Application writing…it’s not easy, is it? Singing our own praises and blowing our own trumpets doesn’t come naturally to us when we often we spend our lives looking at how we can improve ourselves, our business, our goals. But wait a second…you deserve to be recognised for what you have achieved. You deserve to be celebrated! Talk to yourself and about yourself the way you would to a child in your class or club, and you’ll probably find that you start to see all the wonderful things you’ve achieved and reasons to be proud. And we want to hear about them!
We have put together some guidelines and advice to help steer you through the process of applying for our awards…
- It’s a story…
We want to know all about you and your story; what is your “why”? What led you to starting your business and what has your business journey looked like to date? Share the highs but also share the lows and how you overcame them. Don’t forget, this isn’t a computer says no (or yes) job. The people reading your application are human beings. Compassionate human beings who will no doubt relate to a lot of what you will say. They want to hear about you, so don’t be afraid to share!
- Show us your personality…
We love to see personality injected into applications. It makes it fun; it makes it exciting and it makes you stand out from the crowd. Remember, you’re not applying for a job here – so whilst it’s a serious process – we encourage you to have a little fun with it! Last year a finalist wished everyone love and magic sprinkles to conclude the application – now we know that isn’t for everyone, but it was completely in line with their brand and it made the application memorable.
- Be specific
When writing your application, you should carefully consider every category you are applying for and make sure you address each one. Before you start, get a pen and piece of paper and create a mind map with every category you’re entering and list the reasons why you should win that category. This will allow you to address all of these points throughout the application and demonstrate specifically why your business should win the categories you are entering.
- Facts, figures and testimonials
Evidence your claims! We’re not asking for commercially sensitive information here, but if you can back up your claims with facts, figures and testimonials it will strengthen the credibility of your application. It also makes for a more interesting read as it breaks down the style of writing when you bring in snippets of a testimonial or some numerical figures.
- Detail and presentation
Whilst we are not looking for war and peace, we would like to see a detailed application that demonstrates you care about the process. Our team and judges will spend hours upon hours reading through each application giving everyone the thought and care they deserve. We’d love to read applications where we can see just how much thought and care has gone into writing it too. As proven last year, the competition is fierce so throwing a few lines together sadly won’t cut it. We would also recommend having a friend or family member to proofread your application; we don’t mark on spelling and grammar as we don’t believe that to be an indicator of how well run or beneficial your children’s activity is, but a polished application sets the bar high from the start.
So, there you have it, our top 5 pieces of advice when it comes to writing your application. We’d also like to remind you that our judges will sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to assessing the applications. This means they commit to absolutely confidentiality in terms of the content so you can write your application safe in the knowledge that it will not be shared with anyone who is not directly involved in the process.
For any questions please do get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com.
Applications open on August 1st and we can’t wait to hear from you then!
We are thrilled to be able to share details of the Wales Children’s Activities and Services Awards 2021 in association with Principal Sponsors Beaming Babies UK and The Sizzling Guys.
It’s no lie, we are currently going through an extremely difficult period and we hope that these awards will be able to inject positivity, motivation and something to really look forward to when we come out at the other end of this. We commend the resilience, strength and adaptability shown by those working the children’s activity centre, not just in Wales but throughout the UK.
With this said, we are delighted to let you know the 2021 ceremony will take place on January 22nd at The Village Hotel, Swansea. After such a hospitable welcome from the staff at the hotel at the 2020 event, we wanted to return for a second year running. If you weren’t there last year, we enjoyed a red carpet welcome with drinks reception, 3 course dinner, awards ceremony and a disco and dance until late (very late…). We enjoyed professional photography which all guests received complimentary access to after the event as well as Wales Children’s Activities and Services plaque biscuits for every guest to take home. We had a sensational evening with a 150 strong guest list of some of the best business owners in Wales which led to lots of positive connections being made!
Now, we like to keep things fresh and exciting so whilst the awards will remain a black-tie evening event, for 2021 the whole awards process and ceremony is themed around…
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN!
You can expect showstopping music, carnival themed décor and A LIVE PERFORMANCE! We are so excited to deliver an even more thrilling event than we did last year and to give even more to our guests!
