The multi-award-winning Creation Station franchise inspires imaginations and nurtures potential through fun and educational art and craft experiences. Established in 2002, we have been privileged to help inspire over one million children, families and adults. When you join our family you have exclusive access to provide our eight all year round income streams. These include fun and educational pre-school classes, after school clubs, parties, new-born craft keepsakes, adult craft events and family event entertainment.
Rated 5-Star in an independent franchise owner satisfaction, you can rest assured you will gain the training and on-going support to help you run your own flexible business to achieve your own sense of fulfilment, as well as personal and financial goals.
The Creation Station was established in 2002 by mum-of-three and multi-award-winning entrepreneur Sarah Cressall. Sarah wanted to give children the opportunity to explore, discover and develop their own skills, ideas and confidence to give them a solid foundation for their life’s journey. Due to the increasing squeeze on creativity in education, and the growth of adult crafting, The Creation station has seen a phenomenal increase in demand for classes, parties, events and adult crafts.
We have a network of 104 franchisees across the UK and in Ireland who are achieving the level of flexibility and success that they want.
Comprehensive training includes five days at Creative Hub HQ in Devon, and covers the operational, business and marketing aspects of running your own successful franchise. This is followed with one-to-one calls and a three-month period of hand-holding with our dedicated franchise support manager, Fran Long.
All further training is free and includes business booster days and success summits. Ongoing support includes one-to-one calls with business development managers plus weekly, themed conference calls.
Some mornings you will be involved in running hands-on art & craft classes for children, often working in partnership with local community organisations. Afternoons you will be involved in running after-school clubs or managing your team to deliver these.
You will spend some of your time marketing, networking and quoting for events and parties. As your business grows, you have the option to take on staff to scale your business.
The bfa recently spoke with Creation Station to discuss their prominent branding, and why they believe this helps their franchise.
Creation Station have been in business for over 15 years now, at what stage did you realise Creation Station had become a brand in your sector?
It was when we started getting calls from brands I greatly admired to work with them. We have been fortunate to work with Lego, Hasbro and other great daily friendly brands.
When developing your brand, did you have a marketing and brand strategy in place? And if so, at what stage did you implement it?
I ran my own Creation station for five year before franchising. During this time I wrote the brand values, which underpin our purpose. This has helped navigate our business journey, helped us grow and also helped us say no to opportunities that’s aren’t right for our brand.
How has operating a franchised brand benefited your franchisees in the short and long term?
Our brand is about inspiring imaginations and nurturing creativity.
Our identity is quite recognisable. But with any brand it so much more than a logo - it’s about the culture. Our values and how we operate has helped us select and award our Franchise to people who share our passion and purpose.
We have a good national reach now and people have heard of us or seen us in- offline or online.
The benefit of clarity of purpose has enabled us to make a difference in new markets. We are now working with older people in care homes and living at home initiatives. This means we can stay true to what we believe in and make a difference to a wider audience.
Is brand training incorporated into new franchisees training programme and do you have brand guidelines in place?
Absolutely. Our brand values are on our training room wall, along with a photo of each of our franchise owners. It’s integrated throughout the training.
It’s quite simple really. It’s not what we make but how we make people feel. Taking the time to make eye contact, to smile, to be interested in other people - the little things are the big thing.
We recruit our creative hub head office team based on our values and live by these values. It means we care for each other and our franchise owners. It is always commented on at training how people feel recognised and valued by everyone in the team.
So we walk the talk and demonstrate how to give care and respect. From how we speak to a caretaker of a venue to how we conduct a client meeting and do course hoe we deliver fun, engaging creative experience.
Yes, we do have brand guidelines.
We do lead a team of pipe who quite like being creative so we are mindful of providing guidelines and a framework for them to flex their creativity. We need to ensure we all stay in brand so we have recently introduced some technology to Support this. We work with Besley and Copp and have a great brand demand system for adverts, which means franchisees can edit and create branded adverts and assets within a wide range of templates.
We have created a new marketing portal with the help of Full Story Marketing. We now provide a monthly toolkit of resources. We run regular photos shoots to capture the experiences so our franchise owners have what they need to tell a story.
How do you monitor franchisees and ensure they adhere to brand guidelines in their on- and off-line marketing?
One of the benefits of social media and certain tools is you can see a lot of what’s happening online.
