A Stagecoach franchise unlocked hardworking Hannah James’ true potential in business, enabling her to expand rapidly into new territories
Once a Stagecoach Performing Arts student herself, Hannah James went on to buy the very same franchise that she once attended.
Starting her career as a Stagecoach franchisee and Principal in September 2017 unlocked the potential that Hannah always had for business ownership, as well as inspiring others. Over the course of five years, Hannah has invested in two additional neighbouring territories. And the mum of two is clear about what motivates her to succeed.
“I want to instil a sense of confidence in my students that I believe grows from encouraging them to pursue their dreams, whether they have a natural ability to perform, or just enjoy being in the arts. Performing was a passion of mine from a very young age. I was a student at Stagecoach from the age of 12 and also loved going to my dance classes. I knew, even then, that I wanted to take it further.
“After I left school, I did a dance degree at Liverpool John Moores University, coming back home to Wolverhampton every weekend to teach at my old Stagecoach school, because I loved it so much. I finally moved back after uni, which is when I set up my own company. Performance has always been – and will always be – a huge part of my life and my career.”
Hannah set up Reflections Dance Company alongside working for Dudley Borough Council, visiting schools to deliver dance development projects. “That’s when I fell into providing higher education,” she explains. “I taught an A-level in Dance at Stourbridge College for six years, while teaching at Stagecoach and running my dance school. I’ve always had a tie to Stagecoach and I knew in my heart that I would end up back there full-time one day - it was just a matter of time.”
For over 30 years, the proven Stagecoach model has been refined in order to become one of the U.K.’s leading performing arts opportunities. Franchisees build a team of equally passionate and enthusiastic teachers, all qualified to bring out the very best in their students. Stagecoach schools provide a thriving, nurturing, and supportive environment for creative learning, which is just one of the reasons why more than 55,000 children flock to classes worldwide every week.
Today, a network of more than 300 franchisees operates over 3,000 schools and classes globally. Through an exciting and varied framework of teaching and development, franchisees have helped to unlock the potential of more than one million students since Stagecoach opened in 1988.
“I had the opportunity to take over Stagecoach Wolverhampton a couple of times, but I wasn’t ready to step away from teaching,” Hannah continues. “When the chance came up for the third time, I’d been working freelance for a few years, writing dance curricula for schools, and training primary school teachers. I’d already left my role at the college after finding it difficult to fit the hours around my son, Lewis. The timing just seemed right and Stagecoach head office ensured I was confident enough to step into the role, helping to develop my skills so the transition was smooth. I knew it was my time – I felt fully prepared to step away from teaching in the classroom and look at my work from a management perspective.
“Stagecoach usually advises new owners to shadow existing franchisees to get to know the business, but I had been there for 15 years and I knew a lot already. It was only the business matters that I needed to get to grips with. I had already worked with a lot of the students and parents throughout my time there, so that made it easier for them to adapt to me taking over.”
All new franchisees are given comprehensive training and industry-leading support in marketing, customer service, I.T. and business development. Stagecoach’s tried-and-tested structure enables franchisees to play to their strengths, providing the best possible environment in which to succeed.
“I went into the training feeling very confident, and the support from head office was great. I felt like part of a much bigger picture, and it prepared me for everything to come. It was the biggest learning curve I’ve ever had,” admits Hannah, who took over officially as principal in September 2017.
“Stepping up from teacher to principal was great, but there was still a lot to learn, so I spent the first year making sure that the basics were right and recruiting more students to my school. When my school was full, I launched another Further Stages class in September 2018, discovering that the more time I invested in the franchise and explored my interest in business growth, the more student numbers and enquiries increased. The results were speaking for themselves. The business was going from strength to strength, and so in September 2019, I purchased a second territory, this time a greenfield - Stagecoach Dudley.”
But just six months after the launch of her new business, the pandemic caused the overnight closures of both of Hannah’s territories. With a young son to care for and the support of her partner, Rich, Hannah leapt into action – devising an entire online portal of supportive materials for her students and a schedule of virtual sessions.
“I also took full advantage of the online resource that head office devised, called Stagecoach Home. Parents were so appreciative of the virtual outlet and the fact we were providing a lifeline for children stuck at home with only online studying and calls with friends and family to keep them occupied. The demand was so high for this virtual alternative to standard sessions that I was able to invest in a third territory, Tamworth, six months into the first lockdown. By spring 2021, I was able to welcome students back to all three schools, and get back to doing what we do best – inspiring children to reach their own potential through the power of immersive performing arts.”
For Hannah, who welcomed her second child – a little girl called Ada – in January 2022, the future looks exciting.
“Despite the obvious challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel like I’ve come out the other side in a good position. I’ve got off to a great start with 124 students across my Dudley and Tamworth schools and have been able to maintain the initial increase in student numbers at Wolverhampton.
“My family has grown and so has my business, but I’ve not had to make any significant adjustments or compromises to my lifestyle. Lewis was already four when I invested in my first territory, but even with a newborn in tow, I’m able to oversee the sessions at the weekend and manage the admin around nap and feeding times. My plan for the next year is to invest in expanding the reach of my Dudley school and continue to offer my students the incredible opportunities I had access to as a Stagecoach student myself. For me, that’s the best part about doing what I do – inspiring the next generation.”
At a glance
Number of franchised outlets:
Location of units:
U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Spain, Malta & Gibraltar
£18,000 - £500,000
Minimum required capital:
£9,000 + VAT