The employees at GymStars Gymnastics in Modesto might have felt like doing a backflip of their own this week, after learning the Stockton-based kids gym had received a $100,000 technology makeover award from Microsoft.
GymStars president Bob Tanon said the award, which 400 businesses nationwide sought, frees up money previously designated for upgrading technology. It will be used to add new classes.
"We just screamed," Tanon said of when gym employees learned they'd received the award, which Microsoft announced during its weeklong online Small Business Summit.
GymStars was selected as a semifinalist by a panel of judges, and another panel then narrowed the field to three finalists, on such criteria as the originality of the business' submitted video, its quality and the business' need for a technology makeover.
Voters then picked the winner based on watching the finalists' videos online.
Tanon said the winning award breaks down three ways: $40,000 for new computer hardware from Dell, $35,000 for sessions with a Microsoft small-business technology specialist, and $25,000 for new Microsoft software.
The other two finalists, MouCo Cheese Co. of Colorado and Sid's Bikes NYC from New York, each received a $10,000 award of hardware and software.
With the top prize, GymStars can update software that's eight years old and computers that are six years old, said Chris Curtis, GymStars' vice president of information technology.
Curtis said that for a small business, winning the award is like hitting the lottery.
"This helps us freshen up our current infrastructure and bring it up to date," he said. "And this helps make all our data much more safe."
The money also will help GymStars, which has gyms in Modesto, Stockton and Bedford, Pa., become almost paper-free, Tanon said.
Now, GymStars goes through a case of paper every eight to nine days, he said. The technology makeover should reduce that to almost nothing.
"The majority of this industry is very, very paper heavy," Tanon said. "To go paperless is just very expensive to do."
Students at the gyms will see direct and indirect benefits from the award, Tanon and Curtis said.
When parents check their students in for a class, Curtis said, they'll eventually be able to do so at a kiosk computer station rather than standing in line.
Parent Terri Jones, whose daughter, Haley, is on a GymStars gymnastics team, said that change will help.
"Sometimes the line backs up, and there's only so much they can do," said Jones, who lives in Turlock.
Jones, who said GymStars employees encouraged parents to vote online for the gym, said she's looking forward to other technology upgrades.
"It'll be more organized with things like billing," she said. "And they'll get the statements out and get everything updated more quickly."
In addition, teachers will take roll on PDAs, another way to save time and paper, Tanon said.
Modesto's gym also will be able to add a "T-n-T," or trampoline and tumbling program, Tanon said. Stockton's gym will have expanded dance programs.
Besides dance and gymnastics, GymStars also teaches cheerleading and karate and hosts children's events at its gyms.
"We can really use the technology money to increase revenue rather than just maintaining revenue," Tanon said. "That means adding more programs and offerings for our customers."
Tanon said that in the next few weeks, he'll interview small-business technology specialists sent by Microsoft to see which one will work best with GymStars.
Microsoft plans to have the makeover completed by June, he said.
Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2331.