Reading Time: 5 minutesIn 2020, Razzamataz will celebrate turning 20. From humble beginnings, the franchise theatre school has built a network of inspiring franchisees. As part of our celebration, we speak to some of them about their own journeys and what joining the Dragons’ Den backed franchise has done for them.
Jessica Chandler-Smith, age 30, is the Principal of Razzamataz Brentwood and Razzamataz Hornchurch
Jessica has two children, Paige, 13 and Dawson who is five. Razzamataz Brentwood opened in September 2017 and Hornchurch September 2019.
The start of the journey
I was at an age and stage in my life where I really wanted to do something in my career that I was really passionate about and for it to be something that I could commit to for the rest of my life. It was always my dream to open my own theatre school but although I had a lot of performing experience, it was hard to know where to start when I thought about opening my own school. I started to research different franchise options and when I found Razzamataz, it felt like it was the perfect fit. The support was just so much better than anything else that I came across and I could really see the passion that the company had, which mirrored my own feelings. The one thing that really stood out was the importance of creating a family atmosphere, which was something that was really important to me too.
Watching the business steadily grow month by month has been exciting and has enabled me to introduce more opportunities for the students. When I sit back and watch a video of one of the shows it really hits me just what I’ve been able to achieve. Watching the children steadily grow in confidence and the feedback from parents really makes me appreciate what a wonderful business this is.
I’m my biggest critic because I want to run before I can walk sometimes! Slow and steady is much better though and gives a really secure business foundation.
Do your research into the franchise thoroughly and make sure that you fit into the franchise’s ethos. Razzamataz is a welcoming, happy and supportive community which is reflected in all the marketing with its bright and happy images. This is exactly what I want for my school so the fit is perfect.
20 years of amazing
I’m excited about the 20 year celebration and everything that comes with it. Being part of this network has allowed me to offer wonderful opportunities to our students and their families including performing at Disneyland Paris and being part of the premier of the film The Kid That Would Be King. The children really feel that they are part of the extended Razz Family and that’s down to being part of a large and supportive network.
There are amazing events to look forward to in the future including Razz at Sea, a chance for the older students to see what life as a professional performer on a cruise ship is like. After the success of launching Razz Project Intense, we are looking to launch more Razz products such as Razz Acro Arts.
I have a wonderful business that fits around my life as a busy mum to two kids. I work better in the evenings so that’s when I do the majority of my work. All the events that I attend on behalf of Razzamataz have also been fantastic for my children, so this really is a great family business.
We have children who have got professional work, Darcy is in the new Harry Potter advert. But it is often the messages that I get from parents who say how their child’s confidence has grown, which are the most rewarding.
“My husband and I, together with other family members, came to see our granddaughter, Isabella, perform at the Razzamataz show at the Towngate Theatre, Basildon last night. We felt we just had to email you to say how much we enjoyed the whole show – it was superb. Each and every one of the performers was brilliant and they should all be very proud of themselves – they were all a credit to Razzamataz. It was quite clear a lot of thought and planning went in to the whole show, from the costumes to the backdrop and, of course, the rehearsals and stage management must have taken a lot of patience and hard work.”
Zoe McKibbin age 26 is the Principal of Razzamataz Edinburgh and Razzamataz Glasgow South
Zoe took over the Edinburgh school in 2016 and Glasgow South in 2017.
The start of the journey
I have a degree in acting in stage and screen and while I was studying I became the drama teacher at Razzamataz Edinburgh. Through teaching at Razzamataz, I decided that my passion really was in working with children and young people, rather than acting professionally. The Principal Amanda (who still runs two Razzamataz schools) wanted to sell her Edinburgh school after having her second baby. Although I didn’t have any business skills, Amanda told me how much support there was from the Head Office. My own experience of theatre schools from being a child was quite negative. I hated having to audition and I definitely felt a lot of pressure to be a certain way. One of the things I love about Razzamataz is how inclusive to all students it is. It’s not just about learning how to sing, dance and act, so much of it is about developing life skills, making friends and building confidence.
I love planning the performances and putting on shows. I really enjoy the whole process and seeing the children’s faces when they are on stage. The lovely things that parents say after they have seen their children perform often makes me want to cry tears of joy. It’s a real privilege being part of these children’s lives. I feel like I know every child and their families and I get to watch them grow up from being babies through to teenagers. These connections are really special.
Finding the right balance between taking time for myself and working is a constant juggling act but one I’m getting better at. I’m learning to ask for help when I need it and thanks to the many webinars that Razzamataz offer, I’m also learning life skills such as how to delegate and how to feel like you are more on top of things. Everyone has different challenges but by being part of a large network, you can get advice from other Principals and really learn from one another.
Razzamataz offers so much in terms of training and business development that I would advise anyone looking for a franchise to find out what they offer. Go to as much as possible and learn all you can from other people’s experiences. Razzamataz is also a really social network so get involved in all you can and ask for help because people are very willing to give it.
20 years of amazing
Razzamataz is such a well-respected brand that it really has had a positive impact on my school. So many customers come through word of mouth. Head Office also invest in interesting campaigns each year so that there is always something new and exciting to talk about, whether that is a huge performing opportunity or campaigning for ways in which to help the planet through school initiatives.
I’m only 26 so in the future I would like to get married and have a family. I’m already taking steps to delegate roles so I can continue to concentrate on the schools’ growth.
I took over the first school when I was 22. I feel really proud that I now have two business and have bought my first house. Being responsible for other people’s wages has definitely made me more mature and focussed on what I want to do with my life. One of the things that I’m probably most proud of is that six of my current staff are former Razzamataz students.
“I have staff who really love Razz and everything it stands for because they were former students who know just how special it is to be part of. They cried when they left at 18 so it was wonderful that I could then offer them jobs to inspire the next generation of Razz kids.”
To find out more about joining our team of Principals in time for the 2020 conference, where Razzamataz celebrates turning 20, click the yellow button below.