Razzamataz Theatre Schools multi-unit franchise owner, Marc Kelly, celebrates five years in the network and is about to launch his second territory
What’s your background?
I’ve been a professional performer and theatre arts teacher all my life. I initially studied for a degree in musical theatre in Carlisle and then went on to the Guildford School of Acting. I’ve worked on cruise ships all over the world and then 10 years ago, I found my love of panto and have been a ‘Dame’ every year since.
How did you hear about Razzamataz?
While I was studying in Carlisle, I saw an advert for a drama teacher in the first Razzamataz school run by the MD and founder Denise. I applied for the job and ended up working for both the Carlisle and Penrith schools. I was actually there during the time that Denise appeared on BBC’s Dragons’ Den and I remember teaching a drama class when Duncan Bannatyne came to visit.
What business experience did you have?
While I was performing, I also ran a business producing musicals in London fringe theatres but it was a very different business to what I have with Razzamataz. The one thing that links them is that I adore both sectors but the theatre business was more of a passion project whereas Razzamataz is much more financially sound. It’s a privilege to be able to work in an industry that I love so much.
What attracted you to the franchise sector?
I had always taught children in various drama, theatre or primary schools so I had loads of experience in that area. But I was looking for something that could offer me more long-term security so initially, I did start researching if I could open my own theatre school. But the more I looked into it, the more I realised how hard it would be to build a brand from scratch. I loved my time at Razzamataz and everything they stood for and once I started to research what the franchise gave you, it just made total sense to go with them. The support and all the marketing materials that we received was something that I just couldn’t have done on my own.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a Razzamataz principal?
After five years of being the principal of Razzamataz Hackney, I still get so much joy from watching the children grow and becoming these incredible people. One of the proudest days of my entire life was watching the students perform on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. It is also incredibly rewarding watching the business grow and provide me with the lifestyle that I want, so much so that I’ve decided to purchase another territory and expand my business even further. From January 2020, I was able to give up my full-time job and devote so much more time to Razzamataz, which has seen my student numbers shoot up.
What are your challenges?
When I first launched Razzamataz Hackney, my personal circumstances completely changed and for the first few years, I had to combine running Razzamataz with a full-time job. Devoting enough time to the business was always an issue but I managed it and now the situation is so much better.
What advice can you offer anyone considering a franchise?
Don’t underestimate the time and effort it takes to be successful but if you have the commitment, it is a fantastic business. I love how flexible it is. I prefer working in the evenings, where I can sort out my social media and arranging events is something I love to do and can fit around whatever else I’m doing. I would hate the restrictions that a regular nine-to-five job puts on you.
What are the benefits of being part of a franchise?
It has to be all the support and training that we get from our head office. I love the fact that all the marketing materials are there for you in one place; you simply log on and download what you need. We also get lots of support from other franchisees in the network. I love being able to go to someone with a problem and equally it is great when you can help someone out.
Although we have really grown in the last five years, we’ve not lost that family feel. Denise knows everyone really well individually and we all speak on a regular basis. During the pandemic, the head office was so diligent in helping us to move classes online and they thought of a solution for every potential problem before we launched, which was very reassuring. When we were allowed to reopen, head office made sure that every franchisee had everything that they needed to open in a COVID-secure way. This allowed us to reassure all of our parents that all of the staff had undertaken training, we had the necessary safety equipment and their children would be safe with us.
What’s a typical day like?
I don’t really have a typical day as I like the feeling of freedom and making choices based on what’s needed. I tend to have two to-do lists on the go; one will be things that I enjoy doing and one that are jobs that are urgent. I always start each day with a fun task and then work my way through anything that is urgent.
Over lockdown, I really got into walking and I now do a five-mile walk every day. If I was in a nine-to-five job, this isn’t something that I could just do so I really appreciate the flexibility that I have.
How do you stay motivated?
I think it is really important that you have someone that can be part of this journey with you. It could be a partner, family member or friend but having someone to bounce ideas off is really reassuring. For me, my mum is the person that I like to share ideas with. It’s great that she can look at it with fresh eyes and a different perspective and it’s important that you communicate with someone if you are having a day when you feel disheartened. Make sure you also have passionate teachers who share your commitment to the students.
What are the most important things that you have learnt as a business owner?
Firstly, keep a written record of everything; spreadsheets are your friends! As a performer, I’m pretty good at remembering lines and lyrics and sometimes I rely on that in terms of business. However, it is important to keep a written record and stay on top of your admin.
Customer service is also the single most important part of running a business. At the moment, parents can’t come in or really share what the children are doing in class so it is up to me to have that communication with them. Since reopening for face-to-face classes, I’ve had a 100 per cent conversation rate from taster to sign up students, which I’m really proud of.
What are your future plans?
I’m really excited to be launching my second territory in September. I have performed eight times at the panto in Radlett so I know the area and community well. I will run Razzamataz Radlett and Hackney with an assistant principal and split my time between the two. I feel a bit nervous about starting from scratch again but I’ve learnt so much that I can put into action, I feel really ready. Although I’m not a new franchisee, the head office is once again holding my hand throughout the entire process so I feel reassured that nothing will be forgotten.