The Creation Station was founded by arts teacher Sarah Cressall in 2002 with the aim of inspiring imaginations and nurturing creativity. It became a franchise business in 2007, enabling franchisees to run flexible businesses which ‘make a difference’. Since then it has won multiple awards for its educational programmes and activities and has reached more than 950,000 children and families through its over 100 friendly franchise owners working across the UK.
2018 is an auspicious year for the franchise: Cressall recently published her now best-selling book, Creative Sparks, a veritable manifesto for creativity. It is also the year The Creation Station won the Workingmums.co.uk’s Overall Top Franchise Award and Supportive Franchise Award. The judges said it provided a family friendly, innovative and supportive franchise which was continually moving forwards and “was an established and proven business where the creative passion of its founder was sewn into the very fabric of its model”.
One way the franchise supports its franchise owners is through regular awards and a franchisee of the month spot on its intranet. Cressall says recognising the hard work of franchisees is critical to The Creation Station’s success. “We could not run the business without the franchisees. We need to recognise and value them. The Creation Station has inspired 950,000 people. We couldn’t do that without our franchisees. They make a real difference,” she says. The awards have been part of the brand since inception. “We treat people how we would want to be treated,” says Cressall who started the business when she had a young family and understands totally the pressures working parents face.
That support includes providing franchisees with the systems and resources they need to do a great job. Cressall says she and her husband have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds to grow the business when it has needed upfront investment, for instance, for its latest website revamp which she says has been a “game changer” in terms of supporting franchisees with management, accounts and booking systems. “It makes the customer journey more seamless,” she states. That means they can book local classes, find out about parties and buy products easily. Regular customers can also win loyalty points. In addition to the website, the franchise is very active on social media and head office supplies franchisees with regular new imagery to promote what they are doing.
The support that the franchise offers covers all areas, from pre-training, training [including online training for greater convenience] and one to one post-training support, monthly calls, regular creative ideas, health and safety advice, marketing help, advice around personal development and growing the business and maternity support to the provision of a variety of income streams so franchisees can increase or diversify their earnings. Franchisees can get advice and help from Head Office whenever they need it and, despite the franchise’s growth, there is an emphasis on the personal touch [each member of the franchise’s Creative Hub head office team of eight and outreach team of six have the name of each franchisees child/ren and partner]. Given the franchise’s size and its grassroots approach, much of the support is broken down on a regional basis, for instance, there are regional get-togethers, Skype calls and a regional Facebook group.
There are also various ways for franchisees to feed back their views. An Advisory Council was set up around four years ago and acts as a sounding board for the franchise. Local franchisees contact their regional advisory councillor about everything from things that are going well, things that could be done better or areas that need developing. This can be done anonymously if necessary. Cressall meets with the Council four times a year. “I am not a ‘glitter face’ any more [taking classes] so it is important that I listen to the people who are. If you don’t listen to people on the frontline your business will fail,” she says. She also talks to franchisees regularly and keeps her ear to the ground despite having a more strategic role.
The franchise is also looking to extend what it does and to further its mission of unlocking people’s creative potential. For instance, it has been offering intergenerational workshops, taking its Little Explorers into care homes to teach creativity across the age span, and it is looking to develop its work with schools, for instance, through after-school clubs and workshops during the school day.
“We want to put creativity back into people’s lives and unlock their potential,” says Cressall. “We will not solve the problems of the future without developing people’s creative skills and nurturing their ideas.”