Having joined the Razzamataz family back in 2017, Jessica Chandler-Smith is now living the dream of owning multiple theatre schools
Jessica Chandler-Smith’s dream of running a theatre school came to fruition in 2017 when she launched Razzamataz Brentwood. Determined to multiply her success, Jessica went on to open Razzamataz schools in Romford, Hornchurch and Thurrock within just five years. What makes this phenomenal growth even sweeter is that Jessica’s business partners are her sister and her best friend.
A dream come true
“I always wanted a theatre school and when the time was right, I looked at all my options,” Jessica explained. “I was already running a dog grooming business and a children’s entertainment business, but my passion was in performing arts.”
Having considered all her options, Jessica realised it was Razzamataz’s ethos that really spoke to her and she instantly loved the family atmosphere and “the emphasis on giving children confidence through the arts”.
“We are like one big extended family and do so much together,” shared Jessica. “What I love is that we build people up and everyone has their own Razz cheerleader. This really helps students feel confident and supported and I love it when I’m out and about as I will pretty much always bump into a student or their family.”
Jessica started her Rassamataz journey with the Brentwood school in 2017 and within two years she managed to open a second location in Hornchurch in 2019.
But the coronavirus pandemic meant she and her business partners had to rethink how they were going to run the schools.
“A part of this restructuring was my sister leaving her corporate role and joining as the joint principal, which enabled us to also open Dagenham and she took on a role in Romford and Hornchurch as well,” explained Jessica. “One of my team members, Kasey, also came on board to be the joint principal of the Thurrock school.”
Kasey joined the team in 2018 as a classroom assistant and has progressed to become a single teacher – an achievement that makes Jessica particularly proud.
“We really clicked and I could see how committed she was, so I trained her up to be the assistant principal before we opened Thurrock together,” added Jessica. “The managers training that head office provides has also meant that Paige in my team has been able to move through the ranks and has progressed from teaching assistant through to assistant principal.
“It’s a lovely feeling being part of the progression for team members, and it means our Razzamataz family is constantly growing.”
But it is not only the team’s success that makes Jessica’s Razzamataz journey worthwhile. Helping students build their confidence is one of the most rewarding experiences of all.
“We have three students this year who have gone to performing arts colleges, which is a massive achievement for us because we coached them through their auditions,” Jessica added. “We have students that are on the TV programme Milkshake most weeks, which they love and is great for our brand exposure.
“We had one little student who took a term and a half to even say anything to us and now does three classes a week and the transformation has been outstanding. I say to friends that I feel like I have 800 children because they all mean so much to me.”
Experiences to remember
For the first time, Jessica’s students will now be performing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End in November.
She said: “It’s been lovely for me because I’ve also choreographed and staged some of the numbers and it’s been lovely to get so involved with the children and unleash my creative side.
“We also took a team to Britain’s Got Talent, and they got to perform for the producers. Every year we take part in the Brentwood Christmas parade, in fact, we were the ones that introduced the parade and each year it gets bigger and better. During the summer, we also put on our first festival, Razz Fest.”
Building a lifestyle through franchising
A huge part of this success Jessica attributes to the support and training she received from head office.
She added: “Being part of a franchise network like Razzamataz means there are always people there to help you take those big leaps, which you need to do in business.
“Previously to Razzamataz, I’ve run businesses before but always by myself or just a few people. I’ve had to learn how to manage a big team and of course all the marketing that constantly needs to be updated to keep up with the changing times.”
Looking ahead, Jessica is now planning a further expansion in Essex, including opening a school in Billericay, which would take her network to seven schools.
She is also looking at more events that will include all her Essex schools such as workshops with a performing arts celebrity, staff outings and training, Razz Fest and, of course, performing in the West End.
And her advice for anyone considering joining Razzamataz?
“Life is short so go for it if this is something that you really want to do. Believe in yourself and know that if you have the passion, with the support of Razzamataz, you will achieve. The great thing about a network like ours is that everyone has different skill sets and we all learn and support each other so you never feel like you are alone.”