When Kenerly Wright and her husband decided that she would leave her job as a successful property manager to be a stay-at-home mom for several years after her children were born, she discovered that she was having so much fun being home with her kids. When contemplating what she would do when she went back to work, she knew she wanted to work with children. “I also knew I had a good business acumen.”
Wright thought about running her own business and franchising seemed appealing because the bones of the business were already in place and she wasn’t starting from scratch. “And then of course, you get a support system that comes with that,” she says.
She started researching franchises and Kidcreate popped up on her newsfeed. Kidcreate is a national chain specializing in children’s art classes, camps and art-themed birthday parties. “When I saw the art studio I just thought oh my gosh, this could be amazing.”
Wright didn’t know at the time that she could opt for a mobile-only business, where she would not have a brick and mortar classroom – and the overhead that brings – and instead she and her team would travel to locations to offer the art classes and experiences; the franchise provides curriculums for hundreds of art projects. After her Discovery Day at the corporate studios in Minnesota and further research, she opted for the mobile studio option and signed the contract.
At her Kidcreate Mobile Art Studio, children create fridge-worthy masterpieces, learn art concepts, and experiment with many different art materials. “We prep for classes but we go out to our clients. Most of our clients are municipalities, youth programs, schools, daycares, and of course birthday parties,” Wright says.
In addition to saving rental costs of a classroom, the mobile model allows her team to be out in the community. “If I had a brick and mortar, it’d be at a certain location in a certain neighborhood in a certain area and only a certain amount of people would be able to get to it. So especially in the summer when we’re doing classes of 50, we’re going out to our clients and they aren’t worried about how to figure out how to get the kids to an art studio. We bring the art studio to them.”
Wright started her new business in December 2021 as Kidcreate’s first Florida franchisee. It has been a whirlwind since then. Her clients include Nicholas Children’s Hospital, Sunny Isles Beach, Miami Shores Village, North Miami Beach, City of North Miami, City of Doral, North Bay Village, Overtown Youth Center, malls, after-school programs and festivals and events. The programs range from one-time events to multi-week programs. These can include Mommy and Me classes, group activities, afterschool programs and community events.
Selling the concept to these clients was not difficult for Wright because she is passionate about the concept — you can hear it in her voice. “I really feel like the business does sell itself.”
Wright says she has made a special effort to hire incredible employees – Kidcreate is a team of six now – and she’s looking to hire more people for the summer, their busiest time of the year. “We are super busy. We’re getting calls from summer camp organizations, even churches for Vacation Bible School camps.”
Florida SBDC at FIU ready to help
Still, like every entrepreneurial journey, there is the fear of the unknown that she has to overcome. “Because this is my first time running a business, sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing it right.”
Fortunately, she has been able to turn to Florida SBDC at FIU for help with that – and so much more. The small business development center within the university’s College of Business provides no-cost advising services by a team of business consultants.
For example, to qualify for a small business loan for her business, Wright needed a business plan. One small problem: She had no idea where to start. “That’s when the magic happened and [SBDC at FIU] paired me with Miss Alina and she has been my angel, my guiding star.” That would be SBDC at FIU business consultant Alina Matas, an expert in business plans and research.
Wright was able to get an SBA 7(a) loan for her business because Matas helped guide her through the process of writing a business plan the banks required, Wright said. And the help didn’t stop there.
“She’s smart and she’s so direct and she’s exactly what I needed,” said Wright about Matas. “If you want to grow your business, you need to do the work — she didn’t sugarcoat anything. And I love that she asked those tough, tough questions because sometimes when you’re opening up a business, everybody’s your cheerleader and you need someone that’s being real and that’s what she was for me.”
Initially Wright and Matas met once a week. “We built our budget, our business plan, and she gave me some homework to do. She had me critically thinking about things that I hadn’t thought about,” Wright says. That included developing a marketing strategy and managing cash flow. “I still meet with her once a month, and we go over our numbers to see where I am financially every month.”
Initially Wright planned to open a brick and mortar location, but is rethinking that now. She loves the flexibility of the mobile-only business. “I want to grow the business, let people know that we’re here to provide everything you need for a successful art class for your organization.” If she decides to open a classroom location later, she will already have a following.
Kidcreate’s curriculum offerings, literally hundreds of art projects, are geared toward kids as young as 7-8 months up to 15-year-olds – but really all ages, Wright laughs. When parents attend classes with their children, she tells her team to be sure to pass out art supplies to both the adults and the kids. That’s because “the parents will quickly take over,” she says. “The parents want to do the cutting and gluing and I’m like OK guys, let them do it.”
That led her another key realization: People are hungry to do art.
“Because we’re so attached to technology, when people actually have an opportunity to put the phone down and just paint and create, they use a different part of the brain they haven’t exercised in a while. It’s fun. It’s magical. We’re dialing it back a little bit and going back to the basics.”