Member Spotlight: The Little Gym
Apr 09, 2021
The idea of opening a new business during a global pandemic might leave a lot of people saying “no thank you.” But not for Robbyn Mitchell, who opened The Little Gym in the Northland in July 2020. The Little Gym is a children’s gym that offers gymnastics classes, dance classes, and more. It’s one of 440 nationwide, and the Northland location was the first one to open after the global pandemic began last March.
Mitchell’s long path to opening The Little Gym served well in meeting increased safety protocols because of COVID. She had left her corporate engineering job in 2018 to manage a Little Gym in Johnson County full-time, but soon after, she realized she and her husband were ready to open their own. They spent part of 2019 visiting other Little Gyms whenever they traveled: some in Tennessee, Minnesota, California, and Texas. During that time, she asked other owners to do a little Monday-morning quarterbacking. “I didn’t want to make the same mistakes that other owners did,” she explained. “I was able to ask all of these owners different questions like ‘What’s your square footage, what do you wish you had that you didn’t have, what would you have done differently?’”
When she signed her lease in February 2020, the contract allowed Mitchell to actually open her doors a few months later. That allowed her to use the extra time and the knowledge she gained from her informal Little Gym tours to make sure the right safety protocols were in place. Masks are mandatory, there’s a rigorous cleaning schedule, social distancing, and anyone with sickness symptoms is asked not to come to class. Even with the ability to build in extra safety protocols from day one, Mitchell still had to make some adjustments – mainly with her expectations. “It’s uncharted territory right now. We didn’t know what was in front of us. We had our projections on what we thought things would be, but you just don’t know how the community would accept a brand-new business.”
Fortunately, the community has responded positively. Students don’t need previous gymnastics experience to enroll. The environment is non-competitive, and there are classes for kids as young as four months to as old as twelve. The Little Gym offers several classes during the week for all ages, and families can also rent the location for birthday parties.
Mitchell -- who was an elite gymnast in high school -- had experience with the Little Gym well before she was an owner. During college, she worked at The Little Gym of Greensboro, North Carolina while obtaining her engineering degree at North Carolina AT&T. In 2017, Mitchell and her husband enrolled their active 18-month-old son in The Little Gym in Kansas City, KS. Realizing how much she loved being back in that environment, Mitchell became a part-time employee. Her passion for the business, the kids, and the instruction grew and soon she left her corporate job to become full-time Curriculum Director. The next step was opening her own Little Gym in The Village at Burlington Creek.
Leaving a successful career for something completely different has also been a success personally for Mitchell. While she liked her work as an engineer, she says she is fulfilled and has a sense of joy heading to work every day. She also says her engineering background definitely helps. “It allows me to manage the project, do all of the planning, do cost analysis, and use all the engineering time frames. Even though it’s children, it’s still inventory,” she laughs.
For Mitchell and her husband, The Little Gym is bigger than teaching tumbling exercises. “We take gymnastics and incorporate it into building confidence in children. Gymnastics is the tool that we use but it’s not all that we do. We are the springboard into life. That's what we like to call ourselves.”
To learn more about The Little Gym of Kansas City North-Parkville and a full list of classes and rates, click here.