So, why did we choose The Greatest Showman? Simple. It’s not only empowering and tells a story of how you should always chase your dreams, even in the face of adversity, P.T Barnum said, “The noblest of art is that of making others happy” Isn’t that what we do, week in, week out as children’s activities and services providers?! Especially during these trying times where so many of you reading this will have made huge operational changes to your businesses to continue to support the children and families who enjoy your services.
The categories for 2021 are;
- New Start Up of the Year (Sponsored by The Tired Mama Collection)
- Customer Excellence of the Year
- Entrepreneur of the Year (Sponsored by GlitterBombRobo)
- Events and Party Services of the Year (Sponsored by The Sizzling Guys)
- Independent of the Year (Sponsored by Mes Enfants Private Pre-School Nursery)
- Franchise of the Year (Sponsored by Andy Georgiou Franchise Consultancy)
- Sports Club of the Year (Sponsored by Starfish Swim Academy)
- Arts, Literature and Dance Club of the Year
- Activity Centre of the Year
- Health and Wellbeing Outcomes of the Year (Sponsored by Daisy First Aid)
- Business of the Year (Sponsored by Beaming Babies UK)
The eagle eyed among you will notice 3 new categories; Customer Excellence of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and Health and Wellbeing Outcomes of the Year. We felt it was incredibly important to recognise these categories and we will share more about these decisions over the next month! We have also updated Play Centre of the Year to Activity Centre of the Year. We felt that outdoor activities, which are a fantastic learning experience for children, didn’t have a place and for us, that needed to be fixed for 2021. This new category encompasses both indoor and outdoor centres who provide amazing learning and exploration opportunities for children.
The applications for the 2021 awards will open on August 1st and you can apply through our website. There is a £5 administration fee to enter and you are able to apply for as many categories as you wish within your application! If you applied last year and didn’t get through as a finalist, we are offering a free personalised feedback service throughout the month of June. You probably submitted a fantastic application but we had some truly inspirational stories last year so please get in touch to receive a personalised review of your previous application. If you have not applied before, keep an eye on our social media and website for an article giving you application writing advice! We want to do all we can to support Welsh businesses throughout this process!
As you can see, we have some amazing sponsors for the 2021 awards and we will be sharing more about each of them in the near future, but there are still some opportunities available to sponsor a category. If this interests you, please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to tell you more!
Please keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages moving forward, we have so much great content lined up for you over the next few months. There is so more much exciting news to find out about the 2021 awards, but we didn’t want to bombard you with everything today. So, coming up you’ll find out who the judges are, more about our sponsors, application advice, who will performing live at the awards, who is our charity partner and much more!
In the meantime, stay safe and well. We hope to hear from you soon!
Facebook – Wales Children’s Activities and Services Awards
Instagram – @walescasa
We caught up with Rebecca Treharne (virtually of course!) who owns Mes Enfants Private Pre-School Nursery based in the picturesque Mumbles, Swansea. Rebecca and her team won “Independent of the Year” 2020 at the awards. Here we find out more about this lovely business!
Tell us about your business…
Mes Enfants Nursery is made up of a completely incredible group of women who are dedicated to the children in their care and support each other both as colleagues and friends. The Nursery which was established in 2003 has always worked towards being different to other nurseries in our approach and ethos. We actively form close relationships with our parents and children, going above and beyond to enable them to happily leave their child in our care. The Mes Enfants girls are talented, inspirational, forward thinking and proactive. The activities they create for our little ones are fun and stimulating, helping each child develop at their own speed. Each staff member brings skills and attributes to the Nursery that feed the children’s need to absorb and learn. We have a fluent Welsh speaker, a ukulele player, several incredible artists, environment and recycling enthusiast and many, many more. As a nursery, we are always looking to develop new and interesting ways for the children to play and learn. We have several themed rooms, Reflection Room, Adventure, The Senses Room, Creative, Role play and Big play (as well as a room dedicated to our littlest Munchkins, Baby Room) which the children visit in small groups throughout the day. We have an incredible messy outdoor play, natural area, as well as a beach to visit just across the road! We have a huge emphasis on recycling, sustainability and protecting our environment. We have plastic free food deliveries, a special recycling area in our foyer for parents and children, recycled products for craft activities, a wormery and many more! Our social media both Instagram and Facebook, aim to delight our supporters and children alike, with interesting, funny and heart warming posts. The staff have worked at the Nursery for many years and our reputation precedes us, we are very very proud to be part of this wonderful ethos!
