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From more than 700 applicants, Jam Hops Gymnastics Factory in Ham Lake, Minnesota, was named this year’s Dream Big Small Business of the Year during an awards ceremony Thursday at the U.S. Chamber’s Big Week for Small Business virtual summit.
Jam Hops Gymnastics Factory CEO Brenda Nolby accepted the award, which comes with a $25,000 prize and celebrates small businesses’ achievements and their contributions to America’s economic growth.
The Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award recognizes a small business that exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and individual initiative. Jam Hops impressed with its demonstrated success and leadership in business growth, innovative strategies, community engagement, and customer and employee relations.
The small business has a tangible passion for transforming the lives of children through its athletic and academic programs, while at the same time maintaining a family-like culture and giving back to the community as the business continues to grow.
Jam Hops was founded in 1997 with the merger of two gymnastics programs, and since then has expanded and outgrown several facilities with new programs and students. Today the company offers gymnastics, Ninja Zone, cheer, dance, academic preschool, day camps, birthday parties, theater, and other activities at two locations in Minnesota.
“The main factors that have contributed to the success and growth of Jam Hops are the focus placed on our culture, and the passion we have for what we do,” Nolby wrote in her application.
“By providing a workplace that set high standards and supports a strong work ethic that will create future leaders, I believe that we’re making an important contribution to our community.”
At Jam Hops, athletics is only a small part of the company’s mission to develop the community’s youth into “Life Champions.” The more than 140 employees at Jam Hops take seriously the responsibility of being role models, and teaching life skills and character development daily.
“We are helping to shape the children that are our future. Therefore, we are shaping the future of our community by providing a place where they can learn, explore, and grow in a safe environment,” writes Nolby.
In the last three years due to more children enrolling in programs and events, Jam Hops has created more than 80 new positions, becoming one of the largest employers in the area. It's also one of the few facilities in the country to have such diverse offerings, creating a huge convenience for parents to be able to access a variety of activities all in one location.
With such a sizeable presence in the community, giving back is woven into Jam Hops’ operations.
For example, the company gives 100% of the proceeds from Open Gym passes to local non-profit organizations (and if a child brings in 10 items to donate to a local pantry, they get a free Open Gym pass). From this initiative Jam Hops has donated $20,000 in the past year, $110,000 since starting the program, and has donated thousands of pounds of food and clothing.
Additionally, Jam Hops often donates birthday parties for local fundraising events and has given almost $72,000 in scholarships in the past year alone to families in need. The children who participate in Jam Hops’ programs also enjoy volunteering to clean up the nearby city park, performing at local nursing homes, and making tie-blankets to distribute to the homeless community.
“We feel that giving back and being involved in the community allows others to see that our focus extends beyond the walls of our facility,” wrote Nolby.
Innovative customer service strategies have led to customers coming back each week. Staff members make an effort to personally get to know all families. Incentive discounts are given for enrolling more than one family member, enrolling in more than one program, and for referring new customers. And each month an Athlete and Dancer of the Month are selected and celebrated in multiple company communication formats.
Jam Hops has also excelled at going the extra mile to make sure that not just their customers, but their own employees are taken care of with program discounts, and comprehensive health coverage and paid time off for full-time employees. Plus, many athletes work as coaches for dance and gymnastics so they can receive a discount on their own tuition, while some parents work part-time while their kids enjoy the different opportunities available.
Clear company priorities and values including integrity, respect, teamwork, enthusiasm, and communication create a strong company inward that resonates outward, writes Nolby. “Helping staff to discover their strengths and use them to bless others has led to the strong culture and successful business Jam Hops is today.”
Brenda Nolby has previously been recognized as a 2018 U.S. Small Business Administration Person of the Year for Minnesota, and a 2015 Top 50 Women in Business Honoree – Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Jam Hops has been recognized as a Business Excellence Awards Winner: 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, 2020 Favorite Neighborhood Business, 2019 Best Over-All Company, 2016 Best Community Impact, 2015 CEO of the Year, and 2013 Fastest Growing Company.
The 2020 Dream Big Awards also named the following winners in seven categories. Learn more about the business achievement awards and all the finalists here.
- Emerging Business Achievement Award: South LA Café – Los Angeles, CA
- Green/Sustainable Business Achievement Award: Waterlust – Miami, FL
- Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award: Dulan's Soul Food – Los Angeles, CA
- Veteran-Owned Business Achievement Award: Aptive Resources – Alexandria, VA
- Woman-Owned Business Achievement Award: JJPR Agency – Daphne, AL
- Young Entrepreneur Achievement Award: Teen Hustl – Broomfield, CO
- Community Support and Leadership Award: InclusivCare – Avondale, LA