West End musical theatre performers and dancers have notoriously short careers. Some go on to be choreographers or dance teachers but the choices available to bring in a steady income is fairly limited. Many look to retrain but it is daunting for those who have spent their life on a stage to suddenly up and try to established themselves in a whole new area. However, performers have a lot of transferable skills, including drive, commitment and determination, which can make them hugely successful entrepreneurs. Shelley Fitzgibbon runs Razzamataz Wokingham and Woodley. She says,
I was a professional performer for ten years appearing in numerous shows including Oliver, 42nd Street, Anything Goes, Carousel and Stepping Out.
I think you feel a failure when you decide “that’s it”. You have worked for something all your life and even though you have had a successful career the day you decide to “give up” is a very big decision. Someone once described the industry as a ” fruit machine”. You daren’t leave incase you get that big pay out (or in our terms that big role!)
Corporate companies and 9-5 employers are not interested if you can sing a TOP C and put your leg around your head! But actually I have seen many friends go onto very successful careers running their own schools, as fitness instructors, and as events managers.
I think finding something where you can transfer your skills is the key. For Razzamataz I use skills I learnt even in my first year at Drama school.
When considering my options, I wanted something that would earn me a substantial salary so I didn’t have to scrimp and save the same way I had in Musical Theatre. One minute I was drinking champagne playing a lead – the next I was handing out cheese samples in Sainsburys (that’s the truth and harsh reality!)
I also wanted something that wasn’t so disabling on my body and something I could do for a long time, although flexibility was key because I was desperate to be a mummy. I love working with children so a theatre school seemed ideal.
I decided on Razzamataz because the set up fee was far less than other franchises, I could get a loan so didn’t need a big deposit and I liked the fact that you could put on big shows.
I’ve been open in Wokingham for five years and have 153 students at that branch and Woodley for four years with 70 students. Both these schools have allowed me to make a good living and achieve my objectives.
Much of my success comes from the fact that I have lots of industry contacts, which has been crucial USPs for my schools. I’m a stickler for attention to detail and all round skills in Musicals has helped me recruit a good team and offer parents specialized and in depth knowledge which puts us ahead of the competition.
The areas where being part of the Razzamataz franchise network really helped was in the I.T department. Although my knowledge has improved so much over the past five years, the introduction of an I.T specialist to Razzamataz really helped. He was very patient!
I never thought I would be able to afford the nice lifestyle I now have or even a mortgage at one point! You honestly build up skills for life in performing and the fact that you really know what you are talking about when a parent says to you: “So Josie wants to be a dancer where does she start!?” means you are streets ahead from many other theatre schools.
Could this be you?
If you are a performer considering your future and want to find out more about running your own business, make an appointment to come along to one of our regular but informal Discovery Den days in London, Kent, Glasgow or Sheffield to find out more. To book a place on one of our Discovery Dens, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to find out exact dates and locations and reserve your time slot. Alternatively call Suzie on 07793 054 233 or 0131 664 1218 or visit www.razzamataztheatreschools.co.uk for more info.