I’m Jackie Farrow and I’m a franchise owner in Goldalming in Surrey for the Creation Station. I will have been doing this for four years in the spring - it’s three and a half years so far and I’m into my fourth run of running the sessions…so this is my fourth ‘Autumn Term’.
A typical Creation Station Day
I run two classes a week on Tuesdays, so on Monday nights I will be preparing for those and getting my kit ready and on Tuesdays I go and set up the hall and run my classes. I have a few helpers that I can call on to come and help me – they are local mums who are CRB checked and know the ropes - but with up to 25 kids it would just be me.
I get there an hour beforehand and set up. All this has been pre-arranged with the helpers – there will be an initial email, then they send the booking form and I phone them the week before to finalise arrangements so we both arrive an hour beforehand to set up and as the children start to arrive, I basically take over the entertainment.
The flexibility is brilliant... I can set my own hours
For a Creation Station party, they start off by decorating a bag, then I gather them around me to look in the ‘magic ideas box’ and we find arty activities to do. So for the first hour of the party, I keep them engaged in their arty activity and parents can really relax – help the children or watch, or just talk to their friends.
It is very time consuming and maybe more so than I had anticipated. Being an arts and crafts franchise, there are a lot of materials so there’s an issue with storage and transporting things around. But the flexibility is brilliant - which is one of the reasons I chose this - because I can set my working hours. I have a target that I set for the number of classes and parties that I run, but as long as I’m achieving that, it’s up to me when I run those. So it does work around my children – I can still drop them off and pick them up from school, which is brilliant.
Now that I’ve been going for a few years, most of my marketing is done informally, through word of mouth. People come and then they tell their friends. I have quite a few families who came when I first started with an older child, and are now coming with their siblings. The parties are almost exclusively word of mouth. I do pay for one advert in the local families magazine which I know brings people in for the classes – so that is worth the investment. When I first started, I paid for quite a lot more advertising to get the ball rolling but I’ve really cut back on paid advertising now. I’m on Facebook and I have quite a few followers on there – for my holiday classes, all I really do is put up a post that they are going to be on and we are full in a couple of days, which is brilliant.
My outgoings are the hall hire, the annual insurance, then obviously all the materials and if I need to buy any tools or equipment as well. There is also a monthly management fee – for that you get the ongoing support, a presence on the website, any national marketing and an annual conference – you get quite a lot actually.
The ideal franchisee
Obviously one of the most important things is that you have to really like working with children. I helped at a discovery event once and someone came up to me at the end and asked ‘How long did it take you to learn to pretend to be jolly in front of classes and I said ‘I don’t pretend! This is how I am when I’m with the children!’ and they seemed quite surprised. That made me think that they might not be completely suited to it. You have to really enjoy it, because it is hard work and obviously the more you put into it, the more the children respond to it.