Emma McCalla -John had a twenty-year career as a teacher, working with children of all ages including those with additional and complex educational needs. Now Emma provides creative arts and crafts classes for toddlers, children, families and adults in Birmingham in and around Harborne, Bearwood, Edgbaston, Quinton, Bartley Green, Woodgate, Kitwell and Frankley.
Here’s Emma's story
Why did you want to work for yourself?
I really wanted to be creative and have a great work-life balance. Challenging myself to run a creative business was something I wanted to achieve and be proud of doing something I'd never done before. Something to be really proud of!
My husband Marcus has always been fully supportive of my business, he even helps out occasionally with Arty Parties. My daughter Hannah is 20 years old and is happy that I am happy running The Creation Station. She thinks all the creative activities look a lot of fun but generally likes to keep her perfectly manicured nails away from the paint and glue!
It’s a big step to run your own business what made you decide it was right for you?
I really wanted to own and run The Creation Station from the moment I saw their stand at The National Franchise Show at the NEC. I did lots of research regarding whether it could be a viable business opportunity and talking with my family reassured me that I should go for it. It was a little scary and there was a cost implication however I'm so glad I took the chance and just went for it.
What steps were involved when checking the Creation Station was right for you?
I attended a Discovery event, back then they were physical events, and now it’s much easier as they are online. My first impression was a warm welcome from the head office team along with a well organised setup and event. I was pleased to chat with current franchisees. I was pleasantly surprised to see the owner of the franchise there. Sarah is passionate about the business and explained how she was, and still is fully active in striving to make The Creation Station the best it can be.
What was your training like?
My training week was amazing! My fellow trainees were great and we had a fun filled week. Lots of informative business training, lots of creating, and lots of chatting too! The support I have received over the last 3 and half years has been invaluable. Nothing is too much trouble and head office are always happy to answer even the smallest of queries.
You’ve been running your business successfully and continued through the pandemic. What was that like?
It's been a challenge and at the start of the pandemic, I really couldn't imagine how I was going to continue to run my business. I always have a positive attitude when it comes to running the business and my motto is: 'There's always a way!', which served me well as head office put lots of effort into making the business find lots of solutions for us to run our business safely during the pandemic. We swapped all face-to-face sessions to online sessions, provided customers with craft packs, and ensured that we stayed at the forefront of people's minds when it came to creativity. I was so nervous running online sessions and of course I still love the interaction face to face, however, I'm now really confident using Zoom and it feels great knowing I can still inspire people online. It’s actually created new income stream for me, so that’s been very positive.
There is tons of support but during 20202 it really was incredible. We were provided financial support as well as practical and emotional support. We have all had access to weekly Zoom catch-up meetings, fortnightly Zoom masterclass meetings focusing on growing our business. Access to our BDM for 1-1 support on our goals, regular regional meetings to look at specifics for our area. Also, a host of assets for use on our social media platforms. Access to other business training such as Entrepreneurs Circle and as always head office is only a phone call away – whatever it takes, we’ve had that support. Also as a team, we have supported each other and that has been lovely too.
Running any business during the Pandemic takes resilience, guts, and courage! How has it felt running a franchise business rather than doing this by yourself?
You really do need a positive attitude during times of challenge. Running a franchise means that even if you have a bad day, there's always someone there to help. Stuck with something? You just need to ask and between us, we can work it out and make things happen. I think we can all imagine how isolating and unsure things have been for businesses, however running a franchise equals, support, friendship, accountability, and positivity.
Providing creative experiences provides so many benefits. Can you share a story of how your classes have helped someone?
There are SO many lovely stories! Here’s a story about Khyra and Rumi. They have been taking part in my Create Club sessions online since Summer 2020. They are best friends and prior to Covid- 19 restrictions, I worked with them, providing bespoke creative activities to suit their needs.
Neither of the boys work well in large groups and at the start of lockdown Rumi also had terrible social anxiety using Zoom, which impacted his school work and self-confidence. The boys really enjoy Create Club where they feel happy and safe to create. They are curious about the products and experiment with the theme to create unique pieces of art. These fun online experiences have helped them engage far more with the whole online learning. It has been wonderful to see their development and a real privilege to support them as they are ACE!
You’ve supported so many people through the pandemic with your creative activities Emma. What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my attitude and resilience. I have spent a lot of time focused on connecting with individual and businesses who I can work with now and in the future. I have also upskilled myself on different aspects of business, using my time to read and research.
I’ve learnt that I am resilient, I am adaptable and I have a great business that people want to work alongside me with.
How is 2021 looking for you?
I have set myself some challenging goals this year which I am chipping away to achieve. I have a focus on events for the next 12-18 months and am looking forward to doing more online and face-to-face events. I’ve already got 11 after schools set up and enquiries and booking are coming in. I think we’ve all learned the value of positive experiences and doing things with others. So I’m very excited about the future. I think it’s going to busy!
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