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Just for Kids

Three players build low-cost models to attract franchisees


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Soccer Shots franchisees use a mobile model, so there’s no need for an office.

Bullied as a child, the founder of ProMartial Arts arms students with confidence. The owners of Soccer Shots and British Swim School USA, too, say working with kids is the big payoff.

Sometimes, bright ideas spring from truly dark places. In the case of Ed Samane, inspiration for his martial arts and self-defense franchise stemmed from the playground and hallways of his grade school, where classmates harassed him about being overweight. “In sixth grade peer groups tend to develop, and based on my weight I was bullied and picked on,” Samane said. “Kids at that age are tough, and of course it affects your confidence.”

Sick of the abuse, Samane turned to karate, hoping to change his body and protect himself.  However, his first lesson was not auspicious. “At my first class, I threw a kick and landed on my butt,” Samane said.  “My instructor told me I should probably look at another activity.”

Despite the grueling practice sessions and dog-eat-dog atmosphere, Samane resolved to stick with karate, losing roughly 40 pounds and gaining the courage to stand up to his grade-school assailants. “Naturally when you change your body like that it changes your mindset, your self-esteem,” Samane said.  “A person bullied me and I stood up to him in a very confident, direct manner.  I wasn’t bullied again after that.”

With bullying behind him, Samane continued to pursue the martial arts, honing his skills and breaking down mental and physical barriers with each new belt he earned. Even before he graduated from college, Samane knew he wanted to run a karate school of his own some day.

After opening his first karate school in 1991, Samane went on to start the ProMartial Arts karate studio franchise in 2008, ignoring those who said such a franchise model would be unsustainable. The core program, which differentiates it from other karate schools, is one close to Samane’s heart: the Armor Bullying and Predator Prevention Training Program.

“Armor is kind of the centerpiece that all kids get regardless of what additional program they’re in,” Samane said.  “We teach the kids techniques on how to verbally assert themselves, how to use avoidance techniques, how to go through the proper channels and who to talk to if they’re being bullied.”

The program teaches confidence as the most powerful bully prevention tool, instructing children to use their physical skills only in self-defense, and even then in a limited capacity.

“We don’t want to teach the kids to fight,” Samane said. “We try to teach them compliance techniques, to use minimal force. If a kid punches another kid, the kid might take that punch, put him in a quick hold and wait until help arrives.”

With physical and cyber bullying on the rise, Samane said he hopes to help as many children as he can to avoid the abuse he endured as a child. “My goal is to get every child into the program,” Samane said. “I think nowadays kids really need these tools, and that’s a big driver for me.”

No more shame

To kids who are being bullied, Samane said the most important first step is to reach out to someone. “For kids, when something negative happens they’re not exactly happy to talk about it,” Samane said. “A lot of times kids who are bullied are ashamed. The first thing they need to do, though, is talk to a teacher or a parent.”

Having survived the economic recession, staying afloat for 18 months despite minimal business, the ProMartial Arts Franchise, based in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, has now opened 16 units nationwide, with 51 more in development. Samane believes his concept’s relatively low investment cost—$126,000 to $154,000—will attract franchisees.

“I’m optimistic about the next 12 to 18 months for sure,” Samane said. “As long as the economy stays on track, even if it improves slowly, we’ll continue to grow. Hard work pays off at any time.”

Samane said ProMartial Arts franchisees are not expected to be skilled in karate. Rather, franchises are primarily sold to people with business management experience who have a desire to work in the child education space.  Company management hires technicians and instructors for the franchise units separately.

Everything mapped out

“We’re heavily systems driven, not style or personality driven,” Samane said. “Everything we do is mapped out, systemized and congruent across the country.”

Samane believes the skills he learned from karate will help him in the franchise industry. “The three things martial arts taught me were drive, discipline and determination,” Samane said. “I’m convinced the lessons I learned in the process of getting my black belt will help me to really push this brand forward.”

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