We also have our franchise support managers who visit, and run regional meetings. We monitor and follow up our Trustpilot reviews from customers and survey our customers.
As the franchisor, you set the tone and voice of the brand, how do you ensure franchisees meet/match these in their service delivery?
We award our franchise to people who share our values and purpose. We only award to 2 percent of enquirers. We run a profile to help identify training areas.
Helping franchise owners feel part of the big picture and brand is really important.
Regular communication, local level, regional and national- and that’s across the whole business.
Videos from the delivering happiness team- that’s the warehouse team. With great product offers. These are fun and always include great deals. Monthly video FaceTime live from me and some of the team. Our Facebook group is very active and the team comment on here. Where we see things not going well, we pick up the phone or go and visit.
When selling a franchise, how important is it for franchisees to share some of the core values and principles that lay at the heart of your brand?
Absolutely critical. See above
We have been able to inspire over 650,000 Children families and adults because of our great family to franchise owners.
Has your brand stayed the same since its inception or has it evolved?
The core values I wrote down have actually strengthened. I often say if you cut through our business, they run right through like the words in a piece of rock. Like any rope the more string threads you have joining up the stronger the rope. I believe we are better together and there is great value in being part of something bigger than yourself.
We rebranded our look last year and now have a more modern, bright and warm image. We have carried our rebranding right through our sub brands and imagery. From the look of our Facebook profile pictures to style of images shared on Social. We now look more like the family we are.
Our income streams have increased significantly.
As well as baby and toddler classes, parties and after school clubs, we now provide New born tiny treasure keepsakes, crafts club creative day in schools, creative crafter events for adults and Creative well-being workshops for older people.
To maintain standards and supply chain management we have 2 warehouses and over 13,000 products on our online store. These are available to our franchise owners at a reduced price and to the public.
Do you think brands need refreshing? And if so, how often do you re-fresh your brand?
Yes I do. Things change and you have to adapt and respond to changing and emerging markets.
We have been fortunate not to have had to change our purpose. That is something that I recommend all business owners to spend time working on. When you know your purpose and the values linked with this, its helps with everything.
Finally, if I asked 10 different people what their definition of a brand is, I’d probably get 10 different answers, what’s your own definition of a brand?
As you say there are lots of descriptions around how you look feel and operate. So perhaps the best description of a brand is what your customer says about you. Because for that one customer that’s all the matters.
The Creation Station was established in 2002 by mum-of-three and multi-award-winning entrepreneur Sarah Cressall. They now have a network of 104 franchisees across the UK and in Ireland and have been privileged to help inspire over 6550,000 children, families and adults. For more information, please visit their Members Directory on our website: https://www.thebfa.org/members/creation-station/
“I swapped the suit, desk and briefcase for glitter, glue and clay!”
I wanted a business which could grow and adapt alongside my family life. Having really enjoyed event management, I wanted my family and I to benefit from my hard work and I wanted to use my skills to build a successful business that I could grow and call my own.
I came across the Creation Station and got really excited about the potential. With 7 all year round income streams and with the backing of a tried and tested franchise model I could see this really working for me.
I knew first hand there is a huge squeeze on creativity in schools and there are not many creative arts and crafts activities for children to enjoy. The cross selling opportunities between the classes, parties and events to local families provide a good referral system for me to be able to grow and scale a successful business.
After I received the information pack and attended a free and informative discovery event, I made the decision to pursue my goal of running my own successful business with a company I trusted. So after my initial training, which was really informative and inspiring, I started 2015 with 6 sessions and an average of 50 customers. I have employed staff and have our award winning art and craft classes running in the morning and after school clubs in the afternoon, from here we get lots of party bookings, as well as retail opportunities. By the end of the year I had 12 sessions running and an average of 100 customers. I had doubled my Creation Station business within 6 months and I feel there is so much more potential
I was over the moon with my success. It gave me the drive and self-belief to expand my business by running afterschool clubs and managing a small team who would take over and deliver the sessions for me. I am excited that my business has grown with me and my family at a pace which suits us. I finally feel like I am in charge of my own future with the exciting prospect of many revenue streams and avenues which I have yet to explore.
I enjoyed a successful career in banking but I didn’t really see want to stay in the industry for the next 20 years. My focus changed when I had my two girls; I wanted something that was more me and had more flexibility. It was important for me to also be a good role model for my girls. I believe you can achieve what you want in life if you are focused and work hard.
