Looking for a business that's recession proof? Move here to Manhattan's Upper West Side and start a children's program. In my limited experience as a stay-at-home dad, I've noticed that parents will pay big bucks for just about any kind of recreational activity. Running, jumping, reading, singing, playing and painting (things most kids will do if you leave them alone in a room anyway) are all red-hot commodities. Just come up with a catchy name and logo, stitch them onto a colorful, collared shirt for your "counselors" to wear, and you're in business. Just make sure you leave plenty of space for stroller parking, so the parents can take off and wander the neighborhood, pram-less, in search of brioche and lattes at the nearest café.
As you write your business plan, keep one thing in mind: turnover is the key. Just like the restaurant business, it's essential to keep those customers (kids) moving through in order to maximize your profits. Why charge hundreds of dollars for a day's worth of activity when you can charge the same amount for an hour's worth? Parents will pay. Believe me. Just give the kids some stickers and a t-shirt at the end of class and I promise they'll leave happy. More importantly, they'll be back for more. Remember, your job is not to develop the next Pele, Beethoven or Rembrandt; it's to simply occupy some of their waking time. If the parents are really interested developing their little prodigy into something special there's always the more expensive individual instruction (which you will also offer, separately, at a much higher rate.)
Now, you're up and running and the money is rolling in. But wait, you haven't seen anything yet. Just wait for the upcoming school vacation, (Spring, Christmas, President's Day, whatever) that's where the real money is. You see, when the schools take a break, you take a break too. Oh, I don't mean you close down. On the contrary, you still continue with business as usual, but you'll call it a "Special Vacation Camp," or something, and charge parents hundreds more dollars to send their kids to the same class they're already attending. I know it sounds illegal, but luckily no one has stepped in to regulate this crazy derivatives scheme yet. It's foolproof.
This is an exciting opportunity for an unemployed journalist like myself. I no longer worry about what's next as I sit on the sidelines and watch the news industry implode. I now know my future involves some plastic golf clubs and an inflatable ball about the size of a really big grapefruit. This was the simple equipment that kept my three-year-old son and I occupied for hours on end one afternoon while he was home sick from school. The sport has no name yet, and the rules are pretty lax; we just smashed the ball and each other around the apartment until we were tired. I wondered, as I took a yellow 5 iron to the knee, "can my child really be having fun if I'm not paying for it? Is he really just enjoying my company?" He did seem amused at the sight of his hobbled dad.
That's when it hit me...
There's plenty of stroller space in my building's lobby and my son will work cheap. We already have the ball and clubs, so overhead is low. Best of all, my new business would allow me to spend more time with my son. After all, that's what all parents really want anyway. Isn't it?
Just hurry to sign up because there's sure to be a waiting list.
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