Jeni Eastlake talks about running her Monkey Music business in Putney, Barnes & East Grinstead
What is your career background?
I was an Early Years and Key Stage 1 teacher and music co-ordinator in primary schools for almost 10 years. Although I enjoy playing the piano, I don’t have any formal music qualifications, (although I do have grade 5 on the trombone!). However, I’ve always been passionate about music and loved being in charge of the music at my school. (Anyone who has been involved in education will know that this involves far more than just playing the piano during assembly!). Monkey Music was a great way for me combine music, teaching and family life, and I haven’t looked back!
How did you first hear about Monkey Music and the franchise opportunities available?
I read an article about franchised music classes, and thought it would be a good opportunity for someone of my experience to work flexibly around my child care needs. I was aware of Monkey Music in my area, so got in touch with Angie to see if there were any opportunities. When I observed the classes, I loved the energy and enthusiasm of the teachers – all the children and grown ups were having a great time, and each class covered so many teaching points. I knew straight away that Monkey Music was the perfect thing for me!
How often do you work?
I currently teach three mornings a week and generally work in the office during office hours when I’m not teaching, and occasional evenings and weekends too! (I have teachers taking some of my classes and an extremely organised part-time administrator, which is absolutely invaluable). I have had some periods when I have taught much less, (I had my second little boy during my first year of Monkey Music, and my little girl 6 years ago, and took some ‘maternity time’ for both of them), and I may do more teaching when all the children are at school. This is one of the great things about a Monkey Music franchise: you can vary the amount you take on, (although it’s always hard to pass up on venue opportunities and my franchise does seem to have grown each term – which is great, but does make for more work!).
How does the job fit around your family life?
Really well most of the time. I am free from teaching during school holidays so I can spend lots of time with my children. I’ve been very lucky to have some wonderful teachers who have helped me out during my ‘maternity leave’, which has meant that I have been able to really enjoy Robyn. I can usually fit some of my office work around school times. My children love having all the props and instruments around, and have been a great help when I’m learning any new songs!
Do you get support/training?
We have a franchise manager who is always there to support me and answer any questions. She has always been at the end of the phone, and has been very willing to help and give advice when I’ve needed it. HQ have always been great if I’ve ever needed their help. Ongoing training is available, which is really important to keep the classes fresh. My nearby franchisees are all really lovely and we occasionally meet up for a chat which I find really supportive.
How many classes do you run?
52 each week. This has grown considerably since I started, (I ran 15 classes each week when I first started).
What is the best thing about Monkey Music for you?
There are lots of things I love about Monkey! It’s great fun and so rewarding. The babies and children are gorgeous and I love welcoming new baby brothers and sisters from families who have been coming to my classes for as long as I’ve been doing them! I get to sing my heart out, dance, do the occasional animal impression, and generate gasps of wonder simply by pulling a pink monkey out of my bag! I can vary the amount I work, (within reason!), still pick up the children from school myself most days, and usually be there for class assemblies and school productions.
Are there any downsides to the job? Getting a phone call the night before from a teacher who is ill so unable to teach her classes the next day isn’t great. Some periods of the term are madly busy and I do find it difficult to keep on top of the office work, especially if I’m doing lots of teaching.
Would you recommend this franchise opportunity to other Mums? Absolutely! It is sometimes challenging fitting everything in, and I do always seem to be rushing around, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s a fulfilling, rewarding career – I can’t think of anything else that would work around family life so well!