Zoe McKibbin, franchisee of Razzamataz Edinburgh and Razzamataz Glasgow South, on how the brand helped to achieve her dream of working with children and the arts
Meet multi-unit franchise owner with Razzamataz Theatre Schools, Zoe McKibbin, age 27 from Glasgow. Zoe took over the Edinburgh school in 2016 and Glasgow South in 2018.
What’s your background?
ZM: I studied acting and performance and acting for stage and screen at college and university. My ambition was never to be a professional performer, although I was in shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. My dream was that I wanted to work with children and the arts because I know how much it benefited me. I was an incredibly shy and anxious child and it was through performing arts that I found my confidence. My experience showed me how the arts could help with communication skills and general self-esteem and it was this knowledge that I wanted to pass on to children to make a real difference in their lives.
How did you hear about Razzamataz?
ZM: I had a friend who attended classes as a child so I had heard about Razzamataz but didn’t know very much about them. But through this friend, I was given some work experience which then led me to get a position as a drama teacher at Razzamataz Edinburgh.
What business experience did you have?
ZM: Absolutely none! I took over as the principal of Edinburgh when I was just 24 and really didn’t see myself as being a business owner. However, I had taken on manager positions and I really enjoyed it so I felt that with the right training and support, this was something I could do.
What attracted you to the franchise sector?
ZM: From the very beginning of the training week, it was very clear to me that I would not be in business alone. The head office team was there every step of the way and I found that it was such a supportive environment and I was encouraged to feel that I could ask anything. Everyone was so kind and there was a really strong sense that we were all working towards the same goal. Being so new to business, I did worry that I would ask a silly question or just get a little confused but I quickly found that we were encouraged to ask anything and the support from the team and other franchisees was very reassuring.
How has Razzamataz helped during the COVID pandemic?
ZM: I truly believe that without the support of the head office, when COVID-19 hit, I would have closed down because I would have just been overwhelmed with everything that we had to do. I have friends who run their own independent theatre or dance schools and they felt really lost during COVID. The benefits of being part of the Razzamataz franchise has really shone through during the last six months. They give you the information in really simple, digestible formats and they never overwhelm you.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a Razzamataz principal?
ZM: I truly love the community that I have built in my schools. It’s not just a club, it is really so much more than that because of the wonderful relationships I have built with the parents and families. There is huge commitment and dedication from everyone involved and that’s what makes it feel like a family. I also love seeing the children every week and watching their confidence grow; I get so emotional during our shows that I cry at every one of them.
What are your challenges?
ZM: Running out of time! I’m passionate about what I do and there’s always so many things you can be doing to grow your business but I’ve learned that it is just as important to have a good work-life balance too. It’s also not always easy to be a boss and sometimes that means making tough decisions but it’s something that I’m getting better at.
What advice can you offer anyone considering a franchise?
ZM: Know what you are going in to and do your research. Growing a business takes time so you need to be patient and think about how you are going to support yourself while giving your business enough time and energy. Make sure you understand the financial side of it too and also be prepared for ups and downs.
What are the benefits of being part of a franchise?
ZM: It has to be the wonderful support that we get and the way we are encouraged to step out of our comfort zone. We have had lots of training and webinars on business growth and recently we were all encouraged to be more present on social media and get involved with Live stories. This was definitely scary for me but because the whole network was doing it, it gave me the confidence to get involved. It is also really lovely that all of our achievements are celebrated. When you are having a down day, it is so helpful to speak to your support mentor who reminds you how far you have come.
What’s a typical day like?
ZM: During one of our regional meetings, we were encouraged to start the day with our least favourite task. That’s something that I have stuck to so I can get on with the other more enjoyable elements without feeling guilty. For me, that’s checking my emails so I do that first thing and then look at different aspects of the business; anything from the marketing through to checking on the finances. Every day is a little different but to keep on top of everything, I make sure that I write detailed to-do lists. One of the most important aspects is answering any questions from customers and there’s always lots to do on social media.
What have you learnt about yourself in business?
ZM: I can get quite stressed sometimes so it is important that I can call on my support mentor regularly as well as being able to lean on my team. What has surprised me is how much work I can actually handle. I also work part-time in a primary school but by being organised, it is possible to get through everything. I delegate tasks when I need to and also I have learnt that if you need help, you should ask as people are always willing to lend a hand.
How do you stay motivated?
ZM: I try and set myself a goal every day and then I can celebrate the small wins, which I think is really important to keep motivation up. During training, we were told that there would be down times but to stick with it and you will get through it. Of course, how you feel can fluctuate, there will be highs and lows but I try and breathe through it and remember that tomorrow is another day. Recently, I have been having issues finding a venue after lockdown but what got me through it were all the messages of support from parents.
What are your future plans?
ZM: My reasons for running a theatre school have never changed and now I can see just how much it means to the children. I want to continue to increase student numbers in both schools and continue to offer the fun Razzamataz experience, where children can grow in confidence and have a wonderful time in a lovely family environment.