Your Name & Age: Deborah Gersohn, young at heart
Tell us about your family: Married with two daughters
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how did you get started?
I was working in children’s TV as a script editor – creating stories and supervising writers – for popular shows such as Grange Hill, Tracy Beaker and The Worst Witch. But Kids TV took a big hit when new legislation banned junk food advertisements airing during children’s programming. Of course this was the right thing for parents and children but no one thought about the impact it would have on programme making. The budgets were gone and the jobs vanished overnight. At the same time the BBC announced its children’s department was going to move from London to Manchester. As a Londoner born and bred making a long-term move to Manchester wasn’t going to work for me. So there I was with a specialist knowledge of what entertains children and needing a new direction.
I did some research and could see that the children’s party industry was on the verge of some big changes. Themed partyware was heading our way from America and parents were beginning to rely more and more on outside companies to take charge of their children’s parties.
I started a party planning service at a local function venue and offered a complete hassle free package for parents – everything was taken care of for them and they could pick any party theme they wanted. I developed a programme of entertainment and trained up staff, linked up with a local caterers and taught myself about decorating, making party bags etc.
The business went well but time and time again I was asked if just our entertainers were available to hire out? Not everyone wanted the full party planning service but they ALL wanted an entertainer. It became clear that this was the aspect of the business where there really was the greatest potential.
In 2011 I rebranded as Bish Bash Birthdays with the intention to franchise as soon as possible. Whilst children’s franchises in art, drama, music and education were already well covered there was a definite gap for a party entertaining franchise. The party industry is also completely unregulated and independent entertainers are very hit and miss – some are fantastic but there are no guarantees. I wanted to train staff to an exacting standard to offer parents a service they could truly rely on – ensuring that all our parties are a roaring success.
Three years later and our first five franchises are in place and they’re all doing amazingly well. The reviews from our clients on Netmums, facebook etc. speak for themselves. Our franchisees enjoy a great work life balance and have lots of fun too!
What’s been your biggest business mistake? How did you deal with it?
I hadn’t worked in the kids party industry when I started a business in it. I didn’t have any relevant experience of the market. I wouldn’t advise anyone to launch a business in an industry that they’ve never done a day’s work in. It’s an expensive way to learn. After a few wrong turns at the start I quickly developed a desire to evaluate every step I was making. I would take the time to think back over a day and make a note of what could be improved upon. By being committed to learning from myself I could find ways to make things better, more efficient, more profitable and more enjoyable.
How do you fit in work with the family? Is your partner supportive of your business?
The kids love the fact that mum has a garage full of party prizes and a never ending supply of polka dot balloons! I very much designed the business with family life in mind. Our clients are other parents and so they’re available at the same time as we are – during the school day and after bedtime. The business is a perfect fit for anyone with a family. My husband has been incredibly supportive from the beginning – minding the fort when I’ve been busy with parties as well as sampling all the slices of birthday cake I’ve brought home!
Where do you hope to be in five years time?
I would love to see Bish Bash Birthdays continuing to grow at a steady pace and eventually becoming the UK’s premier party entertainment company. I work closely with each franchisee and so I need to balance the growth of the business with ensuring I have enough time to help launch each franchise properly and that every individual has as much support as they need.
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