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Copyright 2013 The Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
August 24, 2013 Saturday
Pg. D-1
537 words
Former math teacher started Jumping Jax Gym
Charlie Patton

In June 2012, Scott Sassman decided the time had come to give up his job as a public school teacher and concentrate on becoming an entrepreneur.

Not that he gave up teaching. Now, instead of teaching math, he's an itinerant gym teacher, traveling from school to school in a van to bring his Jumping Jax Gym to elementary school children and preschoolers.

Sassman first got the idea when he was teaching kindergarten in New Jersey from 2000 to 2002.

"A guy would come and teach tumbling," Sassman remembered. "He called it Wacky Gym."

Sassman, an avid sports fan, offered to "combine my knowledge of sports with his knowledge of gymnastics" to broaden the appeal of Wacky Gym. He did that for a couple of years.

Then a friend recruited him to move to Jacksonville and work as a teacher with youthful offenders. From 2002 to 2010 he taught a variety of subjects through the Jacksonville Youth Center. Then funding was cut and his job disappeared. So he took a job teaching math at North Shore Elementary School.

He also decided to try emulating his New Jersey experience. He invested about $4,000 in a van and some gym equipment and launched Jumping Jax Gym. In 2010 and 2011 he did it as a summer job. He worked with preschools, arranging to visit a few on a weekly basis and spend about 30 minutes putting the kids through a workout and teaching them the rudiments of a sport.

"We're only giving our kids one day a week of P.E. in the schools," he said. "And many parents are working long hours. Getting enough exercise is a problem. I'm just trying to get kids to understand the importance of fitness."

After deciding to make Jumping Jax Gym a full-time job in the summer of 2012, Sassman looked for a way to expand his business. A principal with whom he'd worked at North Shore had become principal at Abess Park Elementary in East Arlington. Sassman offered to bring Jumping Jax Gym to Abess Park's extended day students, making it the first of eight elementary schools where he takes his program during extended day hours.

Sassman doesn't contract with the schools. Instead, at each of the 14 preschools and eight elementary schools where Jumping Jax Gym is available, Sassman contracts with the parents of the children he is teaching. He regularly sets up outside the schools to distribute fliers to parents as they pick up their kids. And he figures the children themselves become his salespeople after they see their fellow students having fun in the program. His standard is $50 every eight weeks.

His business has grown rapidly, from 350 kids when he started to 2,500 today. He has been able to hire two coaches, though one recently left for military deployment. He's planning to add a second van.

To keep expanding, he's looked for some venture capital. He filled out an application to "Shark Tank," the ABC television show on which small business owners make pitches to a panel of venture capitalists.

Sassman was invited to submit a 27-page business plan and a 5-minute "infomercial." He sent those off and was told he wouldn't hear from the show again unless he was invited to appear on it.

"I didn't get that call," Sassman said.

But he's not giving up.

"I'll send another video for season six."

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413

Photo Scott Sassman, or "Coach Scott," demonstrates how he wants the children to jump and land. Sassman, owner of Jumping Jax Gym, leads children at La Petite Academy on Girvin Road through a fitness program on Aug. 15. Sassman was a teacher before pursuing the children's fitness business. "Coach Scott" gets high-fives from the children. Scott Sassman was a teacher in the juvenile courts system and Duval County Schools. "Coach Scott" helps the children as they make their way around the fitness circuit. Sassman contracts with the parents of the children he is teaching and he figures the children become his best salespeople. Besides fitness, "Coach Scott" introduces the children to sports. His business is rapidly expanding and he's making a pitch for funding on the ABC TV show "Shark Tank."
August 26, 2013

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