Greetland-based Claire O’Connor has embarked on a year-long global tour to expand her babyballet business.
And she’s been joined on the worldwide odyssey by husband Chris and three of their four children – Charlie, 14, Claudia, 12, and 10-year-old Kitty. Eldest son Harry has stayed at home to continue his university studies.
Claire used a world map and some wool and pins to chart a “family wish list” of places to visit – combined with ideal locations to set up new franchises for babyballet such as Canada, the USA and Japan.
Claire and the kids joined up with Chris in Canada, where he is a sports analyst working for rugby league team Toronto Wolfpack.
Now in Toronto, she is actively looking for opportunities to set up franchises in Canada.
Claire and Chris are home schooling the children during their 12-month travels.
Babyballet is one of the fastest growing franchise businesses in the UK. Claire founded the business in 2005 to create a dance experience for children aged six months to six years in a fun, caring and supportive environment away from the traditional dance classes often associated with ballet.
With 74 franchises currently in the UK, Claire successfully expanded the business into Australia and New Zealand last year, establishing 33 new franchises Down Under – with more in the pipeline. More than 25,000 children now enjoy babyballet in the UK and Australasia every week.
Claire worked with her mother Barbara Peters, a registered Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) teacher and former RAD examiner, to develop babyballet’s syllabus and teacher training programme for franchisees to follow.
“The successful expansion of the business into Australia and New Zealand made me realise that if I can do it there, I can do it anywhere in the world,” said Claire. “With Chris already in Toronto, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to join him and look into expanding over there, as well as other countries.
“It’s going to be an adventure of a lifetime and will enable me to take babyballet across the globe and build the brand on an international level. I can’t wait to meet dance school owners and teachers who are keen to bring babyballet to children in their local areas.
“Being able to involve our children is amazing and they are so excited to go, learn and experience new things. It’s not going to be an easy ride, but we’re all in it together and can’t wait to set off.”
Claire and the babyballet brand have won numerous awards including ITV Mumpreneur and Best Business Parent at the Mum and Working Awards. She also featured in Channel 4 documentary Big Ballet exploring issues of size in the world of ballet.
Claire has set up a blog – livingourglobaldream.com – where people can follow the family’s adventures over the next 12 months as she takes the next step in turning babyballet into a worldwide franchise business.