Pam Gunther Troublemaker at Fit and Fun Playscapes

Having raised 2 children, I had a vague idea of the difficulty teachers face in the midst of shrinking budgets, growing class sizes, and increasing demands on results. Then I met Pam Gunther of Fit and Fun Playscapes and learned just how difficult it is to be an educator. She and her team are helping.

With Fit and Fun Playscapes, children have more options to burn off energy at recess, take a brain break in the classroom and push their bodies through fun movements that engage parts of the brain critical to learning. After working through certain activities and movements, most children come back to their desks ready to learn; not ready to fidget.

Fit & Fun activities include solutions indoors, outdoors and on the go like:

  • Super Stickers® – For school hallways, classrooms, brain break areas, OT/PT rooms, etc.
  • Reusable Stencils & Paint – For paved outdoor areas, like playgrounds and school yards
  • Roll-Out Activities® – Portable activities that can go just about anywhere, indoors or outdoors.

A big lesson for entrepreneurs, especially MOMtrepreneurs

Many of us came up in business during the “dot com boom.” We learned that an insane timeline and endless hours of work was de rigueur. Pam took a different approach. She didn’t rush the launch of Fit and Fun Playscapes. Instead, she used the time to embed herself in the education world, talking to physical educators, principals, teachers, occupational therapists and health professionals, learning about their struggles and the important multi-faceted connections between physical activity, the brain and learning.

The CDC listed Fit and Fun Playscapes as a resource for creating an environment supportive of physical activity during recess

That scientific approach turned into a major differentiator for Fit and Fun. Anyone can produce stencils or stickers and sell them into school systems; and plenty do. However, many of Pam’s competitors don’t build science into their products.

Pam’s slow and steady approach started to pay off in 2017. That’s when the CDC and Shape America published “Recess Planning In Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies into Practice” and Fit & Fun Playscapes is listed as a resource for Creating an Environment Supportive of Physical Activity During Recess.

Looking back, she realized “I’m glad that it wasn’t rushed. I’m glad I was able to take the time to learn, listen, and watch what was happening in our schools.” That slower approach enabled her to draw on her technical expertise as an architect, concern as a mother of 3 active boys who struggled to keep it together in a classroom setting, and passion for colorful, non-digital concepts that get kids moving.

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The Pivot

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools systematically closed, Fit and Fun’s sales were impacted like most businesses. Many people recommended that Pam use her knowledge of stickers to make a fast buck in the retail world (You know, those scary institutional-looking social-distancing stickers on the floors everywhere that are now peeling up.). She contemplated shifting and making a fast buck but instead decided to stay the course.

It took me 10 years to build Fit and Fun Playscapes, and there was no way I was going down like that. Hell no.

Pam decided Fit and Fun is about kids, teachers, and schools! She instructed her team to launch free resources and giveaways to support their struggling customers in their time of need. They re-thought some of their products and pivoted to provide solutions for in-classroom, remote learning models and socially distant recess and physical education. Pam and her sons made videos in front of their home using spray chalk and their main product line, Reusable Stencils, to create “Active Sidewalks” and provide colorful, socially distant physical activities for neighbors during the pandemic to break the monotony of just walking.

In August of 2020, she hosted a 5 panel, 2-hour Zoom meeting with over 100 people logging in to learn tips from experienced educators about how they are coping and plan to deal with the unique challenges the pandemic has caused for teachers. “We never stopped working. We utilized every moment we could to think of ways to survive the pandemic, provide solutions our customers needed and keep our doors open. It took me 10 years to build Fit and Fun Playscapes, and there was no way I was going down like that. Hell no. We are here for the long term for our customers. “

From the above, you might think Pam moves slowly. Nothing could be further from the truth. She’s a Trouble Group client, and from my own experience I can assure you she doesn’t take a leisurely approach to things. She and her team continue to listen, learn and think about what the next move is and only when she is good and ready, will she implement a plan to execute thoughtfully, thoroughly and correctly. That’s what makes her a market leader. Fit and Fun Playscapes have numerous paths ahead of them, and it will be interesting to see how they continue to pivot.

I predict 2021 will be a very good year for Fit and Fun Playscapes.

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