I remember the first time I walked into a The Little Gym class. It was in America. I arrived at the end of a class and the children were running out of the gym. I’ll never forget how their eyes sparkled. They had huge grins, but it was the pure joy and excitement in their eyes that was unforgettable.
I thought ‘Wow, something special happened in that gym – I have to find out what it was’. I walked into the class, and an instructor was on her knees smiling and talking eye-to-eye with a small child. There was so much love in those eyes, and so much joy in the child.
That was my hallelujah moment. I researched The Little Gym, found an incredible curriculum designed to unleash the potential in every child, and I knew that I had found my purpose in life. At the time I was working as a consultant at McKinsey. At McKinsey, I had always gravitated to the projects that involved people. Creating alignment on a new strategic orientation, developing leadership teams’ impact and unleashing people’s potential.
With The Little Gym, I had finally found a way to live my mission of unleashing people’s potential every single day, and to do that with those that have the most potential – children.
There was nothing like this in Belgium, and I wanted to give my three little boys, their friends and their families The Little Gym experience.
So I left McKinsey and opened The Little Gym Waterloo franchise in 2000. It wasn’t an easy journey. My wife and I invested our life savings, and the life savings of some of our family and other people who wanted to support our project, to set up The Little Gym Waterloo. And we have never looked back.
We worked hard with our amazing team of instructors. And we made The Little Gym Waterloo a wonderful place for all children – regardless of their sporting talent and natural abilities – to make friends, build confidence, take risks, be brave, be nurtured and loved, and have fun.
It was a great success, and the feedback from our members – tall and small – was wonderful. The children loved the classes, and the parents loved seeing their children developing, smiling, and having so much fun.
It dawned on me that making the eyes of children in Waterloo sparkle wasn’t enough. I wanted the eyes of children all over Europe to sparkle.
In 2001, I bought the master license to bring The Little Gym franchise to all countries in Europe. It provided me with an opportunity to work with other smart, entrepreneurial and passionate people to set up Gyms across the continent.
Today, we have 45 gyms in Europe run by an incredible group of people that care deeply for the children and parents that visit each week.
Most of our gyms are opened by parents who, themselves, have fallen in love with The Little Gym after being members and seeing the positive impact The Little Gym had on their own children.
Thousands of children now attend The Little Gym in Europe each week, and I am often stopped by parents who want to share stories.
One of the most touching stories is of a mother that visited my home one day. Her son was having a playdate with my eldest child. She saw a The Little Gym folder, and realised that I was part of The Little Gym. She burst into tears, and started to tell me how much it had helped her son and changed their family’s life.
I am incredibly lucky to work with our amazing network of owners, instructors and support teams in Europe and around the world. And we are all so thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children and families that join our classes each week.
Alexander de Wit
Founder & CEO - The Little Gym Europe