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Emma Maddison was worried about becoming a franchisee, fearing she would struggle on her own with no support. But she says her experience as a franchisee for the award-winning franchise Little Learners* has been completely different from what she imagined.
She was worried about being self employed, of going into the unknown and being alone, of not having the support of working in a team. “It’s not like that at all, though,” she says. “There is amazing support from Rachel [Fay, the founder] and the other franchisees. I thought it would be quite isolating, but it is the opposite. I prefer it to working in a company.”
Emma used to be a full-time nursery practitioner, but after going on maternity leave in 2014 she decided she didn’t want to go back to work. She had known Rachel Fay since her daughter was born and she had taken her daughter to some of Rachel’s Little Learner classes when she was around six months old. The classes teach babies and toddlers the skills they need to make marks, the pre-cursor to handwriting. She felt she had the right skills to become a franchisee and that the business would give her the flexibility to be at home with her daughter.
She mulled it over for a while until her maternity leave ended in October 2015 and then decided to take the plunge. She signed up in January 2016, becoming Rachel’s third franchisee, covering Gateshead East and South Tyneside.
Out of her comfort zone
One of the things that was stopping her signing up right away was a lack of confidence. She was worried about being the sole focus of attention and doing things like marketing which she had not done before. “I was a total novice,” says Emma. “I knew all the childcare things and understood making marks through my training and work on the Early Years Foundation Stage, but selling classes and encouraging people to come back was something that was out of my comfort zone.”
Despite her initial fears, however, she found that all the mechanics of running the business were laid out in Little Learners’ manual and training sessions, which she did mainly from home, as well as in videos on Facebook on everything from using the booking system to updating the website. The videos are available whenever she needs them to refresh her memory too. There have also been occasional meetings with other franchisees to update them on issues.
Before she started, Emma observed a lot of classes. Moreover, she says, Rachel is always at the other end of the phone and Little Learners has a closed Facebook group for franchisees which is a good source of support.
She was nervous at first to talk to groups of new mums, but has got more confident over time. Initially she took her daughter to classes, but as she has got older that has proven more difficult, although her daughter knows all the characters that the children are taught.
Emma has been able to flex her work around her family. Her husband only works half a day on Friday so she held her first classes on a Friday afternoon and on Saturdays. She now does Thursday mornings too. From January her daughter will be going to nursery a bit more and she is looking to expand what she offers then. She does a lot of her administrative work in the evenings and on Sunday mornings.
Emma says that in addition to providing her with earnings, being a franchisee has helped develop her people skills and her confidence. “It’s a brilliant opportunity and, even though the franchisees are now spread more geographically, it is lovely to have this group of friends who provide professional and personal support,” she says. “They all have young children so they totally understand what you might be going through.”
*Little Learners won this year’s Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Franchise Awards for Best Newcomer. A Best Practice Report on all our winners will be published shortly.