Interview with Dawn McGarry and Kari Denton of Fun Bus Fitness
Tell us about your company, it’s purpose, mission, target audience, goals, what makes it unique.
FUN BUS FITNESS FUN ON WHEELS, is a refurbished climate controlled, school bus that provides structured fitness and FUN to the younger child. We roll up to local daycares, preschools, nursery schools, camps, religious events, corp. picnics, parks, birthday parties etc. and allow children, ages 18 months-7 yrs. of age climb aboard! The bus NEVER moves while children are on it. My mother, Dawn and I, started this while owning a daycare together. We began in 2001 and franchised our unique concept, being the ONLY FRANCHISE doing this in 2003.
Our mission is to enhance the lives of young children by providing a fun and safe environment where they can build their self-esteem, improve coordination and gross motor skills through physical fitness and social interaction. Most importantly our goal is to make fitness FUN!!
Our target audiences are the parents, mostly moms, the decision makers of who wants fitness for their child at the school or for a FUN-Tastic party.
The uniqueness is that a 35 foot lime green bus rolls up adhered with multi-cultural children on it, and all these children and aboard is equipment that you would never imagine to see on a school bus, with a slide that you exit at the back of the bus with….
How did you come to work together in the first place?
We started by purchasing a daycare in NJ that had 12 kids in 1999. Dawn was in the mortgage industry and I was a certified NJ teacher.
Please describe your respective roles in the company.
In the FUN BUS, Dawn is in charge of the financial aspect.. working with the monthly royalty reports, the accountings, working diligently with the Quick Books. I, do the day to day, operations of working with our support/operations person, following up with the franchisees, working with the sales guys, building our internal FUNNET, etc.
How has working together affected your relationship outside the “office.” In other words how do you keep family matters separate from work related issues?
It is NOT easy!!! We have been through some trying times. Separating work and personal is not always easy when you have been working together for the past 10 yrs. and so much goes on in business and in your personal lives. Being mother/daughter we see things differently at times, and with an age difference and life experiences we bring different ideas and opinions to the table. Which at times, can cause us to agree and disagree. We work on doing our best to realize there are roles as a mother-daughter, and boundaries when it comes to work. I will always be the daughter, she always the mother, but at work their has to be rolls too.
What are some of the challenges you have faced working together?
We differ at times in the way we like to get the job done. I need things done yesterday, Dawn is not like that. I try always to see a flip side, when Dawn having more life experiences doesn’t buy into all the time. In the beginning we tended to be doing the same thing. Then we realized, if one does one thing, and the other another, and we hire some people, to help out in between, more gets done, and we do not step on each others toes.
Selling our first 2 franchises in NJ, to 2 very nice young ladies who say Dawn and I on TV. This was a beautiful breaking ground to know others believe in our concept, also.
What do you like best about working together? Least?
Working together is FUN b/c we get to see each other often. We can trust one another and know we each have the same vested interest in the business.
As the daughter, I would say what I like least, is that b/c we work together and see each other a lot, my mother knows a lot about my life, and that is not always a good thing. And the same for me about her. AND if we are arguing whether it is business related or personal it is very difficult to have to see each other or talk for the sake of the business, when space might be the answer.
What, if any big challenges or little annoyances have occurred as a result of working together and how have you managed to overcome them?
This is always a work in progress. Challenges would be my mother loosing her husband at 50. VERY TOUGH, to still have to go to work when grieving and so sad. Trying not to always talk FUN BUS when we are out and together… taking space from one another..not going into the office all the time together, at the same time. Hiring outsiders to work with us, to advise and consult on different topics so it is not just Dawn and I.
What tips would you share with our readers for working with a member of the family?
Make sure it is a GOOD FIT if you are considering starting a business together! Do not just do it b/c of splitting costs and monetary reasons. Make sure you have defined roles going into business, you have a good base of job description, you both know boundaries at work and at a home, and I think a solid relationship BEFORE going into business. If your relationship is rocky or strange now, wait until you work with family. If you are already in business, I am not telling you anything you have not experienced already!!!!
What’s been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of working together (eg. unexpected publicity, obtaining an unexpected client/customer, an emotional moment, etc)?
We have sold 35 FUN BUS franchises in 11 states. We believed in our concept together as mother and daughter and have made it work!!! We have met some really good people and learned a lot about one another, ourselves, and our business. And at the end of the day, she is my sons Grammie, and we are still mom and daughter!
What’s next for this mother daughter team?
We have some business ventures up our sleeves, but the most important right now, is growing FUN BUS FITNESS FUN ON WHEELS® to be a nationwide franchise with a household BRAND name!! And most importantly, keeping our existing franchisees happy and customers!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
FYI… Dawn and I do not currently have a bus any longer (we sold ours in 2004). We just focus on the franchise aspect at this time.
For more information, visit: www.funbuses.com
This article can be read in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women