I looked at a lot of franchises and the professionalism of Creation Station jumped out at me. I requested the info pack and wanted to find out more so I went to a Discovery morning. I saw a class, chatted to other franchisees, did the figures and research my local area. I could see the huge potential and it ticked al the boxes for me.
That was 2010 and If I knew what I know now, I would have done this sooner! I’ve have more time with my girls than I ever thought possible. I love making a positive difference in my community through our educational and fun arts and crafts classes, parties and events. I’ve grown my franchise at a pace that suits me and my family. Now my children are older I’ve scaled my franchise as there is so much potential.
Our head office team are really proactive and supportive and have helped me at the different stages of my own personal and business development.
Here’s a quick overview of my first six months of 2016:
My team and I have inspired over 1,600 children, delivered over 30 parties and gained contracts for classes and events.
I am making full use of the 5 Star customer rating we have on Trustpilot and the extensive social media content that is created and provided by our Creative Hub head office, for me to share.
I have strong brand presence in the area and this is supported by the fact we can gain contracts to run the Kidszones at the local family festivals. I’ve been working closely with a Bournemouth-based event company which is leading to further contracts and partnerships within my community.
By promoting our national monthly prize draw that Creative Hub head office run every month, I’ve boosted my growing database to cross-sell my services.
I’ve achieved my financial and personal targets with my income doubling in the last year alone.
I can see my business continuing to thrive as we connect and help with so many children, parents, grandparents, local businesses, family focused and educational organisations.
For me it’s been the perfect mix of flexibility and success and my future is definitely bright and sparkly.
Find out how Liz went from being stuck behind a desk, to getting stuck into inspiring children through a rewarding and satisfying career
After studying marketing at University I went into the licensed house sector and hospitality, managing many different businesses and venues. I always had autonomy in those roles and I was able to really push myself and be challenged by my work. After my son was born, I took on an admin job to give me more flexibility and a better home life; however the work left me feeling unfulfilled.
I knew that I wanted to work for myself and started to search for a business that would suit me and my skills. Franchising appealed to me because of the back-up and support systems that would be provided by the franchisor. I had managed branded venues when I was in the licensed trade, so I felt that I would be able to fit into a franchise brand and work within its values and structure giving me more time to focus on building the business.
The Creation Station ticked all of the boxes for me – not only from a personal point of view but also from the market demand perspective. . There is a huge gap in the market for creative activities for children and the demand is on the increase. The Creation Station came across professionally with a tried and tested support system and network. After I completed my research I booked on to the next Discovery Morning and met Sarah and the team.
The Discovery Morning was great – you see a class in action and then have time to talk with other franchise owners. I found Sarah very inspiring in the short time I was with her and the team were very friendly and open.
The start-up training was excellent and I immediately felt part of the team. I met other franchisees who were starting out at the same time, got to experience the classes and see the tools and how to use them effectively. I came away from the training feeling really positive and motivated.
After 10 weeks I already had 30 children attending classes regularly each week. Parents have also commented on how they have seen improvements in their children’s skillsets during the course of term – I had finally achieved the job satisfaction I always craved!
I’ve been able to grow my business, employ staff and develop great relationships within the local community. I’m working in a model that supports my ambition with the backing of a brand that meets my values.
“I went from investment banking to investing in myself and my future” PG
“I wasn’t really enjoying working as a team manager for an investment bank so I decided to look into the option of running my own franchise, where I could use my skills to run my own business, but where I could benefit from the reassurance of a tried and tested business model. With so many franchise opportunities available I decided to look at what I enjoyed doing and use this as a guide to identify the type of opportunity that would work best for me.
"As a volunteer in Brownies and Guides I’ve always loved running activities and working with children, so this seemed like a good place to start! I explored a number of franchise options that would enable me to maintain my own personal values and fit within my family commitments.
"I came across ‘The Creation Station’ online and it immediately jumped right out at me. I couldn’t quite believe that it would really be possible to run a business doing what I love! I could also bring my daughter along to the classes too and have much more time with her. This all added up to reduced childcare costs, more time with my daughter and doing something I loved with lots of great support! It just seemed to have my name written all over it!
"That was 5 years ago, I’ve since had our second daughter and I took 6 months off. The team at Head Office have really supported me though my journey which even includes me speaking on BBC Oxford radio.
