Q and A with Denise Hutton-Gosney, MD and Founder of Razzamataz
1. Razzamataz will be 20 years old next year. How will the brand be celebrating?
Every year we host a Conference and Awards evening that is full of special surprises such as a fire walk and cryptic chase. In keeping with the Razzamataz tradition, there will be a number of secret reveals that will happen throughout the event in January. The day event will be held in a spectacular venue with breath taking views of London and a secret venue will be unveiled for the evening awards celebration. What can be announced is that Penny Power OBE will be a special guest motivational speaker and will be part of the company’s new Growth Hub incentive. We have also heavily invested in a number of new products that will be rolled out to the schools in 2020 as well as plans to franchise overseas. We also launched a new franchise called Razz Early Years and after the success of the initial pilots, we are now taking on further franchisees and really looking to grow this area.
2. Looking back, what would you say has been your proudest moment as a franchisor?
The best feeling in the world is watching our students’ progress. Many come to us with very little confidence but it is amazing how they very quickly overcome it to confidently stand on a stage to sing, dance or act. Razzamataz was created with a simple dream, to make performing arts available to all young people no matter their background or circumstances and it is wonderful to see that happen. I’m also very proud of our franchisees. Take Nick Furlong and Gemma Hextall who bought re-sale franchise Razzamataz Sutton Coldfield in September 2015 when they were in their final year of university. After a week’s intensive training they took over the school with 38 students. After they applied all their learnings from training, they re-launched and today have more than 300 students. We also have a franchisee who won two awards in the bfa Awards, beating stiff competition from household names such as Costa. Being a mum of two boys means that my business must be able to work around my lifestyle and it is so rewarding that through franchising, I can help other working parents find that live/work balance. Many of our franchisees have young children and some also have children that have complex additional needs, so the flexibility that we offer is vital for them to maintain a career without compromising their family time.
One of the things that sets Razzamataz apart from its competitors is our commitment to charity. The scholarships in association with The Stage newspaper are worth circa £30,000 a year and goes towards the impressive total of circa half a million pounds in grants and scholarships raised since the beginning of The Stage partnership. We also have our own charity, Future Fund, which helps finance our students through further education and college. We have given our students thousands of pounds to help them go on to study and that’s an amazing legacy to have, and one which I’m incredibly proud to be a part of.
3. If you could do anything differently, would you?
Of course, I have made mistakes, but I have definitely learnt from them and become a better franchisor because of them. Initially, I was so keen to grow the brand that I took on franchisees that I had my doubts about. I now know exactly the type of people that I want in the network, which has created a hugely positive environment for everybody. I’m not sure that I would do things differently though, because these set backs are the things that teach you and make you stronger in the end so although it is hard at the time, I am grateful for what I have learnt.
4. What or who would you attribute the success of Razzamataz?
It is truly a team effort including all the Head Office staff, our team of consultants and of course our franchisees. We feel that one of the reasons Razzamataz continues to grow and flourish, is because we are constantly looking at new opportunities and are not afraid to continue to ask ourselves how we could be doing better and what is missing from the market. This has led us to introduce a number of new products over the years, offering the students more opportunities to fulfil their dreams and creating increased revenue streams for our franchisees.
5. What advice would you give to startups who aspire to be celebrating a milestone such as a 20th business anniversary?
To achieve success, you have to have passion and 100% belief in your product. It won’t always be easy and you will be working more hours than you thought possible but if you love what you do, it won’t feel like a chore. The only way to grow as a business is to make sure you invest in the people around you. It is not always about money either, we really appreciate the people who work with us so we make sure to show them. Our PR manager recently broke her foot so we sent her some flowers to cheer her up and let her know we were thinking of her. These small touches create a family around you so everyone is much more willing to pull together as a team through the good and the bad.
6. How has the franchising industry changed since you have been involved?
I think the perception of franchising has really changed. We have many young franchisees, straight out of college, who chose the franchise route because they see all the opportunities it can offer. It used to be seen as something to do if you didn’t know what to do but now it is an exciting career path for young entrepreneurs.