Inspire your child through music with The Strings Club

This month we talk to Amy Cunningham who founded The Strings Club in 2012, offering music inspired Holiday Camps, Term Time courses, Ukulele Gurus parties and free Discovery Days. We find out how her business has evolved, and how you could become a franchisee with this multi award-winning business.

What awards have you won or been nominated for?

Being recognised for all of the hard work that has been put into establishing The Strings Club as a reputable brand over the past few years has been a real confidence boost. I would highly recommend  other business people to take the time to enter for awards as they really are a fantastic opportunity to not only get your business out there but also to meet other like minded entrepreneurs and gain recognition for what you are achieving!

Winner - Scale Up Business of the Year - Federation of Small Business Awards 2018

Finalist - Scale Up Business of the Year - Federation of Small Business National Awards 2018

Winner - Entrepreneur of the Year - Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2017

Finalist - Demeter Award - Everywoman Awards 2017

Runner Up - Businesswoman of the Year - Birmingham Post Award 2016

Winner - 'New Mum' Entrepreneur of the Year - Mumpreneur Awards 2015

Finalist - Best Musical Initiative - Music Education Awards 2014

Winning 'Scale Up Business' of 2018 gave me the inspiration to franchise The Strings Club - so that even more people could help me share my vision of inspiring more children through music and our multi award-winning programs.

Being a finalist at the National awards was an amazing experience too especially as I was placed amongst well known business people such as successful entrepreneur Julianne Ponan of vegan-friendly food company Creative Nature.

Tell us about your business?

The Strings Club is a multi-award-winning music education company. Our ethos is simple. We want all children to have the opportunity to be inspired by music.

In 2012 I was living and working as a music teacher in North London after qualifying from Goldsmiths University. I really wanted to do something different, to help children take their first step to enjoying something so wonderful and exciting as learning an instrument. That summer I ran a holiday activity club for local children in Camden, everyone loved it and at the end the parents asked me when the next one would be and where they could sign up. That was when The Strings Club was born.

After 6 years The Strings Club is now offering more opportunities for children to enjoy high quality musical experiences across London and the Midlands than ever before which makes me very proud. In 2018 we inspired more than 25,000 children through our programmes.

In October 2018 we announced our intention to franchise across the UK and we sold our first franchise within 2 weeks. We are looking forward to supporting our amazing franchisee, Wesley, in Leamington Spa and Warwick in 2019 and to launching many more in the coming weeks and months.

Who is typically suited to being a franchisee?

We became inspired to franchise The Strings Club through meeting franchisees who have forged successful careers for themselves, all built around their particular needs. As parents ourselves we know that there is a lot of focus on the family. We’ve set out to give people an option for a business which is rewarding for the franchisee and gives you the flexibility to make it work for you. And we give you the tools to make it very, very successful.

In terms of the ‘ideal candidate’ then I suppose with these sort of things you expect to hear “must have experience playing an instrument”, or “must have 5 years+ running their own business”, but that’s really not how we look at it. For us, all you need to bring is a positive attitude and a determined nature. Everything else is a bonus.

If you are passionate about music and children’s education that counts for a huge amount. Our franchisees receive training to give them a grounding in all of the skills you need. And unique to The Strings Club we provide every franchisee our operational model - this is a step by step framework, broken down by task and by week, to give you the perfect recipe for success. You won’t get that kind of support and attention to detail anywhere else.

What are the benefits of being a franchisee ?

Statistics show that franchisees stand a much better chance of success than people who start independent businesses – independent businesses stand around an 80% chance of not surviving the first few critical years whilst franchisees have an 80% chance of surviving. It is all about benefiting from those who have come before you.

Answering the question from the perspective of a franchisee with The Strings Club, a big benefit is the competitive advantage you gain from the tools we give you. It is a tried and tested model and your new company has recognition from industry experts and national brand awareness.

What is your business model?    

For our products we have 2 main parts - our Holiday Camps and School Music Services - and two additional parts - our Term Time Courses and Parties. Each of the programmes has music tuition at its core but each delivers and consumed in a different way depending on the customer and the environment.

A big part of the business is built around childcare. Childcare is a huge market in the UK with over £7.5bn spent on services in 2017 alone. And it is growing by 11% per annum.

We’ve worked hard to understand what it is that the customer wants and needs. In order to become a market leader we have adapted and changed the offering over time to ensure it is relevant, in demand and profitable.

There is a level of interdependence within the programmes which helps with consistency and efficiency when it comes to marketing and staffing.

Like all good businesses your operations have to deliver what marketing promises otherwise you will be forever investing in finding new customers.

We ensure that the customer knows what to expect every time they book with us - everything is underpinned by the delivery of high quality services time and time again, so parents know their child is safe, learning new skills, making new friends and growing in confidence.

What training and support are available?

We offer full training right at the get go, where we will go through everything in 2 days.

Our initial training programme provides franchisees with a thorough understanding of all aspects of running a business with The Strings Club, from cashflow forecasts and breakeven analysis to health and safety guidelines.

From then on we are here to speak to and advise on issues. And we have ‘step-by-steps’ and guidance on our intranet which can be referred to whenever a situation arises.

What hours would I need to work?

That is up to you. Like everything, you get out of it what you put in. If you worked part time we know that if you follow the operational model you will have a profitable business within 3-6 months. Easily within excess of £70k in 2 years. If you work full time with all programmes running you could be looking at £120k revenue in year 2, market conditions allowing. And we know that because we have done it ourselves. We are not strict about hours or days, just advise that you follow the operational model because that is what will help you be successful.

What has been your own experience returning to work?

It is hard finding a work/life balance sometimes. I think we all experience that, I know from my own experience and from speaking to my friends about how having children has impacted their lives. Sometimes it feels like you are expected to sacrifice a lot to make things work. Women especially, but men too. Workplaces which seem ok outwardly can be incredibly inflexible in our experience. Working for The Strings Club is different though. The Strings Club is a very understanding environment because we are all parents and I suppose we are small enough to adapt and work around things that crop up. That helps a lot.

What advice would you give to someone looking to buy into a franchise?

Find a franchise business which supports you, cares about how you and gives you the tools to make your business successful.

What’s the best thing about your job?

When we get a message from a parent about how their time with The Strings Club has benefited their child. It never fails to make us proud and further instills that sense of purpose and gives us more drive to inspire more children through music. It is incredibly rewarding.

Tell me about your holiday clubs?

Our multi award-winning Holiday Camps offer the perfect combination of high quality childcare and music tuition. They are our most popular programme and our biggest growth area. Parents love our Holiday Camps for the flexibility that being able to book from a half day offers their family, and for the care and support that we offer their children. The reason we sell out every holiday is because the children have such an amazing time - 100% would recommend us to their friends, you can’t say fairer than that! Our team of childcare professionals and musicians really care, they love spending time with each child that comes to us and offer them a personalised experience which helps them get the best from their time with us. It is all part and parcel of the way we do things at The Strings Club.

Where can I find information about your classes?

If you are interested in our Term Time Courses then we are just about to launch our new courses starting in September 2019. You can visit our website for all the information and sign up to our newsletter.

How can I find out more about becoming a franchisee?

We’d love to speak to you about our franchise opportunities. If you’d like to find out more download our franchise pack. If you’d like to speak to us, register your interest and we will give you a call at a time which suits you.

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