Theatre Tots Ltd
Your Name and Age:
Laura Sydonie 32Tell us about your family:
I live in SE London with my partner and two boys Jack 3 and Tobias 1. Despite being a country girl at heart I currently love London life and all it has to offer us as a family.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
Before I started Theatre Tots I was performing all over the world and teaching drama to all ages from 0 – 100. I have always loved teaching and the idea for Theatre Tots was always in the back of my mind. I ran a theatre company SULIS PRODUCTIONS which toured to America, Canada, Australia, Turkey, France and Spain. SULIS produced English speaking theatre abroad in performances and workshops.
When did you launch?
Our first classes were in February 2008.
How did you get started?
I started with a few classes local to me.
What research did you do before launching?
I looked around at the pre-school class market. It’s a very full area but there wasn’t anyone at that time doing imagination and drama work. I held a focus group with mums I knew and heard their ideas on what they would like from a drama class and what their perceptions were. My first son was the perfect age to take around to existing classes and see what and how other people are presenting themselves.
A large amount of our work is in schools, nurseries and children’s centres so I also looked into the Early years foundation stage curriculum to make sure we tied in with it.
How have you funded the business?
The business is so far funded by me. I put in enough to buy props and publicity and rent the first few rooms. The rest has grown organically. I now have an attic of props and a kitchen of publicity!
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
I use a variety of flyers and posters and web based media. I am very lucky that my brother (and co-director) is a web designer so not only has designed me a fabulous site but also can keep me updated with current trends. I find twitter and face book very effective for meeting other businesses, schools and nurseries. I find flyering, event promotion (ie. summer fayres) and good old word of mouth are the best ways to get to parents.
With schools and nurseries we do regular direct mail outs all over the UK.
What has worked well about your business?
I am very proud of the content of our sessions. All our stories, songs and exercises are original. All my teachers are wonderful and are a huge part of our success – the class is only really as good as its teacher! What we do is also really flexible which maximises where we can work. Its very adaptable and can serve all sorts of children in all sorts of settings.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
It was difficult having my second son in the second year of the business. I couldn’t teach for a few months and the increase in wages to keep the classes was dramatic. I also didn’t enjoy not being ‘front line’. In the end I came back to teaching earlier and brought my second son along. It worked well and allowed me to not only teach but be back in touch with the parents and children.
There is also the challenge of juggling so many different things. I think this is true of any working parent but with your own business the stakes are higher. It took me a while to work out my way of doing things, instead of copying patterns of business laid down by others. Once you know how you are comfortable working you can relax and make clearer decisions.
How do you fit in work with the family?
Both of my sons have come along to classes from birth. This is obviously a huge advantage! Socially they have gained a huge amounts from this and have more party invites than I have ever had! All my admin and writing I do in the evenings which means I am often burning the candle at both ends but its worth it. I get to maximise my time with my boys during the days and administrate in the evenings. My partner and I have a deal that I work 4/5 evenings a week and have at least 2 off when we relax together. This works well and means he doesn’t feel abandoned!
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
Do the research and take your time. Don’t do anything too quickly. The best aspects of my business now are the ones that grew slowly and steadily. And sounds cheesy but be true to yourself. It will be very hard to be working away into the night on something you don’t believe in or are passionate about.
If you have a flexible working business opportunity, please explain briefly what you offer and how people find out more.
We are currently looking for people interested in a franchise opportunity. We were recently runners up in the What’s on 4 Little Ones Awards 2010 and that has given us a spring board to move forward.
Special Promotion for Family Friendly Working readers:
For any members with children in the London area they can quote FFW and get 3 FREE Theatre Tots to see what we get up to! Can be taken at any time subject to availability.