Contrary to what you might glean from the franchise name, you don’t need to be creative to run a Creation Station franchise.
Sarah Cressall, founder of the children's franchise, describes how its art and craft classes relieve the burden on mothers, both those whose children attend and those which buy a franchise.
Adam Bannister: How would you say this franchise is good value?
Sarah Cressall: It’s designed specifically around a mum’s busy life. And it’s relatively low cost with start-up help and ongoing support.
It’s designed specifically around a mum’s busy life. And it’s relatively low cost with start-up help and ongoing support
AB: And what exactly does this support entail?
SC: We support you in growing your business at a rate that suits you.
And we provide links with a lot of other organisations and businesses, for example Sure Start, government-backed agencies, museums... As the UK’s leading specialist provider of children’s activities we can help other organisations increase their footfall and customer uptake.
We help people get contracts with soft play areas and other commercial organisations to promote what they do.
AB: What do you get for your money?
SC: You get an awful lot in terms of a full toolkit.
You get arts and crafts materials, copyrighted, specifically designed session plans based on government educational guidelines, a full, branded uniform, a branded admin pack, files, folders, bags, innovative menu signs, outdoor leaflet holders and a web page optimised to your area.
There’s also a franchise forum to share knowledge. We run a conference, Inspiring Imaginations Across the Nation, seminars and training groups where we share ideas.
You get the benefits of wholesale purchasing systems and we equip you with the skills, knowledge and confidence to run a successful business.
And we tailor the training to each and every person, to fit in with their lifestyle and needs.
AB: How exactly is it tailored to each franchisee?
SC: It’s up to them how long they choose to work. You can work part time or full time.
It’s predominantly term time only, with extra income from evening workshops and holiday sessions.
Each franchisee has the option to tailor their business to what suits them. If they’re more interested in working with government projects, for example, we can help them develop that part of the business.
AB: Do you get mostly mothers then?
SC: It’s designed specifically for mothers.
It’s flexible. There are some mothers with six-month-olds who do two mornings and others whose children have started school and may want to work four or five mornings.
The business allows time for family life. As they grow and get more confident, franchisees can employ people to run the business.
We run different types of workshops. Exploration, which is for one to five year olds and predominantly takes place in term time – although there are holiday sessions – has won a Practical Preschool Award.
We also run art and craft birthday parties, events for organisations like the brownies, events and fetes for charities, etc.
AB: What are the biggest revenue generators?
SC: The steadiest income and best brand awareness is Exploration, which generates a minimum of about £25 an hour.
Birthday parties are good. Every child has a birthday, and every parent struggles to think of something to do for their child’s birthday.
Birthday parties usually generate a minimum price of £100. They’re generally £40-plus an hour, and events can be from £250 a day.
AB: Monetary benefits aside, what’s special about running a Creation Station franchise?
SC: It’s not too difficult to run, it’s fun, it’s flexible.
One part of your day is running workshops and meeting people, another part is on the computer, doing marketing – so there’s a lot of variety.
AB: You said it’s not too difficult? How so?
SC: We provide all the session plans, all the products to their door and all their programmes at wholesale price. We provide all the training and equipment.
If they’re sociable and are mothers, it should suit. It obviously helps if they enjoy working with kids.
The session plans are structured and easy to follow, but they can develop their own ideas and share them at our franchising forums.
AB: It’s great that there’s a platform for franchisees to share new ideas. Any examples of franchisees developing their own ideas?
SC: Someone had an activity where they turned the Christmas lights on for the council. We also ran arts and crafts activities at the event.
A charity called Making Chatter Matter approached the Nottingham franchise. They wanted a specialist arts and crafts provider to engage families in the largest shopping centre in the city.
And we’ve got a weekly contract with the biggest soft play area in Leicester. Our arts and crafts activities have increased their numbers to the point where we’re looking at booking people in.
AB: We’ve heard about the mothers that run Creation Station franchises – how valuable is the business to mothers that take their children?
SC: Creativity isn’t always something that parents know how to nurture at home, whereas children get loads of ideas from my workshops.
The reality is that paying for glitter glue and a variety of materials each week isn’t within the reach of most parents. One parent said to me: “when I added up how much it would cost to buy the materials I realised I actually saved money by coming.”
And, of course, it also saves you from cleaning crayon off the walls.
We did a survey a couple of years ago, and all the parents we asked said their child’s concentration had improved after just five lessons. And you see it.
It’s relaxed and comfortable for the parents, whether they’re pregnant, a grandparent... whatever.
Parents say “wow, my child never used to be able to sit down, but he’s been sitting down more at home when we get the crayons out.” The children know when it’s time to recycle, when it’s time to show and when it’s time to go.
AB: What kind of franchisee are you looking for?
SC: No experience is required, but social skills are essential. They must be organised and self-motivated.
And they should want to nurture children and have a great time together.
You don’t need to be creative. People sometimes think they have to be and it puts them off – but they really don’t need to be.
The ability to have a good laugh and enjoy it is also important. And it’s easy to have fun when you meet fantastic people, as you do – all sorts of people.