Karen began Musical Minis when her first child was a baby because she could not find what she wanted for her son in the area. She had taken baby Matthew to an exercise group where the children sang a song at the beginning and end of each session. The singing was Matthew’s favourite part of the class.
Karen set out to find a group that focused exclusively on music as a fun activity but she was unsuccessful. She discovered instead that, generally, local music groups were very strict, requiring parents to make their small children concentrate on music for half an hour every day. Karen felt this was too rigid and wanted her baby to enjoy himself, with music involved, with other babies and small children.
At the same time, Karen was beginning to miss her old job and especially missed being surrounded by a ward full of children but she didn’t want to go back to work and leave her own baby. A combination of these factors led to the launch of Musical Minis.
The concept was based on what Karen, as a Mum, wanted for her child. She started a group, running one three-quarter hour session each week, for herself, her friends and their children. She devised the programme, bought the equipment, hired the hall and took out insurance.
One of the leaders at the original exercise group, Patricia Elson, joined as Karen’s business partner and helped run the session, so Karen and Matthew could join in the class and really enjoy it.
Karen was surprised by the instant popularity of her group. She had no idea that so many parents would wish their children to join and it soon became clear that she had started a business with a great future.
Husband Rob’s expertise, as a commercial banking manager, was invaluable in setting up the business. Karen and Rob financed Musical Minis themselves and ploughed all the profits back into the business for the first few years until they were ready to expand it.
Based close to Karen’s home in North West London, Musical Minis had taken off very quickly locally and the number of children attending grew rapidly. The potential for the business was obvious and, having satisfied a local demand, Karen and Rob realised that they could expand the classes nationally.
They started to consider franchising as a way forward when they were approached by mums who had attended the classes but then moved out of the area and wanted to set up their own groups.
Karen and Rob agreed that franchising would be the most efficient and cost-effective route to expansion. They thoroughly tried and tested all their systems and procedures until they were satisfied that they had a viable – and potentially profitable – opportunity to offer.
Seven years after they set up the original class, they opened their first children’s franchise. They had been meticulous in checking everything with their lawyer. They had to register their trademark and became embroiled in a dispute which, ultimately, they won, but the process took a long time. The music had to be cleared and owned by Musical Minis, so they hired a music producer with a recording studio and using a male and female singer, produced their own recordings. Next they had to create the lesson tapes, apply for a licence to the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), duplicate the tapes and pay the required Royalties.
Karen continued to run classes in her area and has built up a wealth of first-hand knowledge and experience to share with franchisees, especially if they have a problem or need some guidance. She also heads franchisee training.