Like many parents, Debbi Ledwith was so busy bringing up her three children and working as a teacher in a secondary school, that she never stopped to think about what it was that she really wanted to do. It was only in 2014 when she separated from her husband, that her friend encouraged her to properly consider her options. This conversation led her to learn more about Dragons’ Den backed franchise Razzamataz Theatre Schools, and within days she had attended a Discovery Den to learn more about opening her own theatre school.
Debbi launched Razzamataz Newbury in 2015, alongside continuing her teaching work. From day one, she fell in love with her business, and we are delighted and immensely proud that Debbi has now been able to transition from being a teacher to being a full-time entrepreneur at Razzamataz. This is her story.
I took a degree in performing arts and after graduation I was asked to step in to teach at my old school. I realised that I really loved teaching so I went on to get my teaching qualification in 1991. I then spent a few years teaching although I missed performing so I went back to the Royal Academy of Music to complete a postgrad diploma. I performed professionally for a few years but found it didn’t offer me enough stability. I was then offered a job at a school in Basingstoke and worked my way up to Head of Performing Arts. After I had my children, Daniel 14 and the twins Christopher and Jenna who are both twelve, I reduced my days at the school. However, after my divorce, my friend encouraged me to think about what it was that I wanted to do and introduced me to Razzamataz.
Being a single parent, I knew that I had to have financial stability. After the twins, I had reduced my days at work to three days, so I could commit the other days to launching and running Razzamataz. Although I have always loved teaching, over the last few years there has been so many more hoops to jump through and red tape which takes some of the pleasure away. My initial plan was to gradually be able to move away from this.
The early days
I had barely heard of the word franchising and had zero business experience. I look back now and laugh at how naïve I was really. I thought that I would need to sort the registers and that would be about it. So, the first year was a huge learning curve getting my head around PR and marketing, copious amounts of admin and establishing myself as a boss. But the huge advantage was that my children were still in primary school and the flexibility that Razzamataz offers meant that I could do the school run, be at assemblies or sports days and stay with them and work from home if one of them were ill. For this reason, the time was perfect to launch Razzamataz.
Taking the steps to go full time
I started to begrudge my time teaching at secondary school because it was taking me away from Razzamataz, which was when I realised that I must work out a way to step away from teaching to concentrate on Razzamataz full time. The franchise system has allowed me to work on the timelines that best suit my lifestyle. You do need to work full out but the flexibility that it offers more than makes up for this. We are now winding up for the summer and from September, I will be purely focused on Razzamataz full time. Although it has taken me seven years, I had to do it slowly to ensure financial stability for my three children as a single parent. The best thing about it is I’ve never felt pushed or hurried to make this transition and I’ve been allowed to explore the opportunity in my own time that was right for me and my family.
How has Razzamataz supported you
Razzamataz has taught me everything I know about running a business. There is huge support from the Head Office and the network but what really works for me is the constant encouragement and rewards that continue to inspire me to push that little bit harder. I’ve won an award at the Conference and Facebook challenge competitions and the general recognition and acknowledgement motivates me to work harder and reach my goals.
How is your lifestyle different now
My days and my life in general are so much more flexible now. There’s nothing I don’t like about running a business and Razzamataz has given me creative freedom, whereas teaching in a school is a lot more prescriptive. It’s a real pleasure to be my own boss and I love being organised and being in control of every part of the business. I’ve learnt so many different skills along my journey and it’s a pleasure to realise that I can take on new roles and do them well. Of course, running a business will give you moments of stress but in general I’m much more satisfied and fulfilled now. I love learning and being the Principal of Razzamataz means that I’m constantly challenged and given the opportunity to try new things.
I now have the time to dedicate to Razzamataz and grow the business. The more time and effort you put in, the greater the rewards. I’m looking to expand the school from September and launch classes into the afternoon. I want to maximise every class and after such a terrific summer showcase performance, ensure that the energy levels and enthusiasm from students remain high. So, this will mean going full steam ahead with PR and Marketing and creating lots more opportunities for students.
Advice to others
If you are thinking about a Razzamataz franchise, then I would say just do it! Obviously do all your research and go and speak to other franchisees but I honestly can’t believe it took me so long to figure out that this is what I wanted to do. I think I was so busy working and raising my children that I never gave myself the space to consider what my true passion was. Find out what’s out there and then make the leap.
Could you run a theatre school
Being part of this franchise network enables people without previous performing arts or business experience the opportunity to run their own theatre school, thanks to all the training, support, and contacts. Razzamataz is currently recruiting and expanding its team of teachers, staff, and new Principals.
Join our team
We are looking for dynamic partners to own a Razzamataz Theatre School. If you are looking to make a difference in your local community to the lives of young people and you have a passion for performing arts, we would love to hear from you.
Occasionally franchise territories come up for re-sale due to a change in the franchisees’ personal circumstances or simply because they have decided to sell their asset and reap the rewards of their hard work. These re-sale schools very rarely stay on the market for long, so if you are interested, don’t delay in contacting us. Re-sale schools in:
- High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
- Derby, East Midlands
If you would like to find out more about our ambitious growth plans and be part of multi-award winning Razzamataz Theatre Schools network, drop Charlotte a line from our friendly Head Office team to book on to one of our virtual Discovery Dens.
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