These are the key attributes that creatives and artists have that make them the perfect candidate for a future in franchising – and why now is as good a time as ever to invest
On Saturday 15 August, it was announced that socially-distanced indoor theatre performances could once again go ahead, after close to six months of closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the estimated 260,300 working in the performing arts across the UK - not to mention the hundreds of thousands also affected internationally - this came as a welcome relief and an opportunity to return to their passion once again.
But, for many, any dreams of returning to stage or screen will never again be realised, with concert venues, theatres and playhouses facing financial ruin, in turn, rendering thousands unemployed - with little guidance and support on where to turn next.
Andrew Walters, director of international business development for children’s services franchise, Stagecoach Performing Arts, has worked with hundreds of former performers-turned-franchisees who have found financial freedom after investing in a business of their own. Here, he highlights the key attributes that the arts community has that make them the perfect candidate for a future in franchising – and why now is as good a time as ever to invest.
It goes without saying that 2020 has brought about a whole new set of challenges. Unfortunately, performers, theatre staff and event promoters have been some of the hardest hit - simply because non- essential leisure events fell to the bottom of everyone’s priorities well before the nationwide lockdown was even enforced. In some cases, theatres were reporting diminished audience numbers as far back as January, when media interest in the virus increased and the general public really started to take notice.
From my experience of working in both the children’s performing arts and franchising industries, I’ve come to realise that passion for the theatre and business acumen aren’t always necessarily mutually exclusive.
When I speak with our franchisees, both in the UK and from across the eight international countries we operate in, those with a background in the arts don’t regularly also come with experience in business operations. But, before former performers disregard their ability as an entrepreneur, they must consider the niche and in-demand skillset they could bring to the table.
Resilience is an art-form
One of the key attributes I look for in the perfect franchisee is someone that is resilient and tenacious. Who could have a thicker skin than an established and experienced singer, dancer or actor? Someone who is, quite literally, trained to learn through constructive feedback, roll with the punches and come back stronger?
Through a performer’s early career, they will live through hundreds - if not thousands - of unsuccessful auditions before scoring their dream role on stage or screen. When you buy into a franchise, you’re not buying a full-time job - you’re investing in a long-term and life-changing opportunity. Whilst you will have access to the best franchise support from your franchisor, you will still be faced with daily challenges that take conviction and resilience to deal with. I see this quality in so many of our franchisees at Stagecoach – the ones who have led entire ensemble casts on stage or performed lead vocals in a professional band.
That’s the sort of quality I seek out in prospects - something former performers have in abundance. Olga Heinz, franchisee and Principal at Stagecoach Mainz, Germany, had to contend with quite the significant setback in her acting career. Before launching her franchise, she spent two decades performing at a prestigious theatre in Germany - the Staatstheater in Augsburg.
“I was very young when I was first offered the contract at the theatre,” she says. “Despite my age, I secured some phenomenal roles, including a stint on stage as Sally Bowles in a production of Cabaret. However, my career was put in jeopardy when an old injury I’d suffered as a student came back to haunt me, resulting in spinal surgery. Following that, my mobility was never the same and, despite continuing with my acting career for a while, it gave me the wakeup call I needed. Now was the right time to actively seek out my next challenge.
“That’s when I came across Stagecoach, initially taking a job as an acting teacher at Stagecoach Frankfurt. It was then that I discovered the business opportunity I’d been looking for.”
To run a franchise, you will be expected to efficiently run the business and, in most cases, manage a team. And even if the business model you opt to invest in doesn’t require additional manpower, you will still be required to liaise with clients, suppliers or other franchisees on a daily basis.
Good communicators aren’t born – they’re trained. At Stagecoach, we often find that prospects come to us with little to no issues with communication. Across the board, I would estimate that well over half of our network is made up of former performers, who have been trained in proper speech delivery, voice training, how to read reactions and command a room. These are all fantastic attributes for budding entrepreneurs!
The perfect combination
Those that opt for a career in the arts have often explored this interest from a very young age and, therefore, are often quick to disregard anything in corporate fields. But, thanks to children’s services franchises, former performers are able to combine their love of the creative arts with long-term business opportunities that have real scope for growth.
Sarah and Will Chitty launched their first Stagecoach franchise in Twickenham in 2014. The professional actress and established producer first began considering the franchise investment opportunity when starting their family. Ultimately, the varied - and, sometimes, chaotic - life of acting didn’t translate well to family life. Initially, the couple were concerned that business ownership would see them having to step away from the world of professional acting.
“The more we looked into it, the more we realised that Stagecoach is as flexible as you make it,” explains Will. “So, we took a leap of faith and made a call to the Stagecoach team. As luck would have it – some may say it was fate! – we were told that Twickenham, not far from where we live in Hampton Court, was an available territory. Sarah had also just been though a rigorous audition process to land a part in Mamma Mia! but, after weeks of training, we got the news that she didn’t get the part. We saw that as a sign.
“We went on to launch Stagecoach Teddington in 2015 and it was the best decision we could have made for our future. Thanks to the income of owning two separate territories, we’re no longer living on the shoestring budgets from our days in acting.”
Professional performers make for great entrepreneurs because they have often struggled financially whilst striving for their goals. A performing arts franchise provides them with an opportunity to realise their dreams whilst providing financial and personal improvements, like a comfortable lifestyle or more time with loved ones.
If you’re a professional performer and the pandemic has seen you questioning your long-term goals, before turning your back on the arts completely, why not consider a career in franchising?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Walters is director of international business development for children’s services franchise, Stagecoach Performing Arts.