What has been your proudest moment in business?
Its impossible to pick one, their have been several….when we helped a child settle at Nursery when the Mum had tried many others as he was incredibly withdrawn and nervous but now loves nursery and has changed in his confidence completely….a member of staff has taught a new song to a little one and they receive an email form the parents showing them singing at home…when a child forms a close friendship with another child and that carries on into school and beyond…when we hear, out of the blue, from a parent whose child came to us many years ago and they just wanted to say hi, thank us again and send pictures…..when a parent thanks us for helping their child learn to eat new foods that they just couldn’t persuade them to do at home…..and of course winning our award this year was an incredible moment that the staff team so so deserved.
If someone is considering applying for these awards in August, what would you say to them?
I would tell someone who is considering entering the awards, have a go, you will doubt yourself (I did) but it is definitely worth getting the recognition you deserve. When we won, I said to my girls “so we are as good as we think we are”. I’m not big headed, I never have been but this award was definitely the recognition we deserved and it was such a pleasure to be around so many other deserving businesses.
Can you sum up your awards experience in three words?
Uplifting, rewarding, incredible!
Thank you so much Rebecca and team. Watch this space for more exciting Mes Enfants news coming soon!
Hey there amazing kids’ activity provider…
Have a quick browse of social media and you’ll see lots of children’s activity businesses doing all sorts of fabulous things online.
But if you keep looking for longer? You’ll probably notice a few mistakes too.
It can be really overwhelming to even know where to start when taking your kids’ activity business online, especially if you’re looking for some new customers too. And you don’t know what you don’t know, right?
So here are a few honest mistakes I’ve spotted recently…
Trying to upload endless amounts of pre-recorded video in HD
If you’re trying to upload video content in 1080p it WILL take forever unless you’re using a platform that compresses it automatically. You want to get your business online QUICKLY right?! Try dropping the resolution down from 1080p (the next level down is usually 720p) when you export it and see if that helps. Want to get your classes online even quicker than that?! Do live content instead – then there’s no saving, editing or uploading required!
Using social media to sell, sell, sell instead of building trust, connection and community
If you’re looking for new customers, it’s a LOT harder to build know, like and trust over the internet than when you meet people face to face. And if your prospects don’t trust you yet? They won’t buy from you yet either. So how can we build trust online? First of all, don’t hide behind your brand – people buy from people – so share your selfies, your behind the scenes photos or footage and share some stories about you and your business. Secondly, giving people an experience of working with you allows them to see the quality of your service so offer trial periods, a limited amount of free content or tasters before inviting them to your paid classes and they’ll be much more likely to opt for your paid activities later!
Trying to stay on top of the never ending admin associated when offering ‘pay as you go’
It’s hard going staying on top of all those permissions, right? Giving access rights, taking away access rights and constantly having to check who has paid. There’s a reason most online services are paid for on a monthly recurring basis and not only will it save you the effort, it’ll save your customers time & effort too. And the easier we can make things for them right now? The longer they’ll stay with us! If you’re providing a mixture of live and pre-recorded content or other e-learning resources, you’ll be able to provide tonnes of value for your customers at a monthly rate so it’s a win win situation for both of you!
Making it all ‘me me me’ and not about ‘them them them’
When you’re marketing your services remember it’s not about you – it’s all about them! So talk less about your experience, qualifications and awards (which DO have their place, but not all the time) and more about your customer experience and the results and benefits they get from your work. What’s even better than that?! Get THEM to talk about it. Share parent testimonials, their own pictures of children following along at home and feedback from the children too. And if you’re one of those people that won’t book a trip online or order an online product without checking the reviews? Your customers probably won’t either so make sure you’ve got some up to date reviews on your pages too!
