Dana Oliver – CEO of Adventure Kids Playcare, on Female Entreprenuership
Dana Oliver – CEO of Adventure Kids Playcare, on Female Entreprenuership
Show Notes & Links:
- Adventure Kids Playcare Website
- Lifestyle Frisco article on Adventure Kids Playcare
- Adventure Kids Playcare Frisco on Facebook
- Study: Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco Podcast. I am your host, Scott Ellis, and this week our guest is Dana Oliver, the founder and CEO of Adventure Kids Playcare. If you have every found yourself in a situation where you needed somebody to look after you kids on very short notice, maybe your babysitter backed out on date night, or you got called for a meeting while you are supposed to be watching the kids and you need a place to take them where they are going to be in good hands, they are going to have a good time, and you can drop them off when you need to and just pick them up whenever you need to. This is the place to take them to.
Let’s get into the show with Dana Oliver.
All right Dana Oliver, welcome to the show. It is good to have you on the Frisco Podcast.
Dana Oliver: Thank you Scott.
Scott Ellis: Appreciate you guys joining us. We did a write up on you a while back, so I am always happy to have a local business owner come on the show, that we have known about for a while, that has been a part of the community for a while. Thank you for having a Frisco business, and supporting Frisco families and everything you are doing here.
Dana Oliver: Well, thank you so much for your support, we really appreciate it.
Scott Ellis: You bet.
Dana Oliver: It is very important to the success of a business to have the local support.
Scott Ellis: We are all about that, that is for sure, and one of the things today that we are here to talk about are not only starting your own business, and running your own business, and what that looks like. Particularly in a place like Frisco, that is just blowing up like crazy right now, but we were actually connected by our friends at Capital One really to talk about your business, but in the context of a study that was recently done.
The Center for Urban Future with support from Capital One, did a study recently about harnessing the economic potential of women entrepreneurs. There were a couple of interesting facts in there that I just, before we dive into your business, I thought were fascinating and I wanted to share because we are going to talk about, not just running a business, but some of the challenges and things like that of being a female entrepreneur in this world. One of them, that I thought was fascinating was that the cities with the highest number of women owned businesses, Dallas was number five. We are pretty high up there. New York kind of eclipses everybody, and then LA, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas. We have got room to grow, but we are doing very well in that department. The second that though, that was even more interesting to me was that the average revenue, per woman owned business, was Dallas. We have some very savvy, very successful, female entrepreneurs here in Dallas, and you are amongst them.
Your business is Adventure Kids Playcare. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you do at that business, and then we will kind of go back and get some of the history of how it came to be.
Dana Oliver: What our business does is, we provide a play for parents to drop off their kids to go out to a movie, go to the gym, go to lunch with friends, doctors appointments, et cetera. Our hours are from eight AM to until ten PM during the week, and then we are open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. We have a lot of things for the kids to do, a lot of activities, some of the locations have basketball courts. We have rock climbing walls, large playscapes, things like that. Then we also have activities like computer classes, craft classes, yoga, dance parties, things like that, and camps during the summer.
Scott Ellis: When did you guys open up in Frisco?
Dana Oliver: We opened up, originally, in 2004 with our first location being in Flowermound, and then Frisco opened in 2009, I believe. We have seven locations in Dallas, just to give you a little bit of background on that.
Scott Ellis: Okay are you guys just in the DFW area for now, or have you expanded into other cities?
Dana Oliver: No. We are in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, and we are also in Seattle, 13 locations in total.
Scott Ellis: More expansion planned in the near future?
Dana Oliver: Yes.
Scott Ellis: The business model then, is it franchised, or are these all corporate owned locations?
Dana Oliver: It is a combination. We have four corporate owned locations, and then we have nine franchise locations also. We plan on growing both the corporate and the franchise side going forward.
Scott Ellis: What made you start this business? What made you want to get into it?
Dana Oliver: I started the business, really like most entrepreneurs because of a need that I had personally, and that I felt was missing in the market. That need for me was I needed a babysitter one Saturday afternoon. With so many childcare centers in the area around me, but none of those were open in the evening, or on the weekends. I started asking around, doing my own research with friends, and realized that this was the case in most areas. It took a while to formulate a business plan, and figure out what would work, and what wouldn’t work as far as this model goes, but then I opened the first center in August of 2004, opened the second center in 2005, and then started franchising in 2006.
Scott Ellis: So how has it been going in Frisco so far? I have got to imagine a service like that has got to be a huge hit up here.
Dana Oliver: It is. The Frisco location, we actually started with a smaller location, and we are looking to expand that location now because it is so popular.
Scott Ellis: Okay. What part of town are you guys in right?
Dana Oliver: We are at the corner of 423 and El Dorado Parkway.
