Debbi Ledwith is a mother of three and the principal of Razzamataz Newbury as well as a part-time teacher. Here's how she balances all her commitments with home-schooling during lockdown and her passion for the arts
What’s your background?
Debbi: I qualified as a secondary school teacher of performing arts in 1992 and was the head of performing arts at a school in Basingstoke since 2000. I’m also mum to three children; Daniel, 12 and Christopher and Jenna who are both 10.
What attracted you to the franchise sector?
Debbi: My friend knew I was looking for a career change and she suggested a franchise theatre school to me as an option. I have never run my own business before and I had never really considered it until I found out more about Razzamataz. I had to learn a lot, I had to start from the very beginning in some areas, but it has been totally worth it. Being a part of Razzamataz is like being part of an extended family. There is always someone to ask for help and usually, someone has encountered the problem before, so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel.
How do you manage the work-life balance?
Debbi: By being disciplined. Three days a week I spend the whole day at my desk, working through the various elements of running a Razzamataz school. The other two weekdays I am working in school, so it’s important that I prioritise, although the flexible nature of Razzamataz means I can catch up in the evenings if I need to. Saturday mornings are spent at Razzamataz and I usually take Saturday afternoons off. Then Sunday I do the odd bit, depending on what the family are doing, ready to get back into it on Mondays. I am currently having an office built and I think that this will help me to shut the door on my work at the end of the day.
How did you manage home-schooling and lockdown?
Debbi: I found running Razzamataz a lot less stressful than trying to home school three only partially-willing students! There are a lot of parents in the Razzamataz network so there’s a lot of consideration to this if you can’t make one of the live webinars or training events. During lockdown, I focused on the children to help them with their school work and scheduled my Razzamataz work after they had finished. Without this flexibility, it would have been almost impossible and made a difficult situation even more challenging.
How has your team and students coped during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Debbi: I am beyond proud of my team. During lockdown, they all had to move massively out of their comfort zones and learn lots of new skills. They didn’t complain once and were a great support to me as I was trying to figure it all out. The team have adjusted incredibly quickly to teaching during COVID-19 and have taken everything in their stride. The students similarly are adapting to everything that is being done to keep them safe.
How has head office helped you through 2020?
Debbi: Whenever it got tough, there was always someone there to boost your morale. Head office gave us so much information and kept up completely informed during the whole lockdown process. It is so reassuring knowing that there is always someone there to talk things through with you and to offer support.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a Razzamataz principal, especially in this climate?
Debbi: It means such a lot to see our students every week and to know that we are still able to give them a good performing arts education even in these challenging times. I love being my own boss and working to my own schedule, this really works for me.
How does the flexible nature of Razzamataz suit you?
Debbi: I love being able to work around my life and my family. This flexible working method enables me to be there for my three children whenever they need me. Making the decision to invest in a Razzamataz school was the best one I could have made, I could never go back now.
What’s a typical day like?
Debbi: On a ‘Razzamataz Work Day’ I take the children to their schools and then come back home. I make a cup of tea and start work, checking my emails. This can take quite a while, depending on which day it is, then I move onto bigger jobs, such as marketing, finances or planning. If I am picking up the children then this comes next. If not, then I work through until about 6.00 pm (usually remembering to stop for lunch). Then it is time to cook dinner and relax with a glass of wine!
How has Razzamataz helped you to grow and expand?
Debbi: I like the challenges that we are set, such as the Facebook challenge during lockdown. I am extremely competitive and these kinds of things really work for me. I also love the awards at the conference, for the same reason. Razzamataz is completely supportive of growth and on hand with ideas to make this happen.
How do you stay motivated?
Debbi: I stay motivated for my family as well as for myself. I want to be successful and to better my own achievements. Being part of a successful franchise means that there is lots of contact between the head office and the principals, as well as between the principals themselves. Once you set out to do something, there are others to spur you on.
How important do you think the arts are for children today?
Debbi: Extremely important. As a secondary school teacher, I can see how much it means to my students to have an outlet for their emotions and feelings. It is the same at Razzamataz, our students need the creativity and escapism in their lives right now. It is for this reason that I want to continue to grow and to share my love of Razzamataz with as many students as possible.
What have you learnt about yourself through the business?
Debbi: I’ve discovered that I can do whatever I put my mind to. Franchising has taught me that I can learn new skills and use them to achieve success at the same time as being able to spend quality time with my children without feeling guilty. Through running Razzamataz, I’ve learnt that work can be fun and rewarding and I can react quickly to issues and solve them efficiently.
What advice can you offer anyone considering a franchise?
Debbi: What are you waiting for? If you love performing arts and working with children and want a job that is rewarding then go for it. The more you put in, the better it is.