Not collecting contact details from people who are viewing your free content
If you’re going to offer content for free, that’s a great way of building the know, like and trust factor but if you don’t know who viewed your free lives, how are you going to follow up with them to invite them to work with you and up-sell your paid activities? If you’re doing a free live lesson, get them to register. If you’re giving away a free pre-recorded video class, get them to ‘opt-in’ and if you’re doing a free trial of your membership, collect those contact details! Online registration forms, lead pages and digital downloads are all great ways of collecting details before giving away your free content so you can follow up with your prospects and convert them into happy and loyal PAYING customers who love your new online activity!
Thinking you need to have professional videos and flashy membership sites
My biggest message to you right now is that taking your children’s business online doesn’t have to take a long time, it doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to involve lots of ‘tech.’ Your customers just need access to YOU! Whatever that looks like right now. Some of my favourite platforms to use in my business are so simple and free to use – Google Drive for pre-recorded videos, Zoom for live and interactive content, Facebook Groups for memberships, JotForms for registration pages and PayPal for recurring payments. So keep it simple, get online and go help those families that need you right now. And if you need a little help with that? I’m here for you too.
Cerys Keneally helps dance teachers & kids’ activity providers to get work with UK schools & nurseries without cold-calling them so they can begin to approach schools with confidence, even if they’ve tried in the past with no response. In times of crisis, Cerys has been helping members of her community to quickly get their businesses online without expensive platforms or lots of ‘tech’ so they can continue doing what they love!
Claim your free ‘Get Your Kids’ Activity Biz Online Guide’ and also receive an ‘Approaching Schools Workbook’ at www.ceryskeneally.com or join Cerys’s free community for children’s activity providers who want to grow their businesses at https://www.facebook.com/groups/primaryactivityproviderbusinessclub/
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..
Tell us more about your business…
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?
I have had lots of proud moments! My pupils make me proud every single class – whether it’s taking their first steps, joining in without their grown-up, or just absolutely smashing a particular exercise – they are truly incredible. But, by far, my proudest moment was the moment when 90 pupils, aged from 6 months to 7 years, stood in front of an audience of 350 people and performed on stage. Loud music, spotlights, costumes. WOW. How little people can do such brave things, telling a story through dance and showing off their inner-sparkle – almost as if it’s nothing – is breathtaking…. and then realising that it was me that put them there. Very proud!
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!
Exciting, emotional and proud!
Applications open on August 1st! We would love you to enter!
In light of recently challenging times, we took a short break from our Friday spotlight articles which showcase of our winners. However, today we are back with an interview with our Photographer of the Year winner 2020, Hannah B Photography. Read on to find out more…
Hannah, you have a very unusual but truly beautiful business. Could you tell us more about it?
Birth is a sacred, powerful and wholly consuming life experience. We discover new and exciting parts of ourselves, our mind and body are stretched, ready to welcome new life and a new perception of ourselves.
It’s a journey worth documenting, and a time to focus and bring the life you nourished for nine or so months Earth-side. Birth photography is tailored individually and specifically to each birth team, ensuring we capture elements and moments that are so important to them. It’s a very unique and exciting field, making its way into normality and I’m proud to be part of its journey.
How did you get into this field?
I’d been photographing weddings and families for years before realising my true calling. I was actually IN labour with my first born when I came across birth photography; I had always been fascinated with birth, empowering women and photography and it seemed the natural progression for me to combine the three.
I know from my own experience that I have a very weak memory of my births and looking back on the images gives me the opportunity to reflect and remember the little things I’d forgotten; my husband’s gentle touch, the colour my babies were when they were first born, the midwives and team who cared for us. I treasure those photographs with my whole being.What made you enter the awards?
I made a pact to myself in 2019 to start entering competitions as I hadn’t entered any before with my photography. I was made aware of these awards by someone who suggested I enter, I didn’t hesitate to put myself out there and show off the work that is so deeply important to me.The judges were breath taken at your photography, how did it feel to have your name called out on the evening?
