What does it take to run a creative (the operative word!) children's franchise?
We chat to Sarah Cressall about the reasons she started The Creation Station franchise, what the classes entail and who would be the ideal franchisee...
FranchiseSales: So why did you start the franchise? What gave you the idea?
Sarah Cressall: As a mum to three young children myself, I tried to find tasks for them to do because I thought that would be really good to help them to develop and solve – and there wasn’t anything!
So I started to do classes and I just became aware that people wanted to do it and I thought, well, if I can do it myself and get a good model when my little one starts school in five years’ time… I guess I just spotted a niche in the market and I felt that I could put something together with help from the BFA and some expert advice and my own experience.
Also it made me help other women who, like me, want to help children and get that flexibility around family – also use the brain, which is rewarding…
FS: You mentioned the BFA – how did they help with creating the franchise?
SC: Well, I went to one of their open days and they did a session on the franchising business and I used one of the advisors to help.
FS: What were you doing before the franchise?
It was a bit of a journey for me. I used to be in catering management in the city and I always wanted to do more creative things – make or sew things… ever since I was a child.
I took a brave step of giving up my catering career and I learnt to become a designer maker. I got a job teaching arts and crafts to disabled young adults and I did an art foundation course. I was also making and selling things in London and Camden market and different places, doing commissions – I love doing the creative stuff.
When you get into business it’s as much about the hobby. I was in a wheelchair on and off for a couple of years and it really forces you to re-evaluate what I really wanted and then becoming a parent was another watershed, really. My husband and I had to prioritise what was important. It’s much easier to work hard at something you love.
FS: How do you think your franchise differs to others in the same sector?
SC: I don’t want to say that we differ because I’m sure there are businesses out there that do this. But we believe in nurturing each child’s potential rather than teaching them how to – we start with the child, so that they can nurture their own abilities.
By encouraging them to explore and discover how they naturally develop their own abilities, they’re more engaged because the learning is driven by what they’re interested in.
We encourage each child to say and learn through play and exploration. Starting from the point of the child’s perspective, and trying to see the world through their eyes and that amazing joy of discovery that we tend to lose as we grow up.
FS: What age would you say that The Creation Station is aimed at?
SC: Our classes start from around five to six months – it depends on the parents and baby. We also run baby discover classes up to about 14 months and we do little explorer classes up to age five.
We have Create Club, which is an afterschool club and holiday club from age five to 11, birthday parties from one to 11 and we sell products for all ages; we’ve just launched our Fun Arty Box, which is a monthly subscription for four to 11 year olds.
FS: What would you say is the most popular of your classes?
SC: Our most popular service is probably our birthday parties. There was a big thing recently about the child getting charged for not going to a birthday party and we wrote a blog post about how not to get ripped off at birthday parties.
Our afterschool club is beginning to rocket, and the squeeze on creative delivery in schools has been critical to our emerging growth. And our little explorers, where the business really started, which was for 18 months to 14 year olds to really have quality time with their parents.
FS: What do you look for in a franchisee?
SC: We don’t look for anything specific, it’s more of a feeling. All of our network are warm and friendly ‘people’s people’!
Our franchisees are able to engage with children and families, keen to help promote and nurture creativity in children. They are also often proactive, with a drive to run their own successful business.
FS: Do they need prior qualifications to become a franchisee?
SC: No! They just need to be able to connect with their target market and make friends.
FS: What do you think franchisees enjoy most about being a part of your franchise?
SC: The wonderful feedback from children and parents when they have developed and grown through the creative activities and being able to make a difference to others. It’s great to be part of a national brand that’s committed to inspiring children’s imaginations.