Happy Birthday wizards of Oz!
When I started Make Believe from my mother’s front room I would have been happy to work with 20 youngsters in one venue. Twelve years, 50 branches and well over three thousand children later I found myself jumping out of a plane and landing on Sydney Harbour Bridge to launch Make Believe Australia. And what a great feeling that was, the first, tentative step of a worldwide journey to give young people on every continent the opportunity to realise their dreams and aspiring performers to run their own business with a franchise. This has to be the best thing that I have ever done at Make Believe as MB Airways whisked me away!
And now Make Believe Sydney is a year old and the success is down to the amazing vision and acumen of Devina Solanki who has hit the ground running with a fabulous school. As with our UK-based schools, the success of Sydney is becoming infectious and we have 15+ locations earmarked Down Under over the next five years. Devina and I go back a long way since we first met at our beloved Tottenham Hotspur (sorry all MB Arsenal fans); when Devina was working for Guide Dogs for the Blind we sponsored the charity when we used a golden labrador Ricki during our tour of Annie. So when Devina and her lovely family moved to Australia I knew it was the time to persuade her to launch our first branch there. And my hunch was right with Devina supplementing her school with our sub division Make Believe Munchkins branch which launched last month.
I have always followed the maxim that if a product is good, it has universal potential. The Australia journey has proved this point as Devina easily overcame the potential stumbling block of cross cultural differences by following the Make Believe marketing strategy to provide affordable dance, singing and acting tuition and help each child reach their maximum potential. Says Devina: “As a new venture in Australia, parents found confidence in Make Believe being an established and successful company in the UK. They were impressed with the marketing material and professionalism they were greeted with. Most importantly, the kids enjoyed their time with us.
I have been lucky to have quickly found the perfect mix of teachers. We work closely together as a team and I think this is reflected in the spirit of the school and the actions of the kids.
Now a year on and we still have many of the students from launch day. We have been so impressed with the kids enthusiasm and talent. Who knows, maybe we do have the next Kylie or Home & Away star. We definitely have a beautiful group of kids who come together every Saturday and develop their skills in a really friendly and fun atmosphere.”
Our Australia adventure has confirmed that our brand is strong enough to transcend borders and cultures, that we are providing a unique product that gives children and young people the chance to shine wherever they live, whatever their abilities and however far they want to go with performing arts. But this kind of service-driven business can only succeed with very special people like Devina and all our UK-based franchisees.