Thank you so so much! It was so brilliant to have my work recognised as award winning! Birth photography is such a niche and new field that I wasn’t sure I’d even place. It was a wonderful mixture of shock, pride and happiness; I remember having such a sense of purpose and determination to continue my work, to help families and show the world that birth and lifestyle photography is something to treasure.
I weirdly went incredibly posh during my speech but nonetheless, I was so happy to express my thanks and spread the word about my field.
If anyone is considering entering the awards, what would you say to them?
Enter!!! A chance to have your hard work shown off and praised is so exciting, AND then dressing up and enjoying a VIP evening, perfection.
Describe your awards experience in 3 words!
Exciting, joyous, fun!
Kate owns and runs the Tots Play Cardiff North franchise and won Baby and Toddler Class of the Year at the 2020 awards. We spoke to her to find out more about her business and her awards experience…
Tell us about your business:
Hi! I’m Kate and I run Tots Play Baby & Toddler play classes in Cardiff North! We combine Baby Massage, Baby Yoga, Baby Sign, Sensory Play and loads more into 3 different classes split by age and Developmental stage! I’ve been running for 5 and a half years now and I absolutely love it!
What made you decide to enter Wales CASA?
My fellow Franchisee and friend Angharad who runs Tots Play Neath told me about the Awards – there are no other Awards that focus on Welsh businesses in our sector and I think its fantastic that we get to celebrate all the great childrens activity & service providers here.
Can you describe how it felt on the evening to be called to stage as the
winner of Baby & Toddler Class of the Year?!
Well!! I absolutely wasn’t expecting to win at all!! I had mentally thought through what I would say about a week before but really didnt think I would need to make a speech as I really didnt think I would win!!
It was fantastic!!!! I was so, so happy and proud!! All of the Finalists were brilliant and I was really proud just to make it that far, but to win was pretty darn amazing!! I was very excited and grateful!!
Has being a winner impacted your business activity so far?
Its been great, there’s been so much interest and also so much support and lovely feedback from my current and previous Tots! Its really helped people to notice my classes and reach people who hadn’t heard of my classes before!
Its given me a real boost personally too! It can be really hard sometimes not only being self employed but to find the level of energy you need to run classes and make them so much fun, but winning this Award really gave me such a boost! I’m very grateful to have been picked by the Judging Panel!
Do you have any exciting plans this year you could share with us?
I’m very excited about my special Easter Party sessions again this year in April. 3 out of 5 parties sold out over night and all Parties sold out within a week! The support has been brilliant and I love running these Parties, they are great fun!
After that, I’ll be planning our Three Weeks of Summer Parties, with paddling pools, giant jelly trays, spaghetti pits, giant beach balls on the parachute and so much more!! I look forward to that crazy fun every year!!
Can you sum up your Wales CASA experience in 3 words?!
Amazing, fun and I’m going to say Princesses – the ladies from Happily Ever After Swansea were so much fun to share a table with!!
The Wales Children’s Activities and Services Awards were held on January 17th 2020 at The Village Hotel, although it was only last month it seems like a life time ago in light of the fact January had 456 days (!) but today we are pleased to shine a light on Rugbytots Mid Glamorgan run by Rhodri Holloway. On the evening, his business took home two accolades. Highly Commended Baby & Toddler Class of the Year and Winner of Sports Club of the Year. A huge achievement for Rhodri and his team! We spoke to Rhodri to find out a little more…
Tell us about your business
Rugbytots is a children’s rugby play programme for 2-7 year old boys and girls. Our fun, structured play sessions take children on a journey of sporting imagination with engaging and energetic coaches supporting them every step of the way whilst teaching how to catch, pass, kick, run with the ball and play as part of a team.
I started the franchise in 2015 in Mid Glamorgan and since then we’ve had a fantastic uptake from our local customers in our area with lots of budding new rugby players starting their journey with us. We currently run 32 classes a week catering for around 320 children across our area.
It’s such a rewarding career to be involved with seeing so many happy and smiling children at Rugbytots each week learning new skills and making new friends and having lots of fun!
You won Sports Club of the Year and Highly Commended in Baby and Toddler Class of the Year, this is a huge achievement! How did it feel on the night to be called up not once, but twice?
