Ken and John, Franchise Owners from Apex Leadership Company.

Ken’s and John’s Story

I’m changing things up a bit – and interviewing TWO incredible franchise owners in this feature. Both Ken and John are franchise owners for Apex Leadership Co. – an organization that collaborates with school PTO /As and faculty to build student leaders through meaningful and financially successful school fundraising events. John and Ken both have unique insights to share about their path to franchise ownership. (I supported Ken on his journey, and I met John through industry colleagues.) In addition, the Apex story is pretty amazing, and it’s not hard to see why…so let’s jump right in.

Before we explore your unique franchise journeys, let’s talk about Apex Leadership Co.

What is it, and what’s inspirational about its mission?

KEN: I could talk about this all day! Apex Leadership Co. offers a really unique approach for school fundraising. Instead of the typical food “goodie” sale, Apex combines a leadership program with a fun fitness-based fundraising event to build character, promote community spirit, and raise a LOT more money than schools thought possible with a single fundraiser.

The kids love it because they have an active role in the program and event – and they have a blast participating. Parents and donors love it because the donation process is electronic and easy – and the draw to contribute is more compelling and inspirational than typical school fundraisers. Schools and PTOs love it because Apex handles everything, soup to nuts – and of course, they also love it because Apex fundraisers knock financial expectations out of the park!

JOHN: Most schools hit their annual budget with just the one Apex fundraiser. Others might even double their targeted number. After every event, the school team is amazed by what they’ve accomplished in just two weeks – and how hassle-free, fun, and engaging the process was.

Apex is a program that makes a difference in countless ways. Students today face more challenges than ever before, and I never get tired of hearing the value the kids get out of their participation. Instead of simply asking students to pass along food ordering forms to their parents, we’re teaching them life and leadership skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. And it’s incredibly rewarding to be part of that!

As you were investigating franchise opportunities, what attracted you personally to Apex Leadership Co.?

KEN: It’s really pretty simple: Apex checked off the three boxes that I had identified as key factors for a business for me:
1.     Ability to impact others in a positive way
2.     Rooted in the community
3.     Have the ability to grow and expand

JOHN: It wasn’t quite as simple for me – at least not at first. I learned about Apex when I was evaluating new franchise opportunities, and to be fully honest, I wasn’t “sold” right away. I was invited to a Discovery Day in Florida to learn more about the program, and on the way, I was brainstorming a way to gracefully say “no thank you.” 

But then I saw Apex in action, and I was hooked. I loved everything about it – the energy from the kids, the tangible impacts – and I knew I had to be a part of it. Seeing is definitely believing.

When I flew back home, we held a family meeting, and I remember my own kids said to me, “Dad, this is so YOU.” And they were right.

Let’s backtrack a bit…what was your career journey before Apex?

KEN: I was always in sales, whether it be direct sales or sales management. I worked for a couple of different companies until I chose the entrepreneur path. I started my first business in 1998 and had two companies in the same space for 15 years before I sold them and moved home to the Philly area. I worked in the commercial solar space in business development for two years – and soon realized I really liked working for myself better!

JOHN: I consider myself a “serial franchisee” who is always open to new opportunities. This is the third franchise I’ve been part of; the other two are Furniture Medic (part of ServiceMaster) and Always Best Senior Care Services. Both are mature and don’t need 100% of my engagement at this point in time. I’m also an enthusiastic volunteer for local baseball and softball teams, so Apex really did fit perfectly with both my personal and professional interests.

What were your biggest challenges in getting started?

KEN: As with anything, the biggest challenge is getting people to try something new and consider change. I was the first franchise owner in PA, so no one had ever heard about Apex – and frankly, I don’t think the early schools I spoke to really believed we could do what I was saying we could. I literally had a principal tell me, “We don’t want to be the ‘test’ school. It sounds great, but let us know how it goes after you work with some other schools!”

Fortunately, we have worked with almost 30 schools now, and our results have been truly unbelievable – not only the amount of money raised for schools, but also the impact we’ve had on the students and teachers.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of franchise ownership?

JOHN: Topping the list is the opportunity to build something and help others. In addition, having support from other franchise owners and building relationships and learning from and mentoring others are all great parts of the franchise world.

What has been a favorite win?

KEN: Any opportunity we have to partner with a school and see the impact we have with the kids, teachers, staff and community is a great win. However, one of my favorite stories was when we served one of our schools and afterward, the PTO was asking the principal if they should bring us back – because they raised enough money to cover the entire budget for almost two years. The principal said, “Absolutely bring Apex back! We’ll figure out what to do with the extra money, but it’s the leadership lessons that they teach and the fact that they really had an impact on the students we needed them to have an impact on.” That made my year! That’s why we do what we do.

What did you like best about your time with me in exploring potential opportunities?

KEN: You took the time to get to know me and what was important to me – and every business you recommended aligned with my core values and goals. There wasn’t one business that you presented that didn’t make sense. And that made the process so much easier and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to someone interested in franchise exploration?


JOHN: As I shared earlier, when it came to my Apex story…seeing is definitely believing. So, whenever possible, part of your exploration should include talking to current franchise owners, going to a Discovery Day or similar event, and seeing the franchise in action. You’ll get more of a flavor for franchise’s real-world story (and the many individual stories within it) – and can better decide if you want to be a part of it.

KEN: Think about what is important to you, and talk with at least two franchise consultants. Find someone who you can relate to and understands what it is you are looking for. If you choose someone and they are not putting the right companies in front of you that align with your goals and values, go find another one. Then, after you narrow the companies down to 4 or 5, do your due diligence and continue to narrow it down to 2 to 3. And finally, choose the business that you feel meets your needs the most.
Great advice I received from a mentor in the process was that at some point you have to trust your gut and due diligence – and make a decision. Then, make a plan, follow it, take consistent action, and keep trusting your gut!