Scott Ellis: So you are out on the more or less the west side of town.
Dana Oliver: Exactly, yes.
Scott Ellis: Okay. Do you have a rough idea, are you going to look a little bit more centrally or are you going to stay in that same vicinity for now?
Dana Oliver: Right now, we are looking at a little bit north of that area, more up the tollway.
Scott Ellis: Okay, good to know. We will have to keep our eyes open for that, and make sure that we give everybody a shout out when you guys get into your new location.
Dana Oliver: Thank you.
Scott Ellis: Effectively would you characterize this as an ad hawk or drop in type of childcare experience as opposed to the traditional sort of scheduled, you sign up and you bring your kid at the same time every day sort of experience.
Dana Oliver: Yes, absolutely. Our goal is to provide flexible, hourly child care. Parents pay by the hour, you don’t pay for any unused time, and they can drop kids off when they need to. We have a calender of activities that we publish, and so we have a lot of kids that want to come in for specific events that we have going on, but then we have a lot of parents that just drop off just because they are going to go to a movie, or going to go out to dinner, just some time alone. It works for both parties, the kids and the parents.
Scott Ellis: I am glad we are having this conversation because my wife and I do not have children, however many of our friends here in Frisco do. Often they are, yeah we would love to have dinner with you but let us see if we can get a babysitter, or at the last minute ah I hate to do this but we have got to cancel, our babysitter cancelled on us. Especially now that I know where you are and what you guys are doing, they don’t have an excuse anymore.
Dana Oliver: Right. It is funny because we get most of our new customers on Saturday afternoon at four PM. We start getting phone calls from parents where their babysitters have cancelled for that evening, and they need a backup plan, and we are the backup plan.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, and I bet that probably drives a lot of good business for you guys.
Dana Oliver: It does, yes.
Scott Ellis: Do you ever run into capacity issues where you just kind of say, hey we cannot, sorry we are full right now, we cannot take any more kids?
Dana Oliver: We do.
Scott Ellis: Is it generally you have got enough to where you can handle most of the demand for now. Even though I know you are expanding.
Dana Oliver: 90 percent of the time, we do have enough room, but then we do have those 10 percents where it is a school holiday, or there is something going on in the area on a Saturday night, where we will max out, and we won’t be able to take kids. That is usually, unfortunately that is an issue every now and then. We do have a reservation system online where parents can make reservations. We always encourage them to make reservations on the weekend evenings, just to be on the safe side.
Scott Ellis: Ah, see I am glad I asked you that because now people know that they can go online and book it. I assume that is just on the website, correct?
Dana Oliver: Yes, or they can phone in the reservation also.
Scott Ellis: If you want to make a reservation, what is the URL that they should go to do that?
Dana Oliver: Adventurekidsplaycare.com, and then select the location, and then they can email in a reservation at that point.
Scott Ellis: There you go. Easy as that. Now lets talk a little bit about getting the business up and running, and some of the challenges, and were there any particularly unique challenges that you faced as a female CEO and founder of a startup business like this?
Dana Oliver: Yeah. You know as far as challenges for women business owners, the number one challenge, and this was the number one topic last week at the conference we had with Capital One, was access to capital. I think that was personally my biggest challenge, when I was getting started. From the other female entrepreneurs that I hear that is their biggest challenge also. I don’t know if it is just because we are women, I cannot say that, but I do see that more women are starting businesses that are not your normal, every day, financible businesses. We are not starting a franchise restaurant, or something like that , we are starting different types of businesses that may be a little bit more difficult to finance.
Scott Ellis: That is on top of all the usual entrepreneurial challenges that we all have starting a business, right?
Dana Oliver: Exactly.
Scott Ellis: I think people have two different perspectives on it. One is that the entrepreneurial path is somewhat glamorous which is kind of misleading to say the least. Then there are those that recognize that it is just a metric ton of work, all of the time, but it is worth it in its own sort of way.
Dana Oliver: Right. You definitely should not get into business because you want to work less. You should only get into business if you want to work more.
Scott Ellis: That is very true. I read something recently that kind of rings true with, and that is entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40.
Dana Oliver: Exactly. K
Scott Ellis: now what you are getting yourselves into, but in terms of Adventure Kids Playcare, since it is both a corporate and franchise type of models, if somebody was interested in doing this kind of a business they can reach out to you. They can still go down that entrepreneurial path, but they will have some additional support that you might not normally have if you are just starting something completely from scratch. Is that fair to say?
Dana Oliver: Absolutely, yeah.
Scott Ellis: What kinds of things are you doing for other entrepreneurs and particularly for women entrepreneurs that are working with you and maybe starting franchises, or things like that?
