LIKE many mums seeking the right balance between parenthood and professional life, Kathryn Gaskin was becoming increasingly out of tune with the demands of a career.

As a secondary school English and drama teacher, she was finding less and less time to spend with her two-year-old daughter Erin as she tried to maintain her high performance in the classroom.

So, with her husband Carl having given up his job to start his own mobile crepery business, Kathryn decided to do the same.

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“I’ve been a teacher since 2008 and I considered going part-time but, in order to do the job properly, I decided that a career just wasn’t going to work for me and my family any more,” says Kathryn, 31.

She decided setting up her own business was the solution; the problem, she admits, was that she “had zero business acumen”. The answer was to join a franchise, in simple terms developing her own business but as part of an established brand with all the support and advice she would need.

She came across Rhythm Time on social media. Established 22 years ago by Kathy Doolan, who got the idea as a new mum while living in New Zealand, the weekly classes for babies to four-year-olds aim to support speech and social development through music and song. The concept fitted perfectly with Kathryn’s experience both as a teacher and a mum.

“I found it immediately reassuring to hear that, if you’re prepared to put the hours in, the model really works. The reason why I left school teaching was that I didn’t want to devote all my spare time to lesson planning and preparation,” she says. “With Rhythm Time, all the schemes of work are already written and work effectively. Having said that, although there’s a strong structure there already, they are also keen for you to make your business individual to you, which I really liked. I’m a creative person and there is a lot of scope to put your own twist on your classes; it’s not prescriptive.”

Before signing any contract, Rhythm Time recommended that Kathryn consult a specialist franchise solicitor, and her husband recommended Maxine Buckton, at BHP Law, the only firm in the region to be a professional advisor member of the British Franchise Association, the voluntary self-regulatory body for the UK franchise sector. Maxine helped take away some of the mystery, and also ensured the contract worked for Kathryn.

“She made it very informative, straightforward and a lot less scary than I thought it would be. Business is a different world from what I knew and I’m really glad I went to a someone who knew what to look for,” says Kathryn. “Rhythm Time wanted me to feel comfortable with everything and to have independent advice, which was reassuring and actually made me have even more trust in them. There wasn’t anything I requested on the back of Maxine’s advice that they didn’t agree to, which again reassured me they were a company I wanted to be part of.”

“Inevitably contracts tend to focus on the franchisor, but they also have a business and reputation to protect so that’s understandable,” says Maxine. “As the franchisee, you are able to make reasonable requests to suit your particular needs.”

As with most franchises, the franchisee must pay an initial investment – some of which, in Kathryn’s case, comes back to her for marketing purposes – then pay an annual percentage of turnover, typically five to ten per cent, or a fixed fee each year. A technical fee and contribution towards the company marketing fund may also be required.

Kathryn, who lives in Guisborough, is developing a new franchise area that includes her home town, Saltburn, Normanby and Stockton and stretches as far as Sedgefield and Scarborough, giving her plenty of potential to grow.

“Although there was a previous franchisee for the Stockton area who was selling her business back, I wanted to set up my own rather than take over someone else’s,” she says. “It’s meant more work finding new venues, but I’m enjoying that part, finding suitable places for classes typically where toddler groups already meet and ideally where there’s a café nearby where parents and carers can socialise afterwards.”

The educational aspect is equally important to Kathryn. “Music is one of the only activities that stimulates both sides of the brain – the logical, pattern side which we stimulate through repetition, and the creative side. Children experience three different genres of music – classical, pop and nursery rhymes – in each lesson.”

Although classes are based on age – young baby, baby from four months, and toddler from two years old – finding a suitable class may be based on a child’s developmental points rather than age. Flexible payment terms help spread the cost for families.

Ready to open her first classes from October 2, Kathryn adds: “It’s very exciting, I can’t wait to get started.”

  • For more information visit rhythmtime.net, call Kathryn on 07450-699047.