Jann Thorpe is one of a growing number of people over 50 who are starting their own businesses to have greater flexibility. Here she tells us about starting a creative arts franchise.
Jann Thorpe is one of a growing number of people over 50 who are starting their own businesses to have greater flexibility. In her case she had been working in education for 15 years, the last few years as deputy head of a primary school, but the job was not flexible enough to allow her to look after her family.
She had been through an awful year – her daughter had been diagnosed with epilepsy, both her parents died and her husband got sepsis.
Something had to give. She starting looking around. “I literally googled arts and craft, children and business and the first thing that came up was The Creation Station,” she says.
Jann, who has three children and is also a grandmother, was also interested in baking and investigated a cookery school franchise, but felt the need to constantly buy fresh produce would make life more complicated. In addition she thought about running her own business, but realised it would take the best part of a year to get everything prepared before she could even start giving classes.
“A franchise offered me something I could open straight away with the assurance that all that preparatory work – from insurance to GDPR support, health & safety and curriculum issues – had been covered. With The Creation Station there was also all the support provided by Head Office and other franchisees,” says Jann. Indeed, Jann, who covers Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Bramhall and surrounding areas in Cheshire, has gone on to support other franchisees in the North West and Scotland.
She felt passionately about creativity and had seen how arts and craft had been squeezed out of the national curriculum. She felt children were losing the chance to hone their creative skills.
Jann did her background research, looking at other creative franchises. The Creation Station was offering more than other similar franchises – they had experience of running after school clubs and holiday clubs in schools without parents having to be present. They also have a series of partnerships with companies such as Hasbro, The Guinness Book of Records and Usborne Books.
After deciding to take the plunge, Jann rang Head Office and arranged to go to a Discovery Day. She asked a lot of questions, including of other franchisees, before making a decision. She then did two weeks’ training in Exmouth, which she says gave her a real sense of how The Creation Station team worked together. “It’s quite goal driven and very clear and smart,” she says.
Jann has been able to control her own hours as a franchisee, for instance, she could opt not to work on Fridays, arrange adult classes for the evenings or could be more available for her daughter between classes. She could arrange children’s parties and events around the time she needed to be with her family and could pass a party request she couldn’t do onto another franchisee.
Jann says she would not go back now to working the long, inflexible hours she did as a teacher and adds that she has been able to develop the role through her work supporting other franchisees. She has also expanded her business over the last five years – nearly doubling the number of income streams she has. For instance, she realised from her toddler groups that the parents were keen to do something creative too. So she fed that back to Head Office who helped her create a curriculum and do trials for a creative crafters group. The classes are held in wine bars and other venues and including printing onto canvas bags and painting wine glasses. “It’s all about the experience,” says Jann, who has won several franchisee awards at The Creation Station. She is also looking at developing creativity classes in care homes.
Jann employs one other person to do after school clubs based on the numbers of children she works with and gets help with the employment aspects of her job.
She says: “This business is something I am passionate about. I want to help people use their imagination and put more creativity into their lives.”