After being a stay-at -home mom for seven years, Yvette Searle was looking for a new challenge and she says: “Drinking tea and playing tennis wasn’t an option.” She wanted to start more than a hobby, she wanted to own her own business.
Finding the Right Opportunity
Yvette attended a franchise exhibition to explore the various options available. She was interested in buying a Top Tots franchise, but knew that there was already one in her area. Having exhausted all other options, Yvette decided to give the franchisor a call to find out if there was any chance that the franchisee in her area was interested in selling her franchise.
As luck would have it, she was selling the business, which was quite a small operation at the time. Because of the size of the franchise and the fact that the franchisee was looking to sell fairly quickly, the franchise was “cheap to buy.”
Her Own Space
As the classes grew, space became an issue and it wasn’t ideal for her own kids to not be allowed to make noise while classes were on. She decided to build a new garage on her property and converted the existing double garage into a classroom. This also allowed her to grow the business to accommodate up to 12 children per class.
Getting the Word Out
While franchisees contribute to the franchise’s national advertising fund, Yvette also does her own marketing, placing ads in local newspapers and, together with the other Gauteng franchisees, exhibiting at relevant expos in the province. However, word of mouth has been the most effective marketing tool for her business.
A Working Schedule
Yvette organised her schedule around her kids, and this is a factor that attracted her to the franchise. Her kids attend government schools so she runs her classes during school terms. She has classes on four mornings per week and one on a Saturday.
She takes a Monday off to recoup and Fridays are spent doing prep for the next week’s classes, as well as admin. When she has classes, her day starts at 08h00 with preparation of the classroom. At 09h00 her first class begins and her last class is over at 13h30, when she dashes off to collect her daughters from school.
A Work/life Balance
“I have the freedom to be with my family, watch the kids play sport and I’m off during the school holidays,” explains Yvette. “I’m where I want to be with the classes,” she says, explaining that she is no longer driven to become the country’s biggest franchise.
Yvette’s franchise started out in a room at the back of her house and this suited her needs for about two years. “I started this franchise as more of a hobby. I didn’t need to make money from it, so any money I made, I could put back into the business.”
The business progressed quickly and after two years it became a medium franchise and then a large one with around 130 clients. Yvette’s competitive streak took over and she ended up as one of the top three Top Tots franchisees in the country.
In owning this franchise, Yvette had to overcome one of her biggest challenges: singing in public. She believes she is tone deaf and was quite shy about singing in her classes. But Top Tots requires its franchisees to conduct part of the class with the Tom-e clown puppet hanging around their necks.
Yvette says once she has the clown around her neck she feels less self-conscious. “One of the hardest things is to sing in public, but you have to do it.”
Like most other franchisees, Yvette believes in giving back to her community. She has between six and seven children with volunteers from the Door of Hope attending her classes without charge. “Watching these kids develop is a real eye opener to how much value there is with Top Tots,” she says.