How do you get young preschoolers to learn? By making each lesson something fun.

Hooray For Books is a franchise that makes learning fun. Using fun themes, stories and hands on projects, kids are able to use their imaginations to the max. However the founder, Mary Murphy, didn’t start out with a business in mind.

Tell us a little about Hooray for Books.

I was a kindergarten teacher in Newton, MA and loved it and saw myself as a “lifer.” But, when I got pregnant with #3 it meant spending 5 days a week with other people’s kids vs. my own- hmmmm. A bunch of my neighbors in town with 1/2 day kindergartners urged me to start something after school so the kids had one long day (Ok- I was that crafty neighbor you might secretly hate, always hosting creative home birthday parties for my kids or inviting kids over for fun stuff- egg decorating by the dozens etc) and I decided to give it a try. It was a safe bet because I was still on extended maternity leave. I remember being at a ladies night out in the neighborhood asking moms to vote on my logo and slogan which I had chicken scratched on paper!

What inspired it?

Kids love to cook and that has always been a part of my teaching. I saw HFB as a way to combine 4 things I am passionate about- kids, humor, reading and cooking. The motivation was to do something I love while providing a service that did not exist, while being there for my own family! According to the experts, between the ages of 2-8 years old is when a child’s attitude about reading for life is formed. My goal is to take that time and ensure they have the most fantastic attitude towards reading to last them a lifetime!

When we moved to Hopkinton I looked into classes for my 2 young children. Finding few options, I tried a few sports classes but was not overly impressed. One class I recall doing was a story and art craft time for little ones. After every class I would leave thinking- “I can create something that blows this away!” I have always loved kids and ironically, always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was 4 in my preschool “yearbook” it says When I Grow Up I want to be ….I wrote “a moother” with about 8 stick figure kids around me. Translation= a mother and I was close – with 5 of my own now! I also ran my own cake decorating business in HS creating very unique, one of a kind cakes for clients. So- despite teaching in a public school for 12+ years…owning my own thing was in my blood! I also consider myself a very creative person so my success has been built on very unique lessons, zany cooking projects and using humor!

When was it first launched?

January 2001

When did you begin offering franchises?

January 2010

Walk us through one of your classes.

Typically the children are greeted at the door by a dressed up teacher- matching the theme of the day. (I’ve been a witch, a cowboy, a mouse, a dog etc- you name it!) It sets the tone for kids being excited and laughing! The room is very whimsical and is laid out with activities tied into the theme for a bit of free choice time. After that we clean and gather and have a challenge which introduces the educational component and engages them in the theme again. Next is the first story (I tend to pick very funny stories that are not the very familiar ones.) Next we all go wash our hands and don aprons for the cooking activity. The cooking is very hands-on and we follow the recipe and children get to take part in making our creations. Even the littlest students crack eggs, level flour etc but we use all these funny terms I’ve created over the years. While our treats are baking the kids use the recipe as a learning tool. With highlighters, they search for the letter of the day etc. After that we participate in a hands-on reading based game to again reiterate the concept of the day and we end with a 2nd story. The treats are packed up and taken home as kids love to share with parents what they made!

Below is how the lesson plan is posted for parents with the activities filled in:

  • Activity to Get You Shouting Hooray
  • Challenge
  • First Book to Get you Hooked
  • Hand-Washing 101
  • Cooking Activity
  • Reading -Based Game
  • Final Book to Leave Shouting Hooray

How much does it cost?

The classes consist of sessions. There is a 12 week fall + 12 week winter session + a shorter spring session. For 6 weeks= $180 or about $30 a class. The summer camps meet 3 days in a row for up to 8 weeks. Children can begin HFB as a toddler and go through first grade and never hit the same books or cooking activities so it is a great feeder system!

Tell us about your franchise opportunity. What are the requirements?

All the pricing and info is on the website. For a prospective buyer, HFB is a very family oriented business. I envision attracting former corporate moms who don’t see corporate as the right fit anymore. They’ve taken time off for a family perhaps and don’t want the pressure of deadlines and bosses. I also think many women (in particular) hit a point where they no longer are happy just going to work. They desire a job with flexibility but they also value knowing at the end of the day they are making a difference in their endeavor. HFB does all that and offers franchisees the ability to craft their own work schedule unlike gyms or restaurants which are 24/7 and very pricey to invest in! Someone must be willing to “give it their all” to get it set up and after that, it is a very family -friendly business!

Any tips for potential franchisees of Hooray for Books?

Some people assume you have to be a teacher to own a HFB but that is NOT the case! I envision a corporate or business-oriented mom (who no longer finds the stress of corporate a happy place) buying a HFB franchise. Someone who is young (or young at heart), energetic (with perhaps young kids herself) who will run the business side and hire a teacher or two is the perfect fit. Many businesses start and franchise after just a few years while they are still working out the day to day kinks! HFB has been at this for 9+ years so we have tested and re-tested every recipe/lesson plan etc. so that will be reassuring! The following comes from the IFA website which I think is a great summary for people unfamiliar with franchising!

“Owning a franchise allows you to go into business for yourself, but not by yourself.”

✔ A franchise provides franchisees with a certain level of independence where they can operate their business.

✔ A franchise provides an established product or service which already enjoys widespread brandname recognition. This gives the franchisee the benefits of customer awareness which would ordinarily take years to establish.

✔A franchise increases your chances of business success because you are associating with proven products and methods. copyright- THE IFA EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from your business?

Don’t re-invent the wheel! I have a teaching background but always had a good marketing sense! In the beginning I did everything myself and now- I network and ask questions. I am also a huge believer in helping others which I do for myself and for my business. I have become the go to person because I only refer people I’ve had a great experience with so I am credible! Plus- I have 5 kids so people figure she’s done it all and if she liked it, I’m sure I will!”

Do you have any goals that you still hope to accomplish over the next few years?

Beyond growing the business through franchising (and keeping our family of 7 sane 🙂 I am going to write a book series for toddlers! I have the ideas but just need to get them on paper and find an illustrator/publisher. When I started my Book Lovin’ Babies classes it became clear to me that there are very few appropriate board books for the 1 1/2-3 year old crowd! On the personal side, I trained but got injured and could not run the ’09 Boston Marathon. I’d love to run with my husband (he’s run 20 in a row for Dana Farber Cancer Institute- that’s how we met) and my oldest Haley who will be 18 next year!

Any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?

Network, ask questions, stick to your passion, don’t become obsessed!