School of Rock franchisee review: Bea Escobar of Fayetteville, AR
Franchise owner was inspired by live School of Rock performance to purchase a franchise
Bea Escobar grew up in El Salvador in a household filled with music. Her father sang and played Latin jazz guitar; her brothers and her nephew were also drawn into playing and singing. But Escobar, though she loved music, never really explored learning an instrument. Today, the Fayetteville, AR, businesswoman and mother of two is taking her first music lessons at the School of Rock franchise she owns. “I’m not a musician;http I have a mind for business,” says Escobar. “Classic rock is not even what I grew up on. But I love it, I love learning about the different genres. I’m in the adult program now. Imagine — a Latina learning Southern rock! I have a great music director, and my boyfriend is very involved in the school and he is a musician.” Read more to find out how Escobar made the leap from a successful corporate career to franchise ownership in this School of Rock franchisee review:
What was your career experience before joining the brand, and what led you to look for a new opportunity?
I had a long career in consumer products and the consumer packaged goods industry. I worked for a couple of vendors with big retailers like Walmart. But I’ve always wanted to own my own business. I knew it had to be a franchise model, but I didn’t know exactly what it was I wanted to do until I saw an actual live performance of some kids in Seattle in 2014. I fell in love with the concept because of what it does for kids. I’m not a musician myself, but my family was always engaged in music.
Within a month I went online and estimated my financial information and they contacted me. We started conversing in October of 2014. By that December, we were signing the franchise agreement.
What made this opportunity stand out?
I had searched and searched through the years for a model that was right for me. By this point I was familiar with many franchises. Nothing really spoke to me like this one did. It changes kids’ lives, and it’s music, and it’s positive.
There were certain things I wanted to hit — I didn’t want something trendy, I wanted something that would always be in demand. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew I wanted to make a difference and not just be in business for the sake of making money. Several things just fell into place with School of Rock.
Do you have kids? Are they involved in lessons?
I have two kids. One is in college, and the other is finishing high school. The one in college goes to University of Arkansas. He works at the school part-time and he is quite the musician. He plays guitar, keyboard, drums and bass. He’s not singing — yet.
When we first opened our School of Rock in January of 2016, they both joined my spring program. They had fun; they loved it. After that, my older son stayed with the lessons.
Who have your musical influences been?
I have two brothers and a nephew who are musicians, but my dad has been the biggest influence for me and my brothers. He plays guitar and sings Latin jazz. He’s not a performer, he just always sang and played around the house. And he just loves it. Everybody else plays except me. Music is definitely a passion. It makes me happy. It boosts my endorphins. I get everything done through music and always have.
What has it been like to own a School of Rock, in terms of the music?
I am learning so much about the different genres of music. I grew up in El Salvador, so English is my second language. I remember listening to a lot of stuff we play now when I was growing up and not even knowing what they were singing about, but I loved it. Now I get to dive into it.
It’s kind of weird, if you think about it. I’m not a musician, but I have a mind for business. I have a great staff, and I love focusing on the families and the kids.
What were you hoping to achieve when you became a franchisee? How is School of Rock helping you achieve those goals?
When I bought the franchise, my business goal was to have it as a side business because I still had my career in consumer packaging here. I was never in the mindset of running it and being completely involved until four or five years in. It was more like an investment, but I wasn’t planning to go full-time. I quickly realized I was going crazy doing things by myself with a GM, and I saw tons of opportunities where we weren’t capitalizing. I realized I had to switch to School of Rock full-time if this was going to be my longtime commitment. There’s nothing like running it the way you run it.
The goal has always been not one school but three. I just wanted to get all the processes and operations down and learn everything about it before searching for a site for the second one.
What makes School of Rock a great brand? What sets it apart and makes it a great long-term opportunity?
There’s absolutely nothing like it. It’s a proven model, and the structure of the business and program are a success. There’s nothing out there in the majority of markets I know of that can compete on that level. You may have some mom-and-pop type of schools that do something similar, but we’re a global brand. A lot of kids already know what we do and want to be a part of it. Kids who don’t have an opportunity to do what they’re born to do. A lot of these kids are born musicians.
What do you like most about being involved in a music-related franchise? What excites you about the future of School of Rock?
I like that I have an opportunity to create employment for people who are unique. My musicians are amazing individuals. Coming from a business mindset rather than a creative mindset, it’s been a challenge for me, but I love that they’re passionate. They love what they’re doing. I can create opportunities for employment, and they can work in an area they love. That’s very gratifying for me.
The other thing I really love is when I see the students. My kids were passionate about sports. When I see these School of Rock kids come in, this is all they want to do. They’re so passionate about their instruments and learning how to play. When their eyes light up when they see the place, that’s so rewarding. I have families with kids who were struggling. They didn’t have an avenue to express themselves, and my school gives them that. My school is like therapy for a lot of kids. You can’t put a pricetag on that.
Can you share any stories of how a student’s life was changed by attending School of Rock?
One of my first students came in with her dad. She was 12, and she would not even look up. Her dad wanted to know all about the school. I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t even look at me, she was so shy and reserved. He said, “She likes music and plays a little guitar. I’m looking for more. Maybe she can make some friends; she has no friends”. She called him out in front of me, embarrassed, like, “Dad.” She walked with their head down. She has gone from that to being one of my top guitarists in my school. She’s in my house band, she’s now singing. She has transformed her life, she has friends in this school, she volunteers. She has a lot of confidence now.
What’s the company culture of School of Rock? Describe your relationship with the leadership team and with your fellow franchisees.
My relationship with the leadership is great. I’ve always had a lot of support from the corporate office. Everyone has been great. There is nothing I have asked that I have not received an answer for in a timely manner, in a way that was making sure my issues were being resolved and nothing interrupted my business. I have nothing but amazing things to say about the leadership.
What is the most valuable thing the School of Rock corporate team brings to your business in terms of support? Could you share a story of the support in action?
For my grand opening, they flew in the district franchise consultant, and I have never seen anyone work as hard as she did that day. She worked harder than me that day, making sure that customers were taken care of and everything was running like it was supposed to and making sure I was ok. It was like a wedding day. We had so many people. She said, “You have to enjoy it, too.” I never expected that. Oh my gosh, did they over-deliver in every detail of my grand opening — and afterward.
Knowing what you know now, would you join again?
Yes I would, and that’s why I have no hesitation purchasing another school somewhere. It’s just a matter of finding the right market. The next time I want to do it a little bigger.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with prospective franchisees?
I just think it’s the coolest business to invest in. I would say, just like with any business, think about just becoming a part of the community, because that’s what this business is. You’re dealing with someone’s most precious possession — their child. You deal with lots of passion and emotion, and it’s a great experience.
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