In August of 1998, Andy Sherrard and Danny Stevens started O2B Kids and opened the first O2B Kids SuperCenter here in Alachua County. Since this endeavor, the business has grown to have an estimated 500 staff members and has expanded to four additional locations in the county as well as locations in Fleming Island, Altamonte Springs and Oviedo.
Sherrard and Stevens began O2B Kids because they are passionate about experience-based learning and because they understood the importance of early childhood education and its ability to build a foundation for lifelong learning.
“It’s just an exciting time for growth and learning, and we are thrilled to be a part of that,” said Andy Sherrard, co-owner and president.
O2B Kids welcomes children between the ages of 0 to 13 years old and comprises three main parts: licensed preschools, afterschool programs, and a Family Membership Program. In addition to their staff and the unique experience O2B Kids provides, Sherrard says what sets the company apart is its business model.
“The services that we provide are offered in every community across the country – what is different is how we package it,” Sherrard said. “Everything is in one location, [and] our pricing model makes it all-inclusive. What we have really done is merge a children’s museum, a preschool, and a community recreational center all into one.”
A member can take as many classes as they choose, ranging from cheerleading and karate to foreign language and science. Sherrard explained that O2B Kids strives to be as convenient for parents and as beneficial for children as possible.
“Our goal is to help every child grow into a responsible, respectful citizen of our world,” Sherrard said. “Our places are very vibrant and colorful [and] the architecture is unique, and so it just feels different. I think there is an excitement and emotional connection when folks enter [because] it’s not some place that you are used to seeing and experiencing.”
Sherrard believes that forming strong emotional connections and receiving positive word of mouth are both key to the continued growth and success of his business, and he feels positively about having begun here in Gainesville, a place he considers home.
“There was an enthusiastic support network that wanted to help you be successful,” Sherrard said. “I don’t think we could’ve started this anywhere else. I think it was the perfect community to do it. The university is also a goldmine of resources [and] talent.”
Despite O2B Kids’ current success, Sherrard admits that starting the business was difficult and that he still considers it a work in progress. In terms of tips for aspiring small business owners, Sherrard emphasizes the importance of valuing each individual customer.
“As far as expanding, stay true to your mission and focus on each individual customer as opposed to the masses,” Sherrard said. “I think sometimes you can lose sight of the service that you provide a single person when you are thinking about everything that you do in a global sense, but that transaction is made up of one person at a time, and if you do that well, and if you do that well every single time, then you can continue to grow.”
In addition to valuing customers, Sherrard believes in the importance of regular upkeep and respecting staff.
“If you get too antsy and you’re not keeping the place as clean as it needs to be, [or] you’re not as friendly as you need to be, [or] you’re not as fast as you need to be, then you’re not going to be able to accomplish your goals,” Sherrard said. “Be brilliant on the basics, and hire great staff and take care of them because they are everything.”
By Haley Clement