Meet 26-year-old Asha, mum to three-year-old Lennox, who is from Kirkby Stephen. Asha took over Razzamataz Penrith in July 2020
What’s your background?
Asha: I’m one of five children and we all were lucky enough to have had performing arts training as children. The arts were a big part of my life growing up and although some of my siblings have gone into the profession, not all have. My sister is actually a nurse but we all benefited from the transferable skills that the arts taught us. I trained at LIPA in Liverpool and did a degree in community drama. I originally thought I wanted to be an actress but after university, I taught drama in primary schools and realised that bringing the arts to children was something that I really felt passionate about.
How did you hear about Razzamataz?
Asha: I worked for the Penrith school as a drama and Tots teacher in 2018 and before that, it was through word of mouth and social media. Razzamataz has a really good name locally so I had always sort of known about it.
What business experience did you have?
Asha: None at all. It was always something that I thought I might like to do but hadn’t really thought of the route. While I was teaching, I was always thinking of the future and just how my career could develop.
What attracted you to the franchise sector?
Asha: Before I took over Razzamataz Penrith, I had already started investigating other franchises. I knew that this definitely was the route that I wanted to follow. There seems no point creating something brand new when there is already a proven business model that worked.
How do you manage the work-life balance?
Asha: It’s actually been pretty straightforward. Lennox goes to nursery and will soon be at pre-school and all my work I can fit around when it is most convenient. When he is at home I can play with him and then fill the pockets of time when he is at childcare or asleep with work. The key is that Razzamataz is really flexible. Every day is really different but the important thing is that I still get time with my family and also a little bit of time for myself where I can go and meet friends for coffee.
How has Razzamataz helped during the COVID pandemic?
Asha: I launched in the middle of the pandemic, which of course was pretty overwhelming and I did question whether I had made a huge mistake. But when I looked at what the other schools in the network were doing and how they pivoted their business online and the amazing testimonials from customers, it gave me such a lot of hope. It was also incredible to witness how Denise and Charlotte at our head office worked tirelessly to give us all the information we needed and to produce a manual to guide us through how the online lessons would work. Everything was delivered without pressure and in step-by-step chunks to make it easy to absorb. When I saw the amazing testimonials coming through from families, I actually felt that it was perfect timing and it was necessary that I step up and give our students the stability and fun that Razzamataz offers. Now we have re-opened and have more students than before lockdown, I can see how worthwhile all the additional activities that we offered were.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a Razzamataz principal?
Asha: Now more than ever I feel so lucky to see the children having fun. It’s been a privilege that parents feel confident to send their children to us and we can witness their energy, joy and enthusiasm. It’s also lovely to see our teachers being creative again and inspiring the children.
What are your challenges?
Asha: Probably lack of time. Although it is flexible, there are only so many hours in the day and I know it is important to switch off too. But really I don’t see anything as being a challenge as such, it is more of a hurdle that with the right support you can get over.
What advice can you offer anyone considering a franchise?
Asha: Do your research. There are so many different franchises out there with very different support levels. What we get in terms of help from Razzamataz is incredible, and I know that friends running other theatre school franchises, don’t get nearly as much. Being part of Razzamataz feels like you are part of a family who is supporting you to grow so you are not on this journey by yourself.
What are the benefits of being part of a franchise?
Asha: It feels really special to be part of the Razzamataz network. Nothing is too much trouble and there is really always someone there at the end of the phone if you need them to be. For example, after class I had a query from a parent that I felt couldn’t wait and I didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone to Denise at 8.30 pm. It was only after that I thought what a privilege it was that I felt it was OK to do this in an emergency. Other principals in the network have also been wonderful at sharing their knowledge. I had a question about Tots classes and Charlotte, the principal from Maidstone was so willing to help.
What are the key things you have learned in business?
Asha: There’s a culture at Razzamataz where we are encouraged to ask as many questions as we need to, so I’ve learnt there is really no such thing as a silly question. I’ve also learnt that customers need to connect with you as an individual. I’ve made the effort to learn about all of our children and their families and it is often the small gestures that mean so much. Families have been through a difficult time so I make the effort to reach out to them as a parent, not just a business owner.
How do you stay motivated?
Asha: Razzamataz has reached out to us to provide us with key motivational tasks throughout this pandemic. Challenges like: Grow Not Slow has given us really clear aims and tasks that has helped me to continue to grow student numbers. Every individual that gets in touch with us, I’m motivated to help them to start their own performing arts journey. I know how much Razzamataz has helped so many young people, I want to expand this to even more that are currently missing out.
Asha: I believe the arts are more important now than ever before. I and my siblings are the confident individuals we are today, largely thanks to benefiting from the extra curriculum activities that we did. I want to continue to make the arts more open to children through the growth of our school and school workshops, which I deliver to local primary schools. Razzamataz really encourages growth with so many support calls and information. I love that I can take my ideas to Denise and she can make suggestions as to what will work best based on her 20 years of experience.