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Start Your Business Magazine - December 2013
Small But Perfectly Formed

Why franchisor Karen Sherr is determined to keep successful children’s franchise, Musical Minis, compact and bijoux

Musical Minis runs children’s music and singing classes for children aged 0-5. There are currently 15 franchisees operating across the country. Three franchisees have recently celebrated their 10th anniversaries, all of them renewing their licenses for another 5 years. In their Smith & Henderson Franchise Satisfaction Benchmark, where franchisees score the franchise anonymously, Musical Minis scored 100% satisfaction in a number of categories including work-life balance, initial training and support and head office support.

Child psychologist and franchisor Karen Sherr explains why keeping the business small is the key to her success:

‘I first set Musical Minis up nearly 25 years ago and had no idea it would grow to the size it is today. I started it primarily as a group to take my 16 month old son to, when I couldn’t find a fun music class locally. The ones I’d taken him to were all taking the musical element very seriously; I didn’t want to teach him music, simply for him to enjoy music and singing which I knew, with my background in child psychology, would help with his cognitive and behavioural development.

‘Musical Minis quickly grew from a few friends meeting in a local hall to an established business with 15 local classes. 7 years after I set it up, I started franchising after being asked a number of times to run classes in other parts of the UK.

‘As a mum and with my background in child development, I know what I want children to gain from the Musical Minis programme and in the same way, I know what I want my franchisees to gain from being part of our network. I feel that I should support all my franchisees myself; I created the programme and therefore I’m keen to train others how to use it. 16 years on and I still deliver all the training to new franchisees myself.

‘Likewise, I created our franchise model (the do’s and don’ts, systems, procedures and standards of running the franchise) so it makes sense for me to train the franchisees in its use. As with every business, franchisees will have issues, large and small and I think it’s my duty, as the franchisor, to be the person to help them overcome them. Virtually everything they will encounter, from an administration issue to working with challenging children, I will have experienced myself and can give them the benefit of my knowledge to overcome the issues.

‘My desire to assist franchisees personally has meant the growth of our franchise network has to be kept relatively small. I think it’s important that the first person a potential franchisee speaks to, when they ring to find out more about the business is me.  These people are considering investing their hard-earned money in Musical Minis and I feel I owe it to them to be available to explain the concept.

‘However, no man, or woman, is an island and I recognise areas where I need to seek advice. My husband, Rob, takes an active role in the business, dealing with all the legal and accounting tasks. My children, who all grew up with Musical Minis, are involved in the day to day running of the business when their jobs and studies allow them.

‘One of the best things about keeping Musical Minis as a family business, without staff, is that it can be run from a home office. Whilst this obviously helps keep costs down it also helps our franchisees because they can phone us in the evenings and weekends, as well as during office hours. As the franchisees are usually running sessions in the day, phoning in the evening is often more convenient, once their own children are in bed.

‘Despite wanting to keep the business small enough to manage, my optimum number of franchisees would be about 30 so I’m still actively recruiting. I’d particularly love to bring our classes to Brighton and Bristol. I know there are other children’s franchises with far higher numbers of franchisees but that doesn’t worry me; I’d like to think my very ‘hands on’ approach with my franchisees gives people confidence in the business. From a personal perspective my income is probably on a par with other larger franchises because although I have fewer franchisees I also have fewer overheads (rent, salaries, etc)

‘I’m passionate about Musical Minis and hope that my enthusiasm is passed onto my franchisees and in turn to their local members. I know each and every one of my franchisees, together with their strengths and weaknesses. I know their families and they know mine. Knowing them so well, I feel I can offer them pertinent advice and in particular, how to fit Musical Minis in with the work/ life balance they are seeking. As Musical Minis has stood the test of time, survived economic booms and downturns, I feel I must be doing something right and, despite the growth, I still haven’t given up my aim to run the business largely by myself.’

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