High five for babyballet as dance franchise celebrates quintet of award nominations

August 29, 2018

A Halifax-based ballet business which has multiple franchises across the world has been shortlisted for no fewer than five industry awards. Babyballet has been nominated in the ‘What’s On 4 Little Ones 2018 Awards’ for the Best Product Supporting Children’s Activities, twice for Most Outstanding Activity Leader for U5s in the South East and London categories, and for Best Franchised/Licensed Baby and Toddler Activity (more than 50 franchises).

Founder of babyballet, Claire O’Connor, is also a finalist in the Industry Champion of the Year category of the awards which is in its 12th year and is the UK’s leading and longest established awards for the sector. A massive 70,000 customer votes were cast in total with the Industry Champion of the Year gong voted for exclusively by high-profile industry judges.

“I am so happy for babyballet to be recognised in so many categories. It’s even better to see individuals highlighted for their brilliant work across our franchises and these nominations are a testament of the hard-work from our staff,” said Claire.

“I am overwhelmed to be shortlisted for the Industry Champion award, it’s something I never expected but I’m so happy to be amongst such fantastic leaders in the industry.”

Claire and the babyballet brand are no strangers to being recognised, having won numerous awards including ITV Mumpreneur, Best Business Parent at the Mum and Working Awards, Loved by Children Awards (2018), Loved by Parents Awards (2017), Women in Business’ Retail Business (2015), Halifax Courier Young Business Person (2007) and Entrepreneur (2008). Claire also featured in a Channel 4 documentary ‘Big Ballet’ exploring issues of size in the world of ballet.

Babyballet was founded in 2005 to create a dance experience for six months to six-year-olds to dance, gain confidence and shine, in a fun, caring and supportive environment, away from the traditional strict and serious 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.

Over 25,000 children now enjoy babyballet on both sides of the world every week. Claire, 45, is currently on a 12-month trip with her husband Chris, 43, and three of their four children, Charlie, 14, Claudia, 12, and 10-year-old Kitty as they visit the likes of Canada, America and Japan to look into expanding the babyballet brand even further.

The ‘What’s On 4 Little Ones’ award winner’s ceremony takes place on October 3 at NatWest in Bishopsgate, London.

Source: Halifax Courier

Tiny Toes: Swansea teacher offers ballet to babies

May 15, 2018

In 2011, Swansea primary teacher Emma Morgan had nothing but £1,000 and a distant dream of running her own ballet school.

She also had a toddler, with a second child on the way.

Seven years later and her eight Tiny Toes preschool ballet franchises have seen her nominated as one of NatWest’s businesswomen of the year.

On Monday in London, she will find out if she has won in the Encouraging Women into Franchising category.

Her schools teach expressive dance skills to children from Leeds to London and four more are in the pipeline.

Ms Morgan believes the key to success is passion more than business, adding: “I went away to ballet school from 11 and gave my entire life to it.

“But in the end I felt like a robot, training my body to perform mechanics for other people’s enjoyment.

“I trained as a ballet teacher as I thought my education would have been a waste otherwise.

“But it wasn’t until I realised my six-month-old was already using the same movements and sounds as a way of expressing emotion that I had the idea which made me fall back in love with ballet.”

Two babies sitting up and holding rattles at a Tiny Toes classImage copyright EMMA MORGAN
Young children learn new skills through play

She believes, rather than being strictly regimented, ballet should be a form of play.

This can then teach under-fives sensory, motor and social skills at a time when 90% of their brain development is taking place.

Dance routines see the children act out preparing sandwiches for a teddy bears’ picnic and squishing through foam to go on a bear hunt.

The curriculum has been adapted for children with sensory, learning and physical disabilities in conjunction with ParaDance UK and will soon be offered in primary schools.

As the business quickly mushroomed, Ms Morgan realised she could not manage it all herself.

“I was working seven days a week, teaching classes from Swansea to Abergavenny and then I started getting requests in England,” she said.

A boy and a girl at a dance classImage copyright EMMA MORGAN

“I didn’t want to manage dozens of employees, so franchising the brand seemed logical, but then again I didn’t want to dilute the quality.

“That’s why it’s easier to get in the SAS than to become a Tiny Toes Franchisee; I don’t advertise, I only accept the best teachers who approach me and I provide all the training and lesson plans.

“You could say I might have grown quicker if I’d have been less fussy, but for me the business is nothing without the vision.”

In being nominated for the award, she was praised for the women-friendly nature of her model, which offers part and full-time franchises to fit in around family demands.

Though her ambitions by no means end there.

“Amy Dowden from Caerphilly became the first Welsh professional on Strictly [Come Dancing] last year and she’s promised to come down and do a workshop with some of our classes. But I’ve got my eyes on another Strictly star.

“Deborah Meaden was a contestant in 2013 and clearly loved her dancing, so if a Dragon ever did want to get involved in Tiny Toes… I’m in!”

Source: BBC