From the classroom to the craft room: ex-teacher loves being her own boss!

Emma McCalla-John, 46 from Birmingham, loved the 20 years she spent as a mainstream and special educational needs teacher in primary and secondary schools. She was also a music teacher, but by 2017 she was looking for something different.

“I loved teaching and spending time with the children, but I didn’t love all the things that went with it!” she said.

With her daughter Hannah almost grown up, Emma felt it was time to do something for herself.

“I’d thought about taking on a franchise a long time ago but kept putting it off, and then putting it off again – however I still had a lot of franchise magazines coming through the post,” she said. “Then in early 2017 I had a phone call from The National Franchise Exhibition asking if I’d like to come along, and I decided that this year, I would. I booked the tickets and went along to the exhibition in February 2017.”

“A week before, I did some research and had a look at what businesses would be there. I saw The Creation Station and thought it looked interesting so, I did some Google research on it as I wanted to go along to the exhibition ready with a set of questions to ask them.”

“I liked the idea of working for myself, but part of me also wondered ‘can I run a business?’ – so I thought a franchise would help give me a bit of a safety net as I wouldn’t be setting it up all by myself.”

“I looked around a few other businesses before heading to The Creation Station – I quite like to drink coffee and there were a few coffee-based businesses exhibiting! But there was nothing quite like The Creation Station – also their stand looked great!”

Emma spoke to several Creation Station franchisees at the stand about their businesses.

“This was really reassuring as I wanted to speak to someone who was actually doing it rather than just someone from head office,” she explained.

“The Creation Station is all about exploration – it’s not about getting people to copy things, it’s about exploring different mediums, materials and making a lot of mess! There’s lots of paper and paint and lovely splash suits for the babies and toddlers so they can roll around and get messy even though they’re completely covered.”

“I was standing there with my husband Marcus and I looked at him and said, “I want to do it.””

The next step was attending a Creation Station discovery event in March near Kidderminster, which offered an opportunity to speak to some more people and find out a bit more about the business before committing to training.

“During this event we could put our names down for training, pending acceptance into the franchise network,” Emma continued. “I had an informal interview with Sarah Cressall who founded the business and is very hands on with it. I then put myself down for training in the summer holidays as I thought I might as well finish the academic year. A few days later, I was delighted to hear that I’d been accepted.”

At this point, Emma sorted out the paperwork, decided to buy two postcodes as her territories and paid a deposit.

“There was a week-long training course in August at the head office in Exeter. On the first day, they took us down to someone who was running a class and put us into our branded outfits so they could take action shots of us getting involved. We then looked at different aspects of running a business such as administration, social media and marketing, and staffing in case we wanted to take on staff in the future, as well as lots of health and safety. It was how to run a business mixed with creative aspects – there was always something creative happening during the day.”

“We purchased an initial stock of materials to take home with us ready to start and I was good to go!”

“My patch didn’t come with any ready-made clients so, I found a venue for my baby class and just started advertising – this involved lots of leaflet dropping and lots of social media – hoping that people would turn up!”

“However, the franchise itself comes with a website which made life a lot easier as I’d have no idea how to do that myself. Plus, enquiries regularly come through the main website and that links to our own individual ones according to the postcode entered. It gets a lot of traffic through and works really well. On the training course, this meant that some people were getting enquiries even before they’d finished the course. A Facebook page was also set up for each of us and all we’d have to do is keep it up to date.”

“My first event came very soon after I’d finished training in late August. It was held in a local park on an open stall and it was a play day event for about 500 people so the council paid me for it. I now do two Baby Discover classes per week, two Little Explorers class, and then Monday to Friday I work every day doing Create Club, which is our after-school clubs, and on Saturdays I often have small events and parties. I’ve also started occasional Creative Crafters classes for adults – making canvases, decorating wine glasses and other craft-based activities. I’ve also just started working with The Birmingham Children’s Hospital, running a few events throughout the year for children in their renal unit.”

“I set my own targets and I’m really motivated, I’ve got real ownership of it. I can be as creative as I like, not just on the arts and crafts side of it, but in how I develop my own business – along with being supported by head office and our local business development managers.”

Emma and her fellow trainees also set up a WhatsApp group so they can support each other, share ideas and even pass on bookings that they are not able to take on. For the future, she is thinking of expanding her business by taking on staff but for now, she’s simply enjoying it.

“The best thing about being my own boss is setting my own hours. It’s wonderful! The best thing ever. I just wish I’d done it years ago.”

Interested in following in Emma’s footsteps? Find out more about upcoming Franchise Exhibitions held in exclusive partnership with the British Franchise Association. Claim free tickets using promo code CAS1.

Other articles

Finalists named in the 35th BFA HSBC UK British Franchise Awards

The British Franchise Association (BFA) has announced the finalists in the BFA HSBC UK British Franchise Awards 2024. The awards are celebrating their 35th anniversary this year, having been founded in...
Read more

Walfinch Home Care Service Set On Expansion In Scotland

Scotland is ripe for the expansion of Walfinch home care services, according to Bunmi Ganiyu, Managing Director of the Walfinch office in Edinburgh South. “I am keen to offer a wider range of services –...
Read more

Latest trio to join ActionCOACH’s thriving network

As the first half of the year has already flown by with record audiences for their podcast, The Business Excellence podcast hosted by James Vincent, and the largest number of...
Read more

Walfinch Southampton sees students’ enthusiasm for care careers

“The tide is turning on the image of care work,” says Angela Harding, Joint Managing director of Walfinch Southampton. “I went to a Skills Bootcamp session run by our local Itchen Sixth Form...
Read more