Dana Oliver: What we do, is we have a process, we go in and we help the franchise owner find a location, market to that location, build out that location, and grow that business. Generally, all of our franchisees are women with young children, and this business works for moms because we can actually bring our kids to work with us. My daughter was four when I started the business, and she came in with me every single day, she was there all the time, she knows customer service, she knows banking, she knows marketing, because of her firsthand experience. You have that combined benefit of having your own business, but also a lifestyle that your family can be involved in too.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, and I like that aspect. I know, at least in my experience, and I am trying not to generalize too much, women do often take that role as the primary caregiver of children, and so for those that are looking at an entrepreneurial path… This business is interesting to me for two reasons. For one, the one you mentioned is if it is the kind of business you are into, and you like being around kids, well you can bring your kids to work and they are going to fit right in. The second thing is for, and I am just thinking beyond date night, but for other women entrepreneurs, and I know there are many in Frisco because we have interviewed and talked to and written articles about many of them, it can be tough if you are the primary caregiver of your child because you have got to run out to meetings, and you have got to go meet with people, and do things that are often spur of the moment or not at a convenient time. Yours is a business where if something like that pops up, they can come in, they can drop their kid off in a fun, safe, educational environment, go do their meeting, and then come back and pick them up a little bit later.
Dana Oliver: Right. We have so many moms that are dropping their kids off, and having conference calls in their car, so that they can hear without being interrupted. We get that so much during the week.
Scott Ellis: Oh that is good to know. See you can even just go out in the parking lot, and take your meeting.
Dana Oliver: Exactly.
Scott Ellis: Okay good to know, good to know. For people that want to learn a little bit more about Adventure Kids Playcare, we are going to make sure we link up the website. Is there any place else they should go to connect with you guys? Any social media accounts or things like that, that would be good for them to find you?
Dana Oliver: We post a lot of Facebook. Each location has their own Facebook page, and we post what is going on, what the kids are doing, we post pictures of the kids on there. That is a really good way to get very current up to date information.
Scott Ellis: Then last, but not least, as a female entrepreneur in a very fast growing city, like Dallas, and Frisco in general, what advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs that are getting up and going right now?
Dana Oliver: Obviously it is the best thing that you will ever do in your life, I think. It is kind of like having a child. It is one of those things that is very difficult going through the process, but after it is over with, you look back, and you are so thankful that you did it. I would say number one, is never take no for an answer. You are going to hear no a lot and to hear the word no should just be a motivation for you to figure out how you can get it done. Another thing that I think is really important is be sure to put yourself in a positive state every single morning before you get your day started. You are going to need it. You are going to be hit with all these different fires throughout the day, and you want to make sure that you have got a positive attitude.
One thing that I think is so, so important that I am not sure that enough people do is just saving money. When you initially start you business, you start saving money, putting 10 percent of your gross revenue away for savings so that you can grow your business later on.
Scott Ellis: Yeah that is a big one, and that is one that I see a mistake on a lot of entrepreneurs I think make in general. Having even just a little bit of cash in the bank, puts you in a significantly different place in terms of the options that you have and the things that you can do when you need that money.
Dana Oliver: Exactly, and that is really the reason I have been able to grow is the fact that I have cash sitting in an account because when you go to a bank that is the first thing they look at is how much cash do you have in the bank. It doesn’t matter, you that is the first thing they are going to look at. Second thing is they are going to look at your revenues.
Scott Ellis: Okay, so I lied, I do have one more question for you but you kind of cued this up for me.
Dana Oliver: Sure.
Scott Ellis: You talked about the importance of getting your day off to a good start, and being in a positive mental place. Are there any morning routines that you have, anything that you do that helps you get into that mental space before you walk out the door, get on the first conference call?
Dana Oliver: I do. I meditate every morning, and just to make sure that I am focused on my day, and focused on being grateful for everything that I have. That is really what I do every single morning. I take 15 minutes, and if I don’t, if I for some reason get my day started and I haven’t done that I know I can feel the difference, and then later on in the day. I make it a point to get that done almost every day.
Scott Ellis: All right that is great advice. We actually just published an article this week about the business opportunities and meditation.
Dana Oliver: Oh wow.
Scott Ellis: I did not pay her to say that everybody. I promise, but good timing. Dana thank you very much for coming on the show today. I promise you we are going to be getting the word out there as much as possible. You guys are offering a great service. It is definitely something that is needed in Frisco. I am going to make sure that all of my friends know about it, so that there is no more skipping out on dinner. Thank you and continued success. Please keep us up to date. I want to have you back on the show down the road, maybe later this year just to kind of see how things are going with the move and how things are going in general with the business.
Dana Oliver: Thank you so much Scott. I appreciate it.
Scott Ellis: Great thanks Dana. Have a great day.
Dana Oliver: You too.