Betty Francisco is CEO & Founder of Reimagine Play, a startup that provides fun, play-inspired fitness programs to school-age kids and teens.
What inspired you to launch Reimagine Play?
I practiced law for 16 years and the last eight were as General Counsel for Sports Club LA. It was the best of both worlds. I could practice law and be involved with the business side and help the company look for opportunities for growth. That made me feel like I was part of building something. After Sports Club got sold to Equinox I thought it was the perfect time for me to go on my own.
The idea for Reimagine Play had been brewing years before when I noticed that my two daughters were not learning the types of movement skills necessary for success in sports and other youth activities. When I went on my own, I set out to create something that was about having fun, that got kids and families involved and where we could challenge kids in a different way. After doing a lot of research, it became clear that other parents like me were looking for new ways to get their kids more active.
I’m on a mission to provide an innovative approach to youth fitness that encourages children to move and play more while developing a life-long passion for healthy and active lifestyle. Our motto is: Play Strong, Play Hard, Play More!
How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
It’s been all bootstrapped. I launched in May 2015 by doing a lot of pop-up classes to see if kids and parents liked the concept. We used parks because parks are free and also partnered with local gyms and community centers.
We used the pop-ups as market validation. And what they validated is that kids enjoy obstacles and things that challenge them physically and mentally. Reimagine Play has become like a boot camp for kids. Relying on borrowed space is not ideal, so now our focus is on finding our own space.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far and how have you met them?
The biggest challenge is continuing to operate in bootstrap mode. I’ve resisted raising capital until I have the facility opportunity ready. The challenge is to continue building a brand in a way that is lean and can scale while looking at the bigger picture.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for Reimagine Play?
We’re looking for our own permanent space in an area that is still accessible to Boston families. Finding it is not easy because for our type of offering we need a space with very high ceilings. My long-term goal is to create a franchise that is a family focused training/gym concept.
How do you define success?
For me, it’s not just about building something and making a lot of money. Success is really going to be about impacting lives. It will come down to how many kids and families I inspired to become healthier or to take on a new challenge because of their involvement with Reimagine Play.
What lessons have you learned about being an entrepreneur?
The biggest lesson is about being very flexible. You may start out with one idea and you may have to pivot and pivot every day to seize an opportunity or meet a demand. Pivoting is critical for entrepreneurs to succeed. It’s key to do it in a way that is purposeful so you are not chasing everything.
The journey to build something can be a lonely one. I am a solo entrepreneur and while I have a lot of people supporting me, I am the one driving Reimagine Play. Being an entrepreneur is harder than I thought. Not because I thought I could do it all, but rather because I was coming from a corporate world where I had a team around me. Now I wear many hats.
What words of advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Stick with it, and enjoy the journey. It’s not always about the end goal, that should be your prize. Enjoy how you get there. Learn from all the places you’ve been and you’ll never regret the experience. Also, it’s very important to surround yourself with good supporters, advisors, and mentors.
What’s one tool or book that’s been helpful to you recently?
I’m reading Nely Galán’s book Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way. Her story about building a multi-million-dollar brand from nothing is inspiring. A wise book that teaches women entrepreneurs how to be independent and grow their businesses.
For marketing my go to tool is Canvas. It makes designing fast, and it cuts down the design time and expense.
From the series
Startup Warriors: Entrepreneurs’ Stories of Ingenuity, Grit & Resilience