"I was thrilled to be awarded the prestigious title of Best Franchise Owner of the Year in the 2016 awards from of our team of 97 franchisees.
"My life now has all the things I want, believe in and what I value. I absolutely love running my own award winning Creation Station franchise. I am able to balance my home life with our youngest and my 8yr old without giving up my rewarding business. By investing in a brand I believe in and investing in myself, I have been able to make a lifestyle choice that ticks all the boxes for my family's future. Our founder, Sarah Cressall is a pure inspiration as she is committed to building strong working relationships within the network and the head office team are just as dedicated and passionate about each individual franchisee’s business. This has really helped me to maximise potential opportunities, develop personally and to help me be in control of my working life and be there for my family commitments”
Ruth from Aberdeen is in the ‘Hot Seat’ when she is interviewed about running her own Creation Station franchise.
What inspired you to start looking for something different to do?
I’m fortunate to be mum to Connor and Lexie and have a fab husband. But after working in the local authority for over 10 years I realised there were other options out there and I didn’t need to just stick with what I was doing.
What were you looking to achieve?
I had two main big goals, these were:
1. I wanted to enjoy a greater work life balance and to support my family whilst working from home.
2. I really wanted to be my own boss so I could determine my own goals and recognise my own achievements.
Why did you look to run your own franchise?
I looked at franchised businesses because I wanted to be my own boss but recognised with the right franchise there was a lot of the support available to develop a stronger business. I was also nervous of starting up on my own after more than a decade in local authority.
What attracted you to The Creation Station?
I’d worked with children previously and I really wanted to provide an exceptional experience for children & families. The moment I came across The Creation Station online I was attracted to the ethos, values and opportunities of the company. They are rated five-stars by customers on Trust Pilot and in an independent franchise satisfaction survey they received five-star rating. This demonstrates that as a company they care about both the customers and their franchisees.
What were the barriers you had to overcome before you made the decision to invest?
I chose to leave my full time professional career, whilst my husband was starting a new job, because I knew I wanted a change. I financed the investment with a bank loan, which was easier than I thought. The bank was very helpful and have never turned down a bank loan for a Creation Station franchise, which was very reassuring.
What were your feelings when you attended a Discovery Morning?
I’d received the printed franchise information pack and the next step was to go to a free Discovery Event on a Saturday morning. It’s a great way to find out more and you can bring your partner and children if you want to. However, I was incredibly nervous for two reasons - what if I decided the business was not the one for me as it looked perfect – but what if they said I wasn’t right for them. I was very aware that they are very selective about who is awarded a franchise, which is great for ensuring our brand values are maintained – but it still made me nervous!
What did you think about the training?
I loved the training, especially as it was based at the Creative Hub head office, so straightaway I felt part of the company. I can visualise meetings and planning in the meeting room and the huge warehouse where my arts and crafts orders get processed and sent to me usually by the next day which is such a great service from Richard our super store man. It covered all aspects of running the business including practical sessions running class. I felt very confident and reassured. The atmosphere was exciting, supportive, creative and energised. Four years on I still feel very supported and valued.
Please describe the first few months of your business?
I launched straight after training with eight taster drop in events, followed immediately by a further 11 weeks of classes. I have developed new classes, sought new venues, provided lots of birthday parties and I regularly see over 100 families every week. I did not anticipate how quickly my business would flourish nor could I have foreseen the level of interest in both summer activities and bookings into September.
By month three my husband even confided to me that he never thought my business would become this busy.
Describe your highlights so far
I’ve been able to attend so many more events in my children’s lives and the accomplishment that I am providing all childcare myself for the first time in their lives.
Also I’ve made lots of friends and love when I meet families in different environments and see how incredibly excited they are to see me. I am definitely the ‘go to person’ for creative activities from new born babies up to the age of 99 years old in my community.
I also love seeing the change in children at both Baby Discover and Little Explores, examples include:
It is such a privilege and very fulfilling to be part of children’s development and to share such special moments. I feel very fortunate to run a business that is making such a positive impact on the lives of children and families.
What are your long-term ambitions for your Creation Station franchise?
To provide an exceptional service for children, families and organisations across the north east of Scotland, whilst supporting my family and developing a rewarding career, driven by my own goals and dreams.