Tiny Toes Ballet Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan Sparkles at Wales CASA!
We were thrilled to speak to Jessica Barnes, owner of Tiny Toes Ballet Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan, who won Arts, Literature and Dance Club of the Year (sponsored by Eden Events) at last year's awards. This is what she had to say..
I started Tiny Toes Ballet Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan in January 2019. Tiny Toes Ballet offers adventure-themed ballet classes to children from ages 6 months up to 7 years old. We focus on developing movement and musicality, we encourage creativity and imagination, and focus on social skills and developing a sense of self.. all whilst learning about the world around us. Movement is the gateway for all learning during the first five years of life. Children learn by playing and doing and our themed ballet classes integrate kinaesthetic learning with understanding. By now, most of us know that dance itself brings a huge array of benefits, but apart from that, Tiny Toes Ballet is the only pre-school ballet programme that is FULLY integrated with the Early Years Framework. We don't just dance, go on adventures and have fun, we also learn about how, for example, a caterpillar has 16 legs (10 pro-legs and 6 working legs), spins a hard chrysalis (not a soft cocoon), and then transforms into a beautiful butterfly that can taste with their feet – all through dance!
What made you decide to buy a children's activity franchise?
Before I started the franchise, I worked in HR & Hospitality for almost 10 years, and to be able to trade in disciplinaries and grievances for ballet shoes and adventures is an absolute dream come true. Ever since I was able to walk and talk I've loved to dance, act and be on stage - so that is what I spent most of my time doing growing up! I became a mum in 2015, and when I saw my little girl enjoying and flourishing in her Tiny Toes classes, my heart would explode. To combine a child's learning with dance and storytelling is exactly my cup of tea. In 2018 my corporate role was at-risk (and coincided with the big 3-0 birthday), which gave me a wake-up call to not "settle" for a job, but to do something that I absolutely LOVED. Starting my own Tiny Toes Ballet franchise seemed the only option!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Gosh. I definitely think that Covid19 and continuing to work through this absolutely unconventional situation is most definitely the biggest challenge I have faced since starting the business. It is absolutely heart-breaking to be told you are unable to run classes. Of course you accept it, as safety is paramount, but I feel so so bad for those little dancers that look forward to their dance lesson each week. Not only that - I miss them! I miss their cheerful faces walking into class, their funny stories, their proud faces when they achieve something in class. It is very hard.. BUT. I must say - we are so lucky that in this day and age, we are able to continue in some way online. I always knew that when teaching children you'd need to be adaptable, but this is something else. Being able to see some of those happy faces via our online classes is most definitely sunshine I need in this situation.
What about your proudest moment?
How did it feel to win the Arts, Literature and Dance category?
Like an out-of-body experience! As the business is still so new, I was surprised to even be shortlisted as a finalist. It was (and still is) a true mix of shock, pride and happiness. I failed to prepare a speech, and can hardly remember a thing I said. All I can remember is trying not to fall over walking up and down the stage, haha! Being able to show off my winner's Wales CASA logo makes me feel incredibly proud.
If someone was considering applying in the summer, what would you say to them? Absolutely do it! There is so much magic in the world of Children's Activities & Services, and I think any opportunity to shout about your own business is a no-brainer. More importantly, these awards are the only ones dedicated to this category in Wales and immensely important (children are our future after all, right?). Apart from that, the chance to glam up to attend the Awards Ceremony and mingle with like-minded and inspiring people is very exciting.
Sum up your awards experience in 3 words!
Applications open on August 1st! We would love you to enter!