Business leaders get to lay the foundation of unique business culture and initiate fresh strategies, counted among these business stars is Xavier Lopez Ancona, Founder, KidZania. Being born in Mexico City on April 4th, 1964, Xavier Lopez Ancona is alumnus of Anahuac University (Mexico City) where he did a Management Bachelor’s Degree. Afterward, he started his master’s studies at IPADE (Mexico City) and obtained an MBA from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois (1992).
Xavier took the foundation of KidZania in 1999, a company that developed a successful family edutainment concept, which joins learning with entertainment through role-playing. His previous professional experience includes the consulting company, Booz Allen & Hamilton, and GE Capital Mexico, where he was appointed Vice President of Equity for two years.
The Journey Since its inception and Major Offerings
KidZania was founded with a very strong sense of community, with the idea to build safe venues where kids could get close to values and qualities such as creativity, independence, responsibility, and solidarity. KidZania is a 100% Mexican brand with 25 facilities currently operating in 20 countries; plus 10 more KidZania cities under development in countries such as France, Japan, South Africa, and Canada.
Further, Xavier apprised, “Our growth strategy is twofold. First, we decided to grow in Mexico by owning and operating the facilities in this territory. Then, in 2006 we started growing abroad through a franchise scheme with local operators and close supervision from our head office. Both growth lines are equally important for us. We currently have 4 KidZania Cities in Mexico (2 in Mexico City, 1 in Monterrey, and 1 in Guadalajara), 25 more facilities in 20 different countries, and 10 more venues currently under development.”
The Inspiration & Hurdles on the Way
The opportunity to create the concept of KidZania arose at the right moment and at the right time, back in 1997. Back then, there was a lack of entertainment options for children, and we wanted to create a difference by creating a new concept that was not only fun but also educational. That objective was our main motivation; we wanted to create a product that did well but also did good, in terms of its return to society.
In a fast-paced sector like the entertainment industry, Xavier and his team need to keep updated on trends, as well as to adapt and evolve along with our customers and technological developments. In their case, not only children have changed, but also education has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, they need to adapt to the way kids interact with information, and to the way they entertain themselves. This scenario is a great motivation for the leader. He likes turning challenges into opportunities and tackling these issues hand in hand with his team.
Developing Efficient & Sustainable Solutions
KidZania is a concept that was born 22 years ago, and they are constantly working to keep it updated and fresh. An example of this revamping process is the development of the KidZania 5.0 model.
KidZania 5.0 is the latest evolution of the KidZania model, reflecting recent changes in society and the environment. With KidZania 5.0, KidZania expands beyond the four walls of its centers, putting sustainability at the center of its activities, building purpose-driven partnerships, and showing children the world as it should be.
Also, to continue expanding to new markets our current concept, and to keep growing to more cities, they have also developed a facility with a smaller format, which will allow us to enter cities with a lower population density and reach more children in more countries.
Regarding new concepts, they are working on a new project based on health ailment (health + entertainment), called Kinezis. This new endeavor will combine wellbeing, health, and sports in an indoor facility that can be easily adapted to different regions. These topics represent a huge opportunity for the industry because they are not usually included in many entertainment options, and are currently very popular due to people’s interest in more wellness and well-being options to complement their fitness routines.
The Innovative Team
Xavier likes to keep a positive attitude even in challenging situations and transmit that positiveness to his team. He believes a key element to inspiring innovation is to involve your staff and share challenges and results with them. Besides, he strives to keep an “open door”, the horizontal structure that fosters dialogue among collaborators and areas, despite their hierarchy in the company.
From the Founder’s Desk
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the entertainment industry is known for being in constant change. Our customers change, technology changes and habits change.
Currently, the customers are more demanding and want to have more fun in less time. That’s why they are constantly updating the content in their facilities and shortening the length of their activities, while also including technological elements in order to make a visit to KidZania a more immersive and memorable experience.
Success isn’t an objective, but a process; a process you should always share with your team. Success isn’t an objective, but a process; a process you should always share with your team.
The Current Business World of Europe
Europe is a very promising market for KidZania and entertainment in general. Nonetheless, this market also has very sophisticated consumers, who look for elaborated and detailed experiences; thus, we need to be smarter regarding the products and services we develop for them.
Moreover, in terms of post-COVID, Europe is one of the areas with the fastest economic recovery; a scenario that helps every sector to bounce back faster and foster more confidence among customers to go out again and return to their usual activities.
Progressing as a Business Leader
As a business leader, Xavier Lopez has been fortunate enough to have witnessed the creation and evolution of his business concept. His venture went from 1 facility to more than 20 in many regions of the world, while generating new products and adapting their concept to the different countries where they operate. Along with the team, the visionary has learned the importance of developing win-win relationships with all the stakeholders; and the imperative need to keep reinventing and growing to stay current.
Accomplishments & Future Goals
KidZania has pleasingly crossed cultures, borders & languages. Their concept has been very well received in all the territories where they operate, thus they have been able to grow to new markets and expand within countries where they currently have facilities. Xavier is really grateful about being leading a Mexican company that keeps growing and evolving. He is also proud of being an entrepreneur, and now a businessman, in a country where entrepreneurship is not as promoted as in other regions.
“I see myself not as CEO of the company, but as a board advisor that can help develop new experiences & content”, said Xavier Lopez Ancona when asked about this future plan.
Words of Wisdom
- Love what you do
- Be 100% convinced of your product and capabilities
- Build a team with different skills and the same corporate values
- Share success with your team
- Do good and do well (focus on achieving performance with purpose)