For mum of three, quitting a secure job to start her own franchise business was a chance that she knew she needed to take for a better balance between her home life and work. It was a risk that certainly paid off as she now runs two franchise theatre schools and is able to offer her students incredible opportunities.
Debbi Ledwith is the Principal of Razzamataz Newbury and Reading. She is mum to Daniel age 11 and twins Christopher and Jenna age nine. Debbi qualified as a secondary school teacher of performing arts in 1992 and was the Head of Performing Arts at a school in Basingstoke since 2000.
“Due to a change in my personal circumstances, I wanted to spend more time with my three young children and needed more flexibility in my working life than teaching could give me. When I first thought about it, I definitely felt that starting my own business was a huge risk. I was working four days a week as a secondary school teacher and I knew that I would have to drop two of these days to make it work. This would mean a drop in guaranteed wages and with three children under seven, this was a gamble. I had never run a business before and knew nothing about marketing or budgeting (apart from running a family budget). I had no idea how long tasks would take, or how to hire staff.”
“My friend knew I was looking for a career change and she suggested a franchise theatre school to me as an option. I have never run my own business before and I had never really considered it until I found out more about Razzamataz. I had to learn a lot, I had to start from the very beginning in some areas, but it has been totally worth it. Being a part of Razz is like being part of an extended family. There is always someone to ask for help and usually someone has encountered the problem before, so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel. Whether you feel like you need a bit of encouragement or motivation, or if you just want advice from other Principals, this is always available. There are plenty of training webinars to keep skills up to date or to pass on new information, and these are really helpful. The Conferences are also a huge boost; it is fantastic to meet up with other Principals and find new ways to move forward. Knowing that there is so much support available and being exposed to new ideas and initiatives that I might not otherwise have thought of is so important when running a business. Without franchising and the support of Razzamataz, I could absolutely not have done this on my own. There is so much advice and there are things that I definitely wouldn’t have known if I went it alone. Having a network of Principals makes is so much easier to come up with solutions; so much better than trying to figure it out on your own.”
“It’s sometimes hard to know when to stop work. Sometimes I get so carried away with what I am doing work wise that I want to carry on. However, I am usually quite strict with myself – when the children are awake, I try not to work.”
“As I have just taken on a new school in Reading, at the moment I am still finding my feet a bit and working out how to add another job into the mix. However, the beauty of being a Razzamataz Principal is that I can work the hours that suit me. I rarely have to miss anything that my children do, such as school assemblies or open mornings, and I can always walk them to and from school, which really means a lot to me.”
“Definitely seeing the progress that students make over time. I have now completed four years at Newbury and some of our students have been with us from the outset. It is fantastic to see how much they have changed and how confident and capable they have become. The standard of performance is going up and that is really rewarding. I also love to see my staff succeed. We have all pulled together to achieve some fantastic results and they are my friends as well as my employees. I’ve discovered that I can do whatever I put my mind to and there are a number of things that I have learnt through franchising. These include: learning new skills and using them to achieve success, allowing myself to spend quality time with my children without feeling guilty, work can be fun and rewarding and I can react quickly to issues and solve them efficiently. This is achieved because I can always rely on my support network and I can make a decent income from Razzamataz.”
For those looking for a part-time enterprise, the Early Years Franchise has been created to cater to the demand for people wanting to work in the children’s performing arts industry but who do not have the relevant experience to launch a full Razzamataz Theatre School.
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