Richard Jones has switched from giving careers advice to schoolchildren and university students to entertaining groups of small children in a polka dot waistcoat and hat. Richard is a franchisee for Bish Bash Birthdays which offers a whole range of themed parties to children aged three to eight.
Just before he took up the franchise he was a stay at home dad, looking after his two children who are now aged three and nearly six. It was his second stint as a stay-at-home dad. He was the main carer for his son until his partner, an NHS manager, went on maternity leave with his daughter.
He then returned to careers advice for a year. He says he is pleased to have had the time with his children, although he admits it was not “all roses in the park” and that he did feel a bit self-conscious in the early days given that playgroups and other children’s activities are very much female-dominated.
It was not an easy decision to go back to being a stay-at-home parent the second time around, either. He was enjoying his work when his daughter was born, but felt he needed to make the same commitment to her as he had made to his son. “Looking after small children engages you in some ways, but not in others. I got mushy brain,” he says. “I felt the need to use the other side of my brain.”
So, as his children got a bit older – his son is in school and his daughter goes to nursery for three hours every morning – he started looking for part-time jobs so he could be around for pick-ups. He didn’t have much luck finding part-time jobs in his field in Derbyshire so started looking at other possibilities, which is how he hit on franchises.
He wanted to do something that involved children and had already experienced a few children’s franchises as a parent. He came across birthday party franchises which meant he could work at the weekends when his partner was around. Plus he felt he had the requisite skills. “I had been to so many birthday parties. I thought I could probably do a reasonable job,” he says. Initially he considered starting up on his own, but he thinks it would have taken a while to build up because he would have lacked the business support and marketing skills which a franchise could provide. “I had no business experience and the franchise model offered a business that was ready made so I could hit the ground at a decent trot,” he says.
He researched a few birthday franchises, but decided Bish Bash Birthdays was the one that suited him best. It was more like the kind of party he wanted to deliver – a more traditional party based around games and interaction with the children. Plus no sweets are given as prizes. It was also cheaper than the other franchises he looked at. “It seemed a good model,” says Richard. He contacted Deborah Gersohn, the franchisor, and asked a lot of questions. “She gave very honest answers and was not trying to sell the idea to me. She wanted to see if it fit with me and I liked that approach,” says Richard.
He did a Skype interview with Deborah and attended a party in London before signing in the dotted line. He then did a full day’s training going through all the business administration, doing party plans and the party games. Training is part of the £3,000 price for the franchise, which also includes marketing support [leaflets, posters, print and online marketing and web pages plus support with social media] and a party kit containing a speaker system, prizes, soft play mats, pom poms, magic tricks, a puppet, a bucket of balls, a microphone, a Bish Bash t-shirt and polka dot accessories. Richard has a red polka dot waistcoat and hat. The fee is paid monthly after the first four months and an upfront fee of £950.
Richard signed up in February and did his first party in April. He now has over 20 parties booked. He says it has been “a big learning curve”, but previous training – before his children were born – as a primary school teacher has helped. For his first 10 parties he has to do a detailed evaluation and have a talk with Deborah about any challenges and any improvements he thinks he can make. Richard says it is only at his last party that he felt he was “owning the party as opposed to the party owning me”. “It is definitely become easier. It’s very full on and you have to think on your feet as things can change or something might not work and you have to change things around,” he says.
He is looking to expand into nurseries when his daughter starts school. He says: “I want to be around for my children and this allows me to do that.”
Find out more about Bish Bash Birthdays here.