This month we hear from Nicola Lander, Founder of the Jigsaw Performing Arts Franchise. Here, Nicola talks about her passion for Performing Arts and why she decided to run her own successful business.
Jigsaw Performing Arts runs weekend schools delivering dance, drama and singing classes to children aged 3-18 years. We have 23 locations in and around London and now we are expanding through a franchise network.
Alongside this, Jigsaw offers holiday courses, a Youth Theatre Company, birthday parties and an agency for children wanting to gain professional work. Over the years my belief in the benefits of performing arts for children has been proven time and time again. This is what drives us when running high-quality performing arts classes.
I trained as a performer at Mountview Theatre School and in between my performance jobs I would take on teaching work for various companies. Although I had a strong passion for the performing arts, I found that I enjoyed teaching just as much as I enjoyed performing. It was these experiences that led to me setting up my own classes. Whilst I didn’t have any business qualifications or experience, I had the motivation and drive to make my classes a success and I learned on the job.
The whole business was a really exciting challenge and there was a lot of trial and error with regards to marketing and recruitment. The systems have never stood still at Jigsaw, and even now we are fine-tuning and updating systems; you can never think that the job is complete. No matter what challenges we may face, I believe that everything can be overcome with hard work and determination, sprinkled with quite a lot of positivity.
The initial set-up was funded by me. There weren’t a lot of up-front costs initially so it was manageable. The main expense was hiring teaching staff, but I did a lot of the teaching myself in the early days and then when I started to employ other teachers the fees came in before the teachers needed paying!
People always say the customer comes first. At Jigsaw, we really do put our customers, the students, at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make, from the resources we choose to the staff that we hire. As hard-working and dedicated as I am, there is only so much I can do in a day so it's really important to have a strong team of staff who have the same passion for what you do but with a varied skillset; and then it’s important to really appreciate your team and the hard work that they do.
I’ve always found that it's hugely beneficial to have people you trust that you can turn to when you have a big decision to make. My step-father ran his own business, so in the early days I would call on him to discuss situations. Now I rely on friends who work in similar industries and employees who are key players. Lots of people have contributed to the success of the business over the years; it’s good to be open to other people's ideas and help.
There are certain aspects of our business that are outsourced due to expertise but also cost effectiveness. It's important to have expertise in a broad spectrum of areas in order to support your business.
By being extremely organized! This is the big question for all working mums! There are times in the year where my business tends to take over, but I balance that by making sure I have times where my family take over as well.
We enjoyed a long holiday and had lots of quality family time in Australia last year, visiting the in-laws. I had to be very organized, putting things in place before I left, and I have been extremely busy since returning; it was worth it, though.