Profile: Claire Bennett, Music Bugs

“I’ve found a way of providing a flexible, home-based business opportunity for women looking to improve their work-life balance. The highlight has been watching the business grow and flourish before my eyes.”

Could you explain a bit about what your business is?
We provide fun and interactive music and singing classes for the under 5’s via a national network of franchisees. More importantly, we provide a flexible, home-based business opportunity for women looking to improve their work-life balance.

When did you start your business?
We launched a franchise opportunity in October 2006.

What motivated you to start a business/become self-employed?
I started the classes myself in my home town of Swindon because there was a dearth of great music classes in the area. I have 4 children of my own a had very strong ideas of what I wanted from a music class. Having failed to find what I needed for my own family I decided to set the classes up myself and demand soared far beyond the level which I could cope with myself. So the idea to franchise was born.

Have you used any business support services and if so was this support useful?
I rely on the excellent support from my solicitor and franchise consultant to guide me through the minefield of business legislation. I have also used ACAS and Business Link on a number of occassions and have also found that the business support courses from HMRC have been excellent.

What are the highlights of being a business owner/self-employed?
Watching something that you have created, grow and flourish before your eyes. I also feel very honoured to be working alongside such a wonderful group of franchisees who are all inspirational in their own right.

Have you experienced any particular difficulties/challenges in starting a business?
On a practical level I have had to make a lot of adjustments at home as I am still home based and have 4 children here after school hours (but we manage!). When we first launched, we also had some legal disputes over trademark ownership but these have now thankfully been resolved. You live and learn!

Do you feel you have experienced any disadvantages in starting and growing a business becasue you are female?
Not really. The preschool activity market is predominantly female orientated anyway with a healthy level of competetiveness that keeps you on your toes.

Do you feel you have experienced any advantages in starting and growing a business because you are female?
I find that my own experiences as a woman and a mother helped me to build up a good rapport with the parents who attended my own classes in the early days. More lately, I now find I can relate to the exeriences of my own franchisees as essentially we are all trying to achieve the same thing. Motherhood and self employment (it can be done!!).

What key pieces of advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
Be professional from the outset and get as much business advice and support as you can. There are a lot of organistaions out there who will offer you free advice, so grab it! You also need to ensure that you have full support and understanding from your family and friends(especially if you are working from home). It is all too easy to be distracted by day to day household task and neighbours popping round for a chat. You need to make it quite clear that you are working. You also need to be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses and outsource those jobs that you might struggle with. If book-keeping and accountancy are not your thing for example, then pass it on to someone else.

Prowess archive 2009.

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