Using a gym-style membership model but with all classes finished by the time of the school run, Busylizzy is a family members’ club that aims to transform the way parents attend classes with their children.
Like many businesses, Busylizzy was borne out of frustration with the current marketplace, in this case for postnatal mother and baby classes.
Founders Julie Clabby and Sarah Batterbury took a background in the fitness sector and created an online and app-based platform offering a highly flexible approach to parents looking to becoming Busylizzy franchisees. In an old-fashioned and unreliable sector, the two mothers took a modern approach to creating a solution.
Q&A subject: Busylizzy founders Julie Clabby and Sarah Batterbury
- Founded: December 2011
- Franchised since: June 2014
- Network size: 11 franchisees and counting
- Network turnover: Around £984,000 a year
- Typical startup cost: £17,000 + VAT franchise fee + £15,000 working capital
- Website: busylizzyfranchise.co.uk
(1) What’s the business?
Busylizzy is a family members’ club – transforming the way parents attend classes with their children. We host a variety of postnatal fitness, baby and active tot classes for parents to enjoy each week with their little ones, aged zero to four years old.
Members pay a monthly membership fee, access our online booking system or app to book into any combination of classes to suit their diary. It’s Flexible fitness and fun for mums and little ones.
(2) Where did the idea come from?
We founded Busylizzy family club back in September 2011 after spotting an opportunity for good quality, fun and professionally run classes for postnatal mums, babies and toddlers.
We set about improving every aspect of class provision that traditional mum and baby class providers had on offer.
After I had my first child, I started to attend toddler groups and classes with my new baby. I felt like I was stepping back into 1985. I had to pay upfront by cheque for a term of classes, and risk losing most due to the unpredictable nature of having a new baby. Fitness classes often meant leaving my baby in an unknown crèche with a stranger, and many groups completely stopped in the holidays when I needed them the most. The quality of session and venue was often hit and miss too.
Fed up, we set about creating a club of our own, a place where parents could enjoy a variety of classes with their little ones on completely flexible terms with other likeminded parents.
Open 51 weeks a year, Busylizzy is a ‘one-stop shop’ for fun children’s classes and postnatal fitness for mums with no childcare required. We provide a host of classes for parents to enjoy with their children each week, all wrapped up under one monthly membership fee.
Parents have complete flexibility to pick and choose their classes each week to suit their diary. Members enjoy lots of variety including Baby Boogie, Baby Signing, Baby Picasso’s, Toddler Music, Little Yogi’s, Mummy & Me Pilates, Buggy Fitness and Aerobics, to name a few.
We have invested in technology too. All classes are booked via our handy app and parents can pick and choose their sessions each week – there are no rigid terms.
It’s this flexibility, our unique concept, high service levels, choice, innovative use of technology and value that has captured the imagination of mums in what was otherwise a failing sector.
It’s been an amazing journey from kitchen table to established franchise business and we’ve learnt so much along the way, so we are now ready to share our success with other like-minded entrepreneurs and franchise Busylizzy throughout the UK.
(2) Why did you franchise it and how’s it been going since?
Within six weeks of opening our pilot club, we won our first award – ‘Best New Business of 2012’ at Toast of Surrey. It was at this point we knew we were onto something special. Word soon spread and within a few months we were getting requests asking if Busylizzy would be available in other parts of the UK.
Most of the interest was local but we attracted interest from as far away as LA and Dubai too. Clearly, we couldn’t operationally open all these branches ourselves so franchising was a natural growth strategy.
Sarah and I booked ourselves onto the BFA’s prospective franchisor course to find out more and our journey was set. We had a huge challenge ahead of us to blueprint our systems, procedures, operations manual and franchise website but our skill and previous experience meant we could handle a lot of this ourselves (Julie’s husband Martin is a design consultant too).
Franchising the business has been a huge investment in both time and money so we were delighted when we sold our first franchise in June 2014 – to one of our very own Busylizzy members
To date we have sold to 11 territories and we have six more candidates currently going through our recruitment process. We aim to have around 20 franchisees in 2017 – exciting times!
(3) How did it feel to be named the country’s Emerging Franchisor of the Year by the BFA and HSBC?
We were shocked, excited and overwhelmed. We’ve worked really, really hard to establish Busylizzy and it felt like starting again getting the concept franchise-ready, so to win and be on the stage at the award gala amongst other household names was inspiring. I’m incredibly proud of my team.
(4) Judges praised the flexibility you offer your franchisees – how have you achieved this, and was it an important goal from the outset?
Yes – flexibility is a key driver in our business. Busylizzy was established to offer families a flexible class option with their children and babies. Our franchise mirrors this. All our franchisees are parents looking for a flexible work option and we’ve achieved this through our use of technology.
Our operations manual is 100 per cent online and we’ve built a dedicated website which is packed not only with standard day-to-day’ information but also videos, tips, marketing ideas and campaigns, social media graphics, image library and training.
Our CRM system is also web-based, so franchisees can manage their member account, prospective new member conversations and financial reporting anywhere with Wi-Fi. Our app gives members access to their own Busylizzy account, meaning members book into classes themselves and take the admin burden away from franchisees. Our franchisees all work from home so we rely on great systems and technology. We use cloud-based systems so all clubs can share documents and best practice.
Our biggest ‘win’ is our app. With thousands of parents attending Busylizzy classes each week it would be a headache manually tracking, taking payment and booking these class spaces. Our membership model and dedicated app puts this burden in the hands of members who can book, cancel and reschedule their classes with ease. Parents love this awesome flexibility and it takes away the admin from the franchisees.
Technology is developing all the time and we are constantly looking out for ways to increase efficiency in our business. If it can be automated – Busylizzy will do it.
(5) Who are your ideal franchisees, what’s their situation and what skills do they need?
Our franchisees come from a variety of backgrounds, from HR & marketing professionals to project management, banking and even a solicitor. Busylizzy is a management franchise, so we are looking for people who can manage people, work to deadlines and organise events.
Our club owners don’t teach any of the classes but they are expected to manage and, crucially, motivate a network of teachers, and maintain relationships with venues and other local business.
Sales is key to the success of any business so being confident talking to local parents, following a proven sales formula and asking for the business is important too.
(6) Do you encourage your franchisees to use social media?
Each club manages its own Facebook page to promote its classes, coffee mornings, meet-ups and other businesses they are friends with. Our target market is social media savvy so we have a dedicated social media manager who looks after our Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and franchise Facebook pages. It’s a full-time job.
(7) What’s next – where will you be in 5 years?
We have professionally territory-mapped the UK so we have a clear rollout strategy underway. We have already bolstered our HQ team so we are top heavy and ready to support more clubs as they come on board in 2017 and 2018.
We are also interested in partnership opportunities with other family leisure providers. A Busylizzy club in family-friendly hotels, cruise liners or other holiday destinations are areas we would like to explore in 2017.
Missed our previous franchise profile? Catch up with the owners of North East care home provider Heritage Healthcare.
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