Franchising · 27 January 2016

Franchise Profile: Forensic investigation workshop firm The Detective Project

Jenny Williams
Jenny Williams

Founded in 2010 by former police detective Jenny Williams, The Detective Project provides crime scene investigation workshops and events for adults and children.

A successful forensic investigation-themed party thrown for her own children led to Williams setting up kids’ party company CSI Kids. Seizing an opportunity to use her skills and experience, Williams then began working with teachers to develop forensic science workshops that were aligned to national curriculum objectives.

Further work primary and secondary schools, holiday clubs and youth groups followed: developing children’s interests in forensic science through hands-on challenges. The format was adapted for adult workshops and team-building events and in 2013 Williams franchised the business.

Q&A subject: The Detective Project, founder, Jenny Williams

Factfile

Franchised since: 2013
Number of franchisees: 3
Typical start-up cost: £9,995
Growth in 2015: 30 per cent

(1) Who are you and what is your business?

The Detective Project is an events company providing crime scene investigation workshops for adults and children. We empower teams to step into a detective’s shoes, whether that is for a kid’s party, a school workshop or a powerful team building event for adults.

(2) What was your background before setting up The Detective Project?

I was a police detective for 14 years in the Metropolitan and Avon & Somerset Police. I joined straight from school and never intended to leave – until I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug!

(3) That gives you an unquestionable authority for your business then! Has it been difficult to draw on your experiences and translate them into a child-friendly format?

Not at all, I started running children’s parties when my children were small, so I used them as my guinea pigs. My husband is a teacher so has helped adapt the workshops for the school curriculum and the adult and team building events grew out of parents seeing my events and wanting to have a go themselves.

(4) What factors led you to launch the business, and then franchise it?

I ran my son’s eighth birthday party as a crime scene, and had a “lightbulb” moment when I realised there was a gap in the market for this type of event. I did a little local advertising and the bookings rolled in. The schools work followed on quickly and one day the teachers at a school asked me to run their staff training day which went brilliantly – so the adult events were born. I love the variety of workshops we offer and that greatly appeals to franchisees – we’re not dependent on one core market and are able to host an extremely wide range of events.

I knew I wanted to grow the business and while researching the options I met some franchise consultants that I clicked with. It made perfect sense to train up skilled presenters to replicate my successful model. I’m ambitious for the business and franchising is the perfect way to expand.

(5) Was it scary going from a secure job to starting out on your own?

I think it was scarier thinking that I was only ever going to be a “small cog in a big machine”. I took a career break when I had children and joined a network marketing business (to keep me in haircuts and clothes). I loved the freedom it gave me to work hard, set my own targets and reap the rewards. I decided then that I wanted to be in charge of my work/life balance.

The Detective Project 1
The Detective Project

(6) Does that recent experience, plus your former work and being a parent, provide you with particular insight into supporting your franchisees?

Of course, I enjoy nurturing a team, structuring training to suit the individuals and then setting them free to flourish. Franchising is definitely working for yourself, but not by yourself. My role is to make sure the franchisees are well equipped to do the best they can, I take pride in their achievements. It is a huge step entering the world of self-employment and I want to support franchisees to do their very best.

(7) Does being such an unusual operation help your franchisees to win new business, both in schools and for corporate customers?

We certainly stand out from the crowd. Our workshops are very original and the company story does get us attention which is great, but it is up to us to run really high quality events – I always say that we’re only as good as our last workshop. Most events are booked through word of mouth or from testimonials, which I’m really proud of.

(8) Do franchisees need a science background?

They don’t need a science degree but they need to provide evidence of a passion for forensics and investigation, and not just from the TV! Ideally franchisees will either have a teaching, police or presenting background.

As franchisees can come from an extremely wide variety of backgrounds, we tailor training to meet their individual needs. As the team grows the variety of skills and expertise will be shared with each other during our training sessions.

(9) Name three attributes you look for in your franchisees?

  1. Positivity: Their glass needs to be half-full
  2. Enthusiasm: Our events are often the highlight of the year for our customers
  3. High standards: In both presentation and the approach to business


With your appetite for criminal investigation sufficiently wetted, read on to find out how cyber crime is increasingly impacting on small business.  

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Paul Stafford is the British Franchise Association’s PR manager, which allows him ample opportunity to indulge in two of his passions: writing and business. A background in various SMEs led Stafford to the franchise sector in 2012 and a role which sees him work closely with businesses of all sizes and sectors, from international giants to kitchen table startups.

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