Sarah Cressall, founder of The Creation Station, describes how she franchised her business and the benefits of becoming a franchisee
Tell us about your business
The Creation Station inspires imaginations through fun, creative activities.
With the squeeze on creativity in education, the rise in the ‘experience market’ and the increase in the need for more well-being activities, demand for our creative activities continues to increase.
Over 950,000 children have already been inspired by our award-winning programmes. The fun and educational activities involve creating journeys of exploration, discovery and development.
They include Tiny Treasure events for parents and newborns to create footprint and handprint keepsakes, Baby Discover and Little Explorer classes, Family Fun holiday workshops, school workshops and after-school Create Clubs, Arty Birthday parties, Event Entertainment, Creative Crafter events for adults and Care and Creativity sessions for senior citizens.
We also provide intergenerational fun by bringing our Little Explorers into our Care and Creativity sessions. The work we do has been recognised by the franchise, educational, entertainment and business sectors.
Over 2,450 customers have rated The Creation Station ‘5 Star’ on Trustpilot and in an independent franchise satisfaction survey we gained 5 Star satisfaction in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Why did you decide to franchise The Creation Station?
Often, our life experiences lead us on different paths. Before having kids, I’d worked as a contract manager in London and sold some of my own artworks. I also travelled a lot.
While doing Operation Raleigh - now called Raleigh International - in Zimbabwe, I was asked to help women set up their own rural creative businesses. This was a watershed period for me, as I thought if I want to pursue a creative career it was up to me to act and make choices.
I recognised I needed to develop my own business and creative skills before I helped anyone else. I returned to London, studied arts management, became a designer-maker and ran creative workshops.
When I became a mum to my three boys, I spotted a gap in the market for creative activities for pre-school children. There was lots of gym and music, but nothing that sparked each child’s curiosity to ignite their own journey of exploration, discovery and development. It was all a bit one size fits all.
My three boys are 21 months apart in age and I could see the huge difference in personalities and interests when they were little. I feel strongly that life isn’t a sausage machine and wanted to help nurture the wonder within.
How did you go about it?
I knew The Creation Station was a business model that would work for other like-minded people who also wanted flexibility and to do something that generated a good income and, at the same time, made a difference to others.
As demand grew and we developed the range of activities, it was obvious we had uncovered a business with great potential. People kept asking me if they could run their own Creation Station.
I worked with the British Franchise Association and developed the systems and blueprint for the business over five years. I awarded the first Creation Station franchise in September 2007.
We now have an extensive creative hub team, are proactive in responding to market changes and opportunities and continue to innovate to support our 100-plus franchise family and make a difference to individual children and people.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
The concepts behind the Creation Station were different to other franchise businesses at the time. It was very much about having a purpose and although profit was key, I wanted to ensure we kept to the core values my husband Duncan and myself had spent time developing.
Sometimes believing in yourself is the hardest bit. My mum said to me you can do whatever you put your mind to and I’m sure this is what helped me carry on.
Over the years lots of things, have happened. In the early days, we relocated three times and had to set up the Creation Station three times. This helped us to understand and record the processes of setting up a new franchise.
Why should someone invest in a franchise instead of starting up on their own?
When starting a business from scratch, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are always more costs, regulations and hurdles than you think there will be and there’s a shortage of time to get everything done.
Some of the benefits our franchise owners have enjoyed include the ability to start earning from day one, exceptional training, ongoing support when they need it and the instant credibility the brand provides.
What do you look for in a franchisee?
We look for someone who shares our core values and wants to make a difference in their community. We award the franchise to people who like being with children and adults, are proactive and want to run a successful business. The franchise is designed to be flexible around each franchise owner’s life, so they can grow their business at a rate that suits them.
Can you describe the creation station franchise award process?
If someone is looking for a rewarding and flexible creative business, we recommend they visit our website and download the information pack. Once they’ve read it, most people get quite excited and there are lots of questions. We invite people to book a ‘discover chat’ with Maggie Seager, our head of awards and operations manager.
After the chat, we’ll both agree whether it could be the right opportunity for you. If so, we’ll invite you to a discovery event. Here you will observe an award winning class and chat with local franchise owners. We’ll also go through the financials and ensure you have all your questions answered.
After the discovery event, we ask you to carefully consider if the franchise is right for you and we’ll let you know within 72 hours whether we would consider awarding you the franchise. If it’s a yes from both of us, we will discuss the next steps and options and create the area and opportunity that works for you.
We award our franchise to two percent of people who enquire. It’s important to us that we award our franchise to people who are the right cultural fit and who we believe can make a success of and enjoy running their business.
What plans do you have for the business in the next 12 months?
We always have a range of great plans and developments. Ideas come from a wide range of sources, including our customers, franchise owners, head office team and specialist experts.
Some of the developments are top secret. However, we can say that we’re developing our school programmes, which is a growing area for our franchise owners.
As a result of my book, Creative Sparks - mishaps, hurdles and ideas to inspire you and yours, going to number one on Amazon, I’ve being asked to talk at lots of events on creativity. I spoke at IBM alongside Lego Education and am speaking to the government on how to incorporate more creativity within our education systems.
We are also looking for master franchise owners overseas to begin our journey of global inspiration.