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As School of Rock comes hot off the heels of a record-breaking year, the musical franchise favorite shifts strategy to weather the COVID-19 storm.
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Last year was instrumental in the development of School of Rock. The worldwide music phenomenon, which specializes in teaching kids of all ages how to play like their favorite rock stars, has been on the up for over two decades now… and shows no signs of stopping.
“Both on the domestic and on the international scales, we feel like we’ve had a very successful year in development,” says Anthony Padulo, chief development officer for the franchise. “This has been, historically, our most successful 12 months since we began franchising around 13 years ago.”
That’s much more than just a bold claim; School of Rock signed 35 new franchise agreements in the U.S. in 2019, which is a huge milestone, as the brand would traditionally cap off at around 25.
This number is further bolstered by School of Rock’s overseas achievements, as it signed up four entirely new country license agreements – taking the toe-tapping concept to young rockers in Columbia, Paraguay, Spain, and Portugal.
“The thing that makes me happy about those countries is that all four agreements were signed with existing master franchisees,” explains Padulo. “To work with an existing franchisee who already understands the business, opportunities, and challenges of the franchise – and are still willing to expand with us? For me, that’s the best validation you can get.”
Existing franchisees make up a big part of School of Rock’s steadily growing portfolio, as across the last two years, an estimated 25 to 30 per cent of new franchises have been awarded to entrepreneurs already a part of this melodic family.
NAVIGATING UNCERTAIN TIMES
With the rise of a global pandemic and ‘stay at home’ orders being issued earlier this year, School of Rock has taken swift action to offer students new ways of staying engaged with music. School of Rock Remote, the brand’s online one-on-one music education program, allows students to take music lessons online. This program continues students’ musical journeys in a way that prioritizes well-being through social distancing.
As restrictions are lifted and some School of Rock locations are able to re-open for in-person lessons, the brand has instituted strict safety policies such as required face masks, mandatory hand sanitation, social distancing guidelines, along with physical partitions between students and rules precluding students from sharing instruments.
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE
So what’s the secret behind School of Rock’s consistent success?
“I think the reason we’re doing so well is that music has such a universal appeal,” says Padulo. “Unlike a food business where you may have to adapt the concept for local taste, we don’t have that issue. Whether you’re in the U.K. or South Africa or Brazil, there might be variations of local rock, but the basic premise of English-sung rock music is universally accepted.”
“We’re looking for sustainable, solid growth; growth at a rate which allows us to not jeopardize or compromise on the level of quality and support that we’ve been providing over the last few years”
And while local flair is certainly included in the School of Rock curriculum, some legends transcend borders: The Beatles, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen are heard at every location, taught by veterans of the industry. Not just heard, mind you, but thunderously echoed through the hallways: “We’re definitely looking for somebody who doesn’t mind the noise,” laughs Padulo. “That’s always our first criteria because while it’s music, it is noisy!”
TWIST AND SHOUT
If tolerance of noise is one of the primary criteria for a School of Rock franchisee, what else is important when joining one of the most successful and exciting education franchises in the world?
“Because 85 per cent of our business is children, you want somebody that enjoys being around children,” says Padulo. “Of course, you also look for people who are financially well qualified, and who can put together the required infrastructure for the model.”
When looking for international master franchisees, as opposed to domestic franchise partners in the U.S., School of Rock favors individuals with prior experience. Not just with music, mind, but with business development as a whole.
This is something ingrained in the franchise’s culture, as Anthony Padulo has been in franchising for four decades; working in numerous industries and mastering the art of taking a concept overseas.
“You might say, ‘why do you want an existing master franchisee?’,” says Padulo. “In my experience, having an existing master of another business is very helpful, because that person or group already understands franchising. It’s all about creating trust, creating relationships, and understanding the differences and intricacies of working between a franchisee, master franchisee, and franchisor.”
The franchise is far from foolhardy, however: “We’re not the kind of franchisor that comes out, says we’re going to do 150 locations a year, and then five years later they all start closing,” says Padulo. “We’re looking for sustainable, solid growth; growth at a rate which allows us to not jeopardize or compromise on the level of quality and support that we’ve been providing over the last few years.”
For Padulo, the message is clear: “We have plans to be responsibly aggressive. We’re very bullish, but we plan on growing at a reasonable and responsible rate that we can sustain.”
One of the brand’s prime innovations for its Englishspeaking franchise locations is the School of Rock Method App, which allows students to continue their education at home, or wherever they choose.
Through the app, kids can follow along with filmed tutorials to learn new keys, tune their instruments, and interact with the brand with unprecedented connectivity. Simply put: no other education franchise offers an experience quite like this.
AT A GLANCE
Number of franchised outlets: Over 270
Location of units: North, Central & South America, Africa, and Asia Pacific (and soon Europe by end of 2020)
Investment range: $192,150 - $422,100
Minimum required capital: $125,000 (liquid) / $350,000 (net worth)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 866-840-2179
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