franchising in 2007. They started by offering private lessons to players depending on their level of training. It did not take long after that for them to create a facility with equipment for different training levels and become a full-fledged business. Now, the company provides indoor training for baseball and softball, complete with batting cages, and offers merchandise for sale. Sports are an integral part of the entertainment industry. Whether you are a retired sportsperson or just a sports enthusiast, franchising a D-BAT allows you to become a part of a larger sports community.

KidStrong

Number of franchises: 102

Franchising since: 2019

Startup costs: $313K-$664K

Overall rank: 246

Founders Matt and Megin Sharp wanted their daughter to become strong and independent, and to instill those values, they proceeded to build a science-based curriculum to help kids do just that. KidStrong built their programs with the help of pediatric experts so that kids will feel mentally tough, learn physical literacy, develop general athletic abilities and improve problem-solving skills. If you share KidStrong's view that the greatest gift you can give your child is to help them evolve into the person they are, then KidStrong's blend of coaching, training and child development knowledge will allow you to provide meaningful impact.

British Swim School

Number of franchises: 178

Franchising since: 2011

Startup costs: $100K-$135K

Overall rank: 248

British Swim School is a learn-to-swim provider for children from three months old to adults of all ages. The school uses gentle teaching methods to instill a survival-first approach to emphasize water safety in its strong swimmers.

Founded in 1981, the company began in the basement of Rita Goldberg's home in Manchester, England. Throughout its growth, the school created, developed and improved methods for teaching the safest swim skills in a fun way. If you're ready to become your own boss, are interested in exploring franchising opportunities and have a passion for swimming and swim safety, then British Swim Schools is an enticing venture for your franchising dreams.

SafeSplash

Number of franchises: 148

Franchising since: 2014

Startup costs: $45K-$2.1M

Overall rank: 251

As a certified swimming school provider in the U.S., SafeSplash appreciates swimming as an integral life skill and dedicates its resources to helping young learners navigate their swimming journey safely and enjoyably. Founded in 2005, the company began to offer franchises in 2014. Since then, it has expanded to over 140 locations across the United States. SafeSplash takes pride in serving parents and persons looking for first-class professional swimming education that focuses on all skill levels and provides a lifetime of water safety. SafeSplash educates on the joy and skills of swimming by using a technologically advanced swim instruction program. To run a SafeSplash franchise, you do not need to be an expert swimmer, but you should have a love for children and a desire to help them learn and grow.

Shoot 360

Number of franchises: 31

Franchising since: 2019

Startup costs: $754K-$2.6M

Overall rank: 289

If basketball is your number one passion, then franchising the world leader in technology-based basketball training is probably a dream job. Founder Craig Moody wanted to help his own kids play basketball better, and by creating an immersive videogame-esque experience, he created Shoot 360. Customers can take advantage of personal training sessions, skills classes, expert coaching and virtual competition. Shoot 360 offers franchisees the opportunity to succeed with the perfect blend of interactive gaming, basketball training and cutting-edge technology to impact basketball players across the country.

i9 Sports

Number of franchises: 233

Franchising since: 2003

Startup costs: $60K-$70K

Overall rank: 322

At Brandon, Florida-based i9 Sports, the primary goal isn't to churn out future pro athletes who are obsessed only with winning. It's about having fun. The business was founded by Frank V. Fiume, Jr. in 2002. Since then, franchisees of this business have operated local youth sports leagues, tournaments, camps, clinics and special events. Their sports offerings include flag football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and baseball/softball. Operating an i9 Sports franchise is more than just indulging a passion or fulfilling a potential dream job. You are giving kids an outlet where they can be active and learn something new. As a franchisee, you may be able to operate an i9 Sports franchise from home and positively impact the lives of children and their families.

Destination Athlete

Number of franchises: 229

Franchising since: 2008

Startup costs: $28K-$94K

Overall rank: 328

Since 2008, the Destination Athlete franchise program has been helping entrepreneurs offer youth athletic teams the resources to thrive. Destination Athlete is a one-stop shop for everything an athletics team may need, including fundraising, apparel, performance solutions and equipment.

Destination Athlete looks for entrepreneurs who have a relationship with local schools or varsity league teams around the U.S. If you're passionate about helping others achieve their dreams, particularly through sports, then this may be the franchise for you.

i9 Sports

Number of franchises: 135
Franchising since: 2003
Startup costs: $44,900 - $69,900
Overall rank: 213

At Brandon, Fla.-based i9 Sports, the primary goal isn't to churn out future pro athletes who are obsessed only with winning. It's about having fun. The business was founded by Frank V. Fiume, Jr., in 2002. Franchisees of this business operate local youth sports leagues, tournaments, camps, clinics and special events. Sports include flag football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and baseball/softball.

