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The School of Rock AllStars program gives students an opportunity to perform at major venues.

School of Rock Buy Helps YEB Build ‘Enduring Enterprise’

School of Rock and Youth Enrichment Brands didn’t need each other. The music education franchise and youth activities platform, respectively, were each growing: School of Rock’s systemwide sales rocketed up 34.2 percent in 2022, to $172 million, while YEB was digesting two big acquisitions.

It was the opportunity to fuel their similar missions that served as the thesis for YEB’s eventual purchase of School of Rock in September 2023 in a deal valued at more than $125 million.

“The most potent reason for our brands to come together is building confidence, making connections and creating life skills that otherwise are going away,” said Rob Price, School of Rock president. “Sports and music are great for that.”

School of Rock students performing on stage at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI
School of Rock students have the opportunity to perform on some big stages, including Summerfest in Milwaukee.

At its 350 locations, School of Rock offers a range of music lessons in guitar, bass, vocals, drums and keys, along with songwriting and performance programs, plus options for adults. The Canton, Massachusetts-based company had been receiving a lot of external interest, said Price, and in early 2023 formalized a process to find a buyer as Sterling Partners exited.

Backed by private equity firm Roark Capital, Youth Enrichment Brands formed in late 2021 following the acquisition of youth sports league franchisor i9 Sports. i9 joined US Sports Camps, which Roark bought in 2020, and YEB added Streamline Brands—franchisor of swim school concepts SafeSplash, SwimLabs, Swimtastic, Saf-T-Swim and Miller Swim School—in June 2022.

Roark, which owns multiple franchise platforms including Inspire Brands, GoTo Foods and Driven Brands, developed a strong investment thesis around youth activities and sports, which first led it to purchase US Sports Camps, said Justin Hoeveler, CEO of Youth Enrichment Brands. School of Rock is the prominent leader in music education, he continued, and is “on a tremendous trajectory” with its impressive customer retention and room for new unit growth.

School of Rock students at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI
School of Rock programs are available for a range of ages, from 6 years old to adult.

In February, Price took on the additional role of chief customer officer for YEB, while others on his management team, including Mary Connor and Dorothy Moyer-Hoffman, moved to new positions for the platform company. Hoeveler said the aim is to take some of School of Rock’s secret sauce “and apply it in other places,” such as marketing and building brand affinity across all of YEB’s franchises.

The integration process itself, noted Price, has been relatively smooth as both groups emphasized mutual values but didn’t ignore the contrasts in a platform that up until then had been anchored in sports. “True, YEB’s existing brands were in sports, but if you ladder up, there’s a wide focus on joyful experiences, competing with yourself versus with others and creating community,” he said. “Our franchisees are very sophisticated and they got it instantly—this is an extension of our broader mission.”

Help kids discover and develop a lifelong passion for music Learn more

Since joining School of Rock in 2017 after the ouster of former CEO Dzana Homan, Price said he’s built up a “storehouse of trust” with franchisees and the aim now is “continuing to harness, support and feed that intense focus on franchisee growth and school growth.”

“You’ve got to commit to a perpetual zeal to customer euphoria and franchisee satisfaction.”

Hoeveler, meanwhile, noted with all the platform-building activity in franchising, it’s important to ensure long-term relevance. “It’s not just slamming together things and buying growth.”

“We’re building something that we’re imagining what it can be in 100 years,” Price added. “When you approach M&A like that and integration like that, it diminishes a lot of the complexity. We’re building toward an enduring enterprise.”

Read the original article by Laura Michaels for Franchise Times.

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