Read how Gabi Maddocks turned a degree in zoology and teaching experience into Movers and Shakers, a thriving pre-school music and movement class, and how she plans to franchise the model.
What’s your career background
After completing my zoology degree at Cambridge I worked as a biology teacher in a sixth form college for a year. I then trained as an actress and worked in educational theatre for a while, before moving to West Africa and teaching English as a foreign language.
After a couple of years I moved back to the UK and started training to be a child psychotherapist. As part of this training I needed to be working with children, so I set up some drama classes, and worked as a freelance drama teacher for a few other companies. So quite a lot of changes between the age of 22 and 28!
How did it change after starting your family?
After my first son was born lots changed. First of all I realised I didn’t want to work for anyone else as it was hard to cover the costs of childcare, so I focused entirely on my own business.
Also, I went to loads of baby and toddler classes and discovered that my skills were transferable, so I expanded my business to include early years classes.
When I was pregnant with my second child, my husband covered my classes for me. And then he didn’t want to stop! So he gave up his other work and we built the business together.
What is Movers and Shakers and what inspired you to start it?
Movers and Shakers is a pre-school music and movement class. It is actually my third attempt at this kind of business – it turns out that it’s not as easy as people might think
My inspiration came from going to classes with my sons, and seeing the mistakes that some other companies were making and knowing that I could do it better.
What were the first steps you took in starting your business?
I started with a single class. It was so popular that very soon the venue asked me to run a second session. And then three… then word spread to new venues.
After two failed attempts, Movers and Shakers took off like wild-fire! I must have hit on a winning formula because I’ve never done any advertising or promotion – venues have always approached me and families have found out about the classes almost entirely from word of mouth!
Within a few months I had to take on new teachers to help me run classes because I couldn’t cover them all myself and spend enough time with my children. And now I’m spreading even further by going down the route of franchising.
What have you found most challenging?
There haven’t been too many challenges along the way, apart from the occasional tricky customer! But mainly the challenge is being able to switch off – I was sitting at my laptop at 10.30pm last night answering emails.
I have got better at managing my time, but it’s hard sometimes to say that I’ve finished work for the day! There always seems to be one more thing to do.
And what has been surprisingly easy?
At first I thought the success of Movers and Shakers rested entirely on my shoulders, and that it was very tied up with my personality and energy and commitment. But I now have four other teachers running classes and they are so popular and love their job as much as I do!
You’re now franchising Movers and Shakers. How did you create the franchise model?
I really wanted to get it right, and had no idea where to start, so I paid quite a lot of money for a franchise consultant to point me in the right direction.
I don’t regret this at all, as I know I would have made loads of mistakes. Even though their materials had to be considerably adapted for my specific business, they really did take me through every step of the process.
What would make an ideal franchisee?
The ideal franchisee has an engaging personality, a fantastic singing voice, a warm heart and a genuine love of working with young children.
They are also organised, good communicators by email as well as in person, computer literate and passionate about growing their business.
What is your vision for Movers and Shakers?
Movers and Shakers has a really special place in the lives of many North London families – it has earned a weekly slot in their diaries (some families come two or three times a week!). I also get many emails from people saying how much their children look forward to classes – just check out the reviews on the Movers and Shakers Facebook page!
So I would really love to spread this joy further afield and have a few more branches of Movers and Shakers up and running by the end of 2015.
How important is having work or a business you are passionate about to you?
SO important! We spend most of our adult lives working. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then what is the point? Being passionate about my business makes me a better wife, mother, friend… everything.
And finally, what advice do you have for other mums who want to start a business they can franchise?
Personally, I wouldn’t start with the idea of wanting to franchise. Start with a business that you know will work for you. Build it up carefully and then, if it turns out to be successful from a personal and a financial point of view then you can think about franchising.
You can find out more about Movers and Shakers on their website.