When Andrew Green took on a franchise with technology education specialist ComputerXplorers, he had two very clear goals in mind. He wanted to run a business with his wife, Stephanie, that drew on each of their strengths. And while he was prepared to work hard, he wanted the business to fit around his life – not the other way around.
Two years later, the business is performing well. It was established part way through the academic year in 2015, but still achieved a £13,000 turnover. This tripled to £40,000 the following year and is expected to hit £70k by 2018. Andrew and Stephanie are both active in the business, and they have employed another five teachers to support them in the provision of coding and programming workshops across 18 primary schools.
Andrew and Stephanie brought a complementary skillset to the franchise. Andrew had previously inherited and managed a family business specialising in medical uniforms. Following a successful sale of that business, he worked as an actor and then a snooker coach for several years before exploring franchise opportunities.
ComputerXplorers immediately appealed to the couple. Andrew had fond memories of getting to grips with home computing as a child in the 80s. He felt energised at the prospect of helping post-millennial schoolchildren become creators, rather than simply consumers, of technology. And, as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant, Stephanie was passionate about education and enjoyed working with children.
Andrew’s previous experience in business management has been helpful, but he believes his acting skills have been an important factor in the franchise’s success to date.
"We often hold school assemblies to introduce pupils to ComputerXplorers and encourage them to join our afterschool clubs. I thrive on performing to an audience, so engaging children’s interest and getting them excited about computing comes very naturally to me. This extends into the workshops. Of course the children are learning and developing new skills, but they also have a lot of fun. This is especially important in afterschool clubs – the children have been in lessons all day, so we give them the freedom to be creative and follow their own interests within the framework of what we’re doing."
While Stephanie’s experience as an HLTA was valuable, Andrew says the beauty of franchising is that you don’t necessarily need prior experience of the industry you will operate in. A good franchisor provides all the required training and support. As long as you have plenty of passion and drive, the model offers a very effective and low-risk way to set up a new business. Andrew advises would-be franchisees to look carefully at how different franchisors operate. As a seasoned businessperson, he welcomed support and training, but didn’t want to be micromanaged. He feels that ComputerXplorers gets the balance just right.
"Our franchisor says that 'franchisees are in business for themselves, not by themselves' and this is exactly how it feels. We have chosen for the time being to operate in term time only, even though there is plenty of demand for holiday clubs in our territory. Many other ComputerXplorers franchisees run these clubs, but our decision not to has been fully respected. Besides which, we come back to work after the six week summer break fully refreshed and raring to go."
Andrew receives lots of positive feedback from teachers, parents and the children themselves. Some teachers are self-confessed 'technophobes' and ComputerXplorers can run workshops to help them embrace coding and programming more confidently in the classroom. Andrew recalls one incident when a teacher approached him because a child was feeling anxious ahead of a workshop.
"It turned out that the child was very keen to come, but had never been to an afterschool club before. In the end, he produced some truly amazing work, and the sense of achievement he felt was huge. It’s very rewarding to see individual children flourish, Stephanie and I love to hear about how they continue their learning when they get home. ComputerXplorers helps make computing skills more accessible to young children, and gives them a major advantage when they go on to secondary school."
Going forward, Andrew expects to spend less time in the classroom and more time building the business as it heads towards the £70k turnover milestone and beyond. He hopes to pass the franchise on to his own children in due course. With his daughter about to embark on a teaching career of her own, it seems that ComputerXplorers will be part of the Green family for some time to come.