I was so surprised and honoured to be called up twice on the night, I had no idea that Rugbytots would do so well and be recognised never mind winning an award! With so many other fantastic business in the room on the evening and several other children’s providers out there it was such a proud moment for us at Rugbytots to be part of the awards evening. It really drives home the importance of working hard to reach out to children and parents across the region and introduce more children to the benefits of sport and specifically Rugbytots.
Has receiving these awards impacted your business activity so far?
We’ve received a huge boost on our social media pages recently with lots of messages of congratulations and new followers which has led to us being able to reach more people across the area. We’ve also incorporated the Wales CASA logo into our marketing which we’re really proud to show off as well as giving us a huge confidence boost to keep working hard and achieve our goals!
Can you share some of your goals for 2020 with us (other than scooping 2 awards before January was over!)?
We’re always looking to offer Rugbytots to more and more parents across our area, and one of our main goals is to reach out to more nurseries and schools to offer Rugbytots for their children during the week. We feel sport and physical education is such an important part of the curriculum and especially keeping children active and healthy and enjoying taking part in sport!
At Rugbytots we use lots of colourful equipment, shapes, rugby balls and obstacle courses that are perfect for young children to explore to learn through play. As well as developing their literacy and numeracy skills with counting, shapes, colours and new skills at Rugbytots. We’re hoping to reach out to more schools and nurseries not only for children to enjoy playing rugby but for the educational benefits that Rugbytots provides – just like reading and writing, children need to learn how to move too!
If someone was considering entering the awards this summer, what would you say to them?
100% GO FOR IT!
Thank you Rhodri! We wish you all the best for 2020 and hope to see you again next year!
We interviewed winner of Best New Start Up (sponsored by The Tired Mama Collection) and Business of the Year (sponsored by Kabin Hire Ltd) at the Wales Children’s Activities and Services Awards 2020 and this is what Hannah Pearce, founder of Big Bang, had to say…
Tell us briefly about your business?
Big Bang UK make learning easier and faster for children in STEM key areas; Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths. We believe that children learn by capturing their imagination with creative educational activities.
We deliver this by providing fun, exciting and developmental holiday camps, STEM labs at local community libraries and school enrichment days.
You won two awards on the evening, how did that feel?
Mind blown! Wow, I was not expecting to come away with awards as the children’s service sector is so strong and full of fantastic businesses. It was phenomenal. The room was full of so many inspirational business and stories who provide such a fantastic service or activity in the children sector, and everyone should be proud.
I am incredibly grateful and honoured to win Best New Start-Up along with Business of the Year. It makes all the tough times and hard moments feel worthwhile. Big Bang UK has only been running since July 2019. This is a huge achievement. I just want to thank everyone that has supported Big Bang and helped us get where we are today. We wouldn’t be here without you!
How has winning impacted your business?
Winning has booted my businesses massively in every way. The next morning my inbox was full of messages; it took me a while to get through them all! It increased the exposure and amount of likes and visits to my social media platforms. I am thrilled and overwhelmed with the demand of our community library STEM labs. I have organised for another venue to be set up in Swansea central library every month. I have had more schools book enrichments sessions with us for this school year and next from all around wales. The 2020 diary has been filling up quickly!
The awards have also given me the new platform to link with other business and collaborate. Some exciting things are coming up for Big Bang in 2020, keep your eyes peeled.
What would you say to anyone considering applying this summer ready for next year?
Defiantly apply! Celebrate yourself, your successes and your failures. You bring so much joy and happiness to children throughout the year. You deserve to have a night to get dressed up, let your hair down, meet some amazing people and have a brilliant night. The children’s sector has been overlooked for a long time in Wales with regards to awards and recognition, so grab this with both hands and enjoy it. You never know what might happen!
2020… a brand-new decade.
Great time to reflect back and look ahead to a new year and decade. The kid’s activity sector is strong and showing signs of resilience in the face of economic uncertainty—combining entertainment, education and entrepreneurship seems to be working quite well for lots of providers.
This said, it’s pretty crowded right now – some may even say saturated. Competitive and economic pressures will continue to lean on the sector more so than ever before. As the industry matures, customers are better informed, innovation is harder, and copycats are abundant. You’re arguably having to work harder for your buck now than in previous years.