Gymboree Play & Music

Number of franchises: 685
Franchising since: 1978
Startup costs: $81,143 - $267,593
Overall rank: 226

San Francisco mother Joan Barnes created the Gymboree Play and Music program in 1976 when she couldn't find a safe place for new parents and children to play and exercise together. Today, there are locations across the U.S. and throughout the world. Gymboree Play and Music centers offer weekly classes for children ranging from newborn through 4 years old. Its classes are designed to stimulate the senses and encourage children's development.

The Little Gym

Number of franchises: 303
Franchising since: 1992
Startup costs: $147,500 - $294,000
Overall rank: 283

 

After teaching grade school in public schools for several years, Robin Wes used his physical education, psychology and motor development degrees to open The Little Gym in 1976. Although it started with a focus on physical education, the program has expanded to include children's intellectual and social development as well. The Little Gym offers programs for various age levels, including Developmental Gymnastics, Karate and Sports Skills Development. Franchises also host birthday parties, summer camps and creative crafts adventures.

TGA Premier Junior Golf

Number of franchises: 41
Franchising since: 2006
Startup costs: $13,150 - $62,200
Overall rank: 319

 

Golf isn't only for adults, and TGA Premier Junior Golf has set out to prove it. TGA launched its first 1CGolf Enrichment Programs 1D at six Los Angeles schools in the fall of 2003. As word about the programs spread and the company received more inquiries, TGA expanded to many other Los Angeles-area schools to accommodate the demand. After two years, TGA began franchising throughout the U.S. in 2005. Its programs include lessons, camps and tournaments.

JumpBunch Inc.

Number of franchises: 40
Franchising since: 2002
Startup costs: $33,700 - $78,400
Overall rank: 328

Founder Tom Bunchman started out as a franchisee himself, having managed and maintained a business for over a decade before launching the JumpBunch concept in 1997. In his kid-focused venture, which brings a new sports-related activity to a child's school or daycare each week, he leveraged his previous franchise experience to expand JumpBunch nationwide, and later internationally. Bunchman and his team select and train local owners with the goal of positively influencing children through sports.

Fun Bus Fitness Fun on Wheels

Number of franchises: 36
Franchising since: 2003
Startup costs: $85,500 - $160,500
Overall rank: 329

This Tinton Falls, N.J.-based company was founded by mother-daughter team Dawn McGarry and Kari Denton. One armed with a background in business and the other in teaching, they wanted to create a way for kids-- ages 6 months to 13 -- to have fun while staying fit. Enter Fun Bus Fitness Fun on Wheels. But the real kicker is how the businesses get around -- in colorful school buses whose seats have been replaced with padded floors and walls for a unique play environment.

My Gym Children's Fitness Center

Number of franchises: 202
Franchising since: 1995
Startup costs: $34,250 - $228,750
Overall rank: 361

My Gym was founded in 1983 when partners Yacov and Susie Sherman and Bill Caplin opened their first centers in Van Nuys and Santa Monica, California. The business offers tumbling and exercise classes for children between the ages of 3 months to 9 years. The classes incorporate music, dance, relays, games, gymnastics and sports. My Gym has more than 200 locations throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Stretch-N-Grow Int'l. Inc.

Number of franchises: 325
Franchising since: 1993
Startup costs: $23,600
Overall rank: 363

After finding out she was pregnant, fitness enthusiast Jill Manly began focusing her attention to infant and early childhood fitness. Through her research, she was surprised to find the lack of fitness in young children. She developed a curriculum for fitness classes, and in 1992 launched Stretch-n-Grow in Galveston, Texas. Each class includes 30 minutes of exercise and 15 minutes of discussion. Classes are taught in many facilities, including child-care and recreation centers, elementary schools and YMCA/YWCA centers.

Stroller Strides LLC

Number of franchises: 305
Franchising since: 2005
Startup costs: $4,009 - $17,889
Overall rank: 404

 

Even though Lisa Druxman had worked in the fitness industry since 1990 as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer and health club manager, she couldn't seem to find the time to exercise after the birth of her son. Realizing that other moms were faced with the same challenge, she developed a fitness regimen centered on being outside with your toddler. San Marcos, Calif.-based Stroller Strides was born, and now moms across the country hit the streets to get fit with their strollers in tow.

Kinderdance Int'l. Inc.

Number of franchises: 118
Franchising since: 1985
Startup costs: $14,950 - $46,100
Overall rank: 411

When founder Carol Kay Harsell's dance studio tripled in size in a matter of months, she wondered why her preschool dance program enrollment wasn't growing, too. Harsell soon realized that her potential clients were enrolled in child-care centers and preschools instead. Deciding to take the program directly to the children at those facilities, she launched Kinderdance International. Within six months, she was offering on-site instruction to more than 30 child-care centers in the Phoenix area. Today, there are more than 100 franchises around the U.S. and Canada.

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