We sat down with Erin Blake our Exeter and Mid Devon franchise owner to ask her what it is really like to run her own creative business. Find out the difference Erin’s life changing decision has made to her and her family.
Erin inspires imaginations in Exeter and Mid Devon
Name: Erin Blake
Location: The Creation Station Exeter & Mid Devon
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose your franchise?
When coming to the end of my maternity leave with my first child I found my self looking for a position that would give me a great family/work life balance. I had decided I didn’t want to return to work full time, but I still very much wanted to have a career of my own. That is where upon some research The Creation Station stood out as being able to provide me the career and family life I desired.
I decided a franchise was a great idea as it was a tried and tested business. The support given to franchisees is invaluable and having the amazing franchisee network that we have has made being a sole trader so much easier.
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
Prior to becoming a franchisee of The Creation Station I was managing a team of 12 in a small family insurance broker.
How did you raise the finance?
I was in the fortunate position that we could raise the finance from another family business.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
Initially included as part of our initial investment we attended a four-day training programme held at The Creation Station Ltd head office. This covered everything from the day-to-day running of the business to marketing and accounts.
The ongoing support received as a franchisee is great, there is never a time where you feel you are alone. We have regular support calls to discuss all aspects of the business as well as our goals and ambitions.
Helping babies to explore, discover and develop.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
A typical day for me involves setting my alarm for 1 hour before my daughter wakes up. Typically this means I am up somewhere between 5.30am and 6am. My first hour is spent doing some of the business administration that I need to get done with no interruptions! I then flick back into mummy mode and get my daughter up fed and ready for the day.
By 8.30am we tend to be on the way to one of my regular class venues to set up and get ready to run two sessions. Once I have inspired the imaginations of 30 children both my daughter and myself are very much ready for lunch, followed by the best part of the day. Nap time – to me this means one thing; 90 mins of uninterrupted time. This is where I do all of my most important work, business planning, goals, accounts and all of the phone calls I need to make where it is not appropriate to have a toddler in the background.
The rest of the afternoon is spent having quality time with my daughter, and this is the reason why I took on the franchise. My working day then recommences post dinner and bedtime, where I spend several evenings a week responding to emails and catching up with some online marketing.
What challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge I have faced has been trying to find the work life balance that I wanted. It is so easy when you have your own business to work every minute of the day. But I regularly need to remind myself the reason I took on the business and spend more time with my family.
Encouraging creative thinking
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Yes! I am happy! I can never say I don’t want to go to work. This is the first “job” I have had where I am excited to get up in the morning and get on with the days list of jobs.
I have learnt so much about my capabilities and myself; it is just the beginning of a life changing decision.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
The biggest marketing and promotional tools I use have to be online listings and social media. For me it is an easy way for me to connect with my target audience during my somewhat unconventional working hours. Its amazing how many mums are online at 1am and booking classes.
What differentiates your franchise from the competition?
In my opinion the support provided to us from head office is what sets The Creation Station apart from the competition. It is clear that they want us as franchisees to succeed and they will do anything in their power to help us achieve that. With out their support I feel many of us would have crumbled under the pressure and spent most of their days flapping rather than building successful businesses.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Ambition, Will power and Common sense. You need to be ambitious and set big (but realistic) goals for yourself; the sky is the limit and if you don’t aim to be the best you won’t be. Will Power – because it is hard working for yourself, you need to have the will power and discipline to sit down and work and give in to the temptation of using your time to do something else. Common sense because you have to be able to make simple and sensible decisions.
Fun, hands on event entertainment!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Do your research and know exactly what you are getting into. Don’t be blinded by how exciting the prospect of having your own business is, if you have any doubt take longer to research and make your decision. It is life changing, stressful and demanding. But if done right it is worth it!
What are your plans for the future?
In the next year I will be expanding the business further and launching after school clubs. This will see you take on my first two employees.
Would you do it again?
Yes, and next time round I would hope it is a lot easier as I would have so much more experience.