An Interview with Anna Morgan - Footlights Sale Cheshire

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Anna Morgan of Footlights Chesire discusses her experience as a franchisee and how her business is coping with COVID-19.

What made you want to start your franchise?

I attended a performing arts school from the age of 4, it was a huge part of my life & fuelled my love for the performing arts. I attended college for Musical Theatre then after finishing & began teaching dance & performing arts freelance. I have a great passion for teaching however I always knew my goal was to own & run a school of my own.

Was there a turning point in your life?

I spent 1 year living and working in Walt Disney World, Florida. After returning I went straight into freelance teaching full time for around 4 year. I began to feel undervalued & burnt out due to lack of passion from employers which translated to students also. It became tiresome to go out and teach each week & I knew something had to change.

What is your background?

I have a background in performing arts, attending stage schools when I was younger and training further at a vocational level. I am also a dance and performing arts teaching so have plenty of experience with children ages 3-18 & the leading & organising of a stage school environment. Before investing in Footlights I had no previous ‘business’ experience but the training provided was a great foundation for going forward in growing my business.

How was your training?

I enjoyed learning all aspects of the business in our training that gave me a good foundation for running the school day and also day to day admin. We covered a wide range of aspects including safeguarding & GDPR. The robust training manual we received covered all the processes within the business & was a great help and insight for me as I didn’t have any previous business background. I was able to visit other Footlights schools to observe front of house procedures & gain confidence in answering parents’ questions in regard to the specifics of children attending. Another franchisee and I were mentored personally by Jo Fisher herself who was always available to pass on her wealth of knowledge.

Another fantastic opportunity I had was to be able to train and mentor 2 brand new franchisee’ as they went through the process of opening their own schools. I very much enjoyed being able to train & pass on my tips & advice – especially in social media – so that they could have a successful opening & begin the journey of their own Footlights school.

What was your first day like?

Our Open Day was extremely exciting! We had in the weeks leading up delivered leaflets to schools across my territory, Jo was a great help with this as well as some of my team of teachers. With record attendance for a Footlights open day it was so encouraging to see the instant buzz we had created for the school. Head office were a great help with organising the Lord Mayor to be in attendance and give a fantastic speech to mark the opening of our school. They also were vital in the process of choosing the premises that we were to use for the Open Day & also going forward. The day itself was scheduled down to the minute & with the help of our fantastic staff it ran like clockwork. I think this was a huge contributing factor to the success of our open day & getting those instant sign ups.

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How do you reach your target market?

My greatest tool for reaching customers is social media. I utilise Facebook & Instagram to promote and bring in free trials. This includes regular scheduled posts to our Footlights Sale page as well as things like posting on community groups or paid promotions. I attribute 80% of free trials we receive to my posting on social media, if you know how to word posts and make them pleasing to the eye social media can be your best tool for business growth.

What’s your Routine for a Saturday morning?

I arrive at least 45 minutes before the start of our first class to set up & make sure all rooms are ready for the students. It is important to me that our reception area looks welcoming and professional, to make that good first impression to free trials & existing students.

What support do you get?

The head office team are available to answer any queries or help with any problems that may arise. I have had to contact them regarding staffing issues, venue issues, & also general queries to do with many aspects of the school and they are always on hand to help and support through the issues – at any time of day! We also have a Footlights franchisee Facebook group where we can share ideas & also help each other with any questions we have.

How have you managed your business in Covid-19?

Covid-19 has been a challenge that I never expected to run into in my first year of business! Communication has been important both with students/families & also staff. I have made sure to be present on Facebook/Instagram & also sending regular email updates. Head Office initially provided us with a great system via Google Classroom, whereby we could upload pre-recorded lessons for students to take part in. This was really helpful to make sure we could retain students straight away. However, it has been very important to be adaptable and change how we have provided online content as lockdown as continued. In recent weeks we have transferred our classes to be all live via Zoom. This has been very successful & the feedback from parents has been fantastic, many saying they have been so important for student’s mental health and well-being at this difficult time. The financial impact has been significant but by offering quality online services we have retained a good percentage of students. As the franchisee and director of the school it has also been important for me to remain as positive as I can for moral for staff & also for students so that they have some sort of normality when they attend our online classes.

If you could turn back time would you still invest in Footlights?

If I turned back time I would still invest in Footlights. I have really come into my own both personally & professionally. A lot of consistent hard work is needed to build a successful school & franchise & the Footlights ethos of a welcoming, family-like environment combined with professional performing arts training is exactly how I envisioned and wanted my school to be – so it really is a perfect fit for me!

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