Consumer demands are changing. Technology and social platforms have both enabled activity providers whilst giving headaches in equal measure, seemingly reinventing itself just as swiftly as we get used to using it. Meanwhile, a generational transition is coming (as more millennial and post-millennial parent customers enter the market, and Gen X slowly depart over the decade). Some brands will stagnate; others will win big.
Conservative estimates suggest there are 30,000-plus active activity providers across the UK made up of independents and franchise networks, with more entering each year. While quality in the sector continues to improve due to best practice and ideas spreading, consumers in most regions have an array of choice and marketing communications require improvement. There is a significant amount of noise provided by the economy, environment and social factors and even brands with the strongest competitive advantage must rise above this to attract growth.
Now… some bits of advice for having a successful year and building early momentum for the 2020s:
- Start the year with a clear situational view and create a strategic plan
Understand what your unique goals are as a business and as an individual. Some of you will be planning to open more classes, fill current ones and become more profitable. Others will have more lofty ambitions such as franchising your business or expanding your existing franchise network. Either way, understanding where you are now and where you want to be in one year, three year and five years’ time is important to hit your goals and to get you from A to B. Without a plan, you’re just winging it, and if you wing it for too long, you’ll probably not reach your full potential.
- Always try to think long term with any decisions made
Short-termism or business planning myopia is rife in small businesses. People have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed so it’s really easy to fall into the trap of going all out to get the low hanging fruit and quick wins over a more patient approach to building a brand. What I would say is; successful brands and activity programmes aren’t built overnight. You do hear of people who grow quickly and it’s possible to scale fast if you’ve got the right components and good advice, but it takes time to build something truly rewarding and impactful, which is the unpopular answer for some. If you look at the very top brands in our industry and across other sectors, they all took time to mature and grow so try and practice patience.
- Aim to see your business as a business not just self-employment
This is linked to the above and what I mean here is, as activity providers it’s quite easy to see our businesses as a way of earning money which is better than other part/full-time jobs. This exact mindset is a trap it you’re looking to build a business because it fails to fully address key business basics such as; am I solving a problem with my service? What’s my strategic plan for the next three years to build awareness and recognition and influence consumers to pay me now and ongoing? What’s my brand story and how I can ensure I resonate with customers to build a loyal following and profitable relationships? What systems and processes do I need to create or formalise to make things easier and enable growth? If you can start seeing your business as more than just ‘self-employment’ then you have a great chance of developing a strong mindset.
- Think big and small with goals
I totally understand when I talk to people and they have a big vision but either haven’t got all the pieces figured or want it to happen tomorrow. Having a long-term vision that is underpinned by your brand story and smart short-term objectives will create an environment for success. If you lack any of those things it can be very difficult to achieve as well as you probably could with your business.
- Pay attention to the small details
Providers are constantly striving to improve their programmes, as they should. However, my observation is it’s frequently not the differentials in your programme that act as a key driver for business growth. Strong branding and clear marketing strategy followed by superior customer service and above average teaching (often doesn’t have to be outstanding for customers to stay) is what really separates the more successful providers. Need to modernise your brand? Need to create a story for people to buy into? Need to tweak a system or process? Need to give slightly more value? Make small details a priority.
- ‘Attention management’ is the new time management
As business owners, we start to become obsessed with time (I know I do) and specifically having enough of it each week to squeeze in personal and professional demands. However, a lot of new research and experts suggest the key to productivity and great work is through focusing attention where it’s needed without distraction; time can’t be managed as such, only your attention can be managed. So, finding a method and strategy to really focus your energy on your business is essential to good work being done.
Author: Andy Georgiou
Bio: Andy Georgiou is a former kids activity professional who now runs his own Franchise Consultancy, helping aspiring and established franchisors grow their businesses. He’s been Operations Director and International Director of Coaching for a powerhouse children’s franchise brand, as well as Head of Franchising for a leading educational activity provider. He’s learned the ins and outs and highs and lows of starting a business, dominating a market and building something rewarding and highly profitable.