No One Sits Still On This Bus

NAPERVILLE | Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mobile fitness center for kids offers active playtime

It's tough for Deanna Laws to get away from the office. In fact, her workplace follows her everywhere.

Laws, 24, of Naperville, owns and operates Fun Bus Fitness Fun on Wheels, a rolling gym that offers structured yet fun physical fitness by certified staff for children ages 2 to 7. The brightly colored vehicle is a converted school bus that features padded walls and floors and an assortment of equipment.

Laws believed she would run her own company one day but didn't think it would happen so soon. She graduated from Monmouth College with a degree in physical education in December 2003.

"I just fell into it," said Laws, who also is certified in first aid and CPR and has national certification through USA Gymnastics.

In college and throughout high school, she worked as a camp counselor.

"I knew I wanted to do something with children, but I also wanted to do something that was very hands-on," she said.

Laws had worked as a full-time nanny for a while and had considered seeking employment as a personal trainer at a health club. The latter really didn't appeal to her.

That's when her father, Jeff Laws, stumbled across the Fun Bus franchise.

"I knew she was interested in fitness and wanted to work with kids," he said. "It just seemed like something different and interesting, so we decided to check it out." Jeff handles the business side of his daughter's company. Deanna owns the company, drives the bus to its appointments and works with the children. She's sometimes aided by one or two assistants.

"It keeps me really busy, but I enjoy it," Deanna Laws said.

The Fun Bus concept was developed by Kari Denton and her mother, Dawn, in New Jersey in 2001.

Kari Denton said she and her mother ran a day-care business but wanted to do something to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity.

"We started seeing all this information and reports on how children were being diagnosed with diabetes and obesity at a younger age," she said. "We just wanted to focus on something positive and healthy." She said she had seen concepts similar to Fun Bus but that her experience as a day-care operator helped her develop a formula catering to young children. The first Fun Bus clients were the children from Denton's day care.

"Everyone can relate to fun," she said. "The buses are fun to look at, the music is fun and we try to make things festive, like at a day care." Denton said Fun Bus provides franchisees with a fullyequipped, renovated school bus, as well as a business model and advice on marketing. The target market is day-care centers, schools and private parties.

Laws' business is the first Midwest franchise for Fun Bus, Denton said. There are now 16 Fun Bus operators in six states.

Laws, who started her business in September, travels mostly around the western suburbs, but client volume has increased as the word has spread. On average, she visits 15 sites a week.

Down the road, Laws hopes to expand the business.

"I'd like to grow to two buses and hire more people to cover a bigger area," she said. "So far, things are working out really well."

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