In a new three-part series, Business Advice talks to three very different UK franchise owners about their experiences with the model, getting them to reveal the impact franchising has had on business growth, and what they might have done differently given the choice. First off, we hear from former drama teacher and founder of Pyjama Drama, Sarah Owen.
With 31 franchisees in the UK, one in Australia and one in Malaysia, the success of Pyjama Drama since its creation in 2005 has been incredible, but founder and professional drama teacher Sarah Owen had no intention of starting a business, let alone a franchise.
Whilst looking after her three young children when she wasn’t working, Owen invented little games and songs with them, realising in the process how broad and fantastic their imaginations were. Setting up a class at her son’s nursery, Owen wanted to find out if other children would respond well to her games. It went well, and parents were very enthusiastic. Class after class followed and Owen soon developed a programme of classes to deliver at other nurseries and children’s parties. In 2009, the first franchise was sold – to a parent who’d attended her original classes.
“Because we have four age differentiated programmes, franchisees have a vast range of income streams when compared to other franchises that offer activities for young children,” said Owen, explaining her franchising model.
“They can offer parties, workshops, sessions in nurseries, schools, afterschool clubs, lunchtime clubs as well as specific classes for babies, toddlers, preschool children and children between five and seven years old. Because of this, franchisees can build a business to suit lifestyle – owners may wait until their youngest child starts school before launching after-school classes, or chose to take on a session leader to deliver parties at the weekend, for example,” added Owen.
Pyjama Drama franchisees pay a management fee of eight per cent on annual turnover, plus an upfront joining cost of £8,750. Deciding on the model as a route to grow her business was easy for Owen, as early experiences with Pyjama Drama demonstrated how many people there were with unused drama skills wanting to run a flexible venture. Despite the hard work, the franchising process has been very rewarding for Owen.
“I’ve met so many inspirational people that are able to run a successful business whilst being a good role model for their children,” she said. “It’s been a huge learning curve, I had no business experience in the early days so have had to force myself to work outside my comfort zone.”
Asked whether she’d go back and do anything differently, Owen identified spending cautiously as perhaps her one error. “In the early days I tried to work out everything and do as much as possible myself. This meant I made a number of costly mistakes, if I’d just spent the money on the right advice in the first place I would have saved time and money,” she added.
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