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Teacher, franchisee favors arts for kids

The “clay room” at Children’s Art Classes, a franchised art studio in Brownsburg. (photo provided)

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A veteran teacher in Hendricks County has launched a new business to help ensure arts are part of a student’s well-rounded education. Marie Kirkeiner, who spent decades in music classrooms and teaching private vocal lessons, is the first franchisee in Indiana for Children’s Art Classes. The private art studio in Brownsburg offers a curriculum of painting, drawing, sculpture, among other skills, to children ages 3-18.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Kirkeiner explained there are very few opportunities outside of school to receive specialized instruction in art.

“The arts kids do not have enough opportunities outside of school. We have plenty of music, plenty of sports. If you look around where are the studio art facilities? They’re extremely rare. Very rare,” said Kirkeiner.

The lack of access to supervised arts training was heightened by the pandemic. Kirkeiner says over the past two and half years, as COVID swept the nation and kept schools closed, many students lost out on their ability to express their creativity in an art class.

“There were a handful of kids who did things remotely, but there’s nothing that can replace doing things in person. Doing things in person absolutely is the best thing,” said Kirkeiner.

But even after schools reopened, sometimes teachers who were not school district employees had limited access. That is another reason Kirkeiner said she started examining other options, including investing in her own brick-and-mortar location.

“So that I owned, I controlled my institution. No one would be telling me, ‘Oh, no, we’re not letting you in our school or our YMCA anymore.’ I’m going to keep building my own space,” said Kirkeiner with determination in her voice.

Kirkeiner says she investigated at last 20 different franchise models but narrowed the list down to four arts-focused businesses.

“I looked at a fair amount of different variety of businesses, franchises, and the ones that resonated with me the most were the ones that had to do with the arts,” said Kirkeiner. “It’s just so engrained in me, my love of arts.”

Tony Doster, who helps entrepreneurs explore franchise opportunities in the Indianapolis area, says one of the biggest challenges for people considering a franchise, or any business, is self-doubt.

“Common notions which challenge individuals are, ‘I could never get funding’, ‘I have never managed a business,’” said Doster.

He says often the uncertainty is revealed to be a much smaller concern than individuals ever imagined. However, taking the franchise path is not without risks. But unlike starting your own business, a franchisee has the support of the parent organization on issues, such as marketing, pricing, and supply chain.

“The franchisor has a team of individuals in each of these areas, and perhaps hundreds of “eyes” in the field to get early warnings of any challenges,” explained Doster. “How can a lone business compare to this depth and breadth of resources?”

While operating the franchise business, Kirkeiner remains active teaching private music education. It is not part of the Children’s Art Classes curriculum, but she included space in the new arts studio for vocal lessons.

Kirkeiner says arts are essential as they can teach students valuable lessons beyond the sketch pad, paint brush or mound of clay.

”There’s something empowering about color, and light, and just losing time and space and getting deeply focused on creating something artistic. Then a child steps back and said ‘I did that. I did that.’ And it’s empowering.”