Ten years ago, Ashlea Bateup became Little Voices’ second franchisee in London when she moved to the capital from her native North East.
In her early twenties at the time, she was (by her own admission) wholly inexperienced in business, in an unfamiliar location, and trying to break into a highly competitive market.
She had only three students when she launched Little Voices South West London at St Mary’s Church on Putney High Street.
Today, supported by a team of 10 amazing tutors, her business spans two territories that incorporate most boroughs in South West London: Putney, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Chiswick, and Richmond upon Thames.
Blazing the trail
Ashlea has been something of a trailblazer for Little Voices. “As I started to develop an intimate working knowledge of the area,” she explains, “and based on both my own experience and feedback from parents, it became clear to me that in order to succeed long term in London – an area of particularly high overheads and very different parental needs, combined with challenging logistical problems – I’d need to do things a bit differently.”
So in 2018, Ashlea championed a new school partnership model that would work in the London schools. The results of those, both in our flagship location and Ashlea’s territories, were so good that they now form a core part of our Little Voices offering nationally.
Five years later, with a staggering 11 school partnerships, alongside a range of classes in 3 public centres within a community setting which are open to all children in the surrounding area, more than 180 children and young people are coming through the doors of Little Voices South West London every year.
Look at them now!
“One of those children, Anna, first started coming along to Little Voices in Putney 8 years ago when she was just 4 years old,” Ashlea recalls. “Now aged 12, she’s about to take her Grade 4 LAMDA exam with us!”
Another little girl who used to go to lessons when she was in primary school has since moved to Australia, but her mum emailed Ashlea about a year ago with feedback on how she was getting on and to share what Little Voices had done for her.
Here’s what she said.
“She was young in her school year, dyslexic, and shy. The drama classes with Little Voices totally transformed her. She is now confident and happy to do talks in front of the class, she has no trepidation with public speaking, and has a great love of acting on the stage.
“Learning lines each week improved her reading, and enhanced her concentration and short-term memory, which had been a problem at school.
“I really cannot sing Little Voices’ praises enough! She made some great friends and loved attending her class each week, for several years. The tutors that ran the classes were incredibly kind, patient, and inspirational.
“The small class numbers gave the children space to express themselves freely and to feel valued and cared for, while the LAMDA exams were a fantastic bonus, which gave my daughter great positive challenges.
“I’ve always meant to write and thank you for the wonderful experience of being a member at Little Voices in Fulham. It was by far the best club either of my children were ever a part of, and there have been many, many clubs over the years. Thanks for the totally transformative experience for my daughter!”
Juggling business with motherhood
Now a mum to a 6-month-old baby, how is Ashlea managing to juggle business and motherhood?
“I put a number of structures in place before George was born which meant I was able to step back for several weeks after giving birth knowing that my business was ticking over without me. Six months later, I do find myself trying to catch up on emails when George is napping or before he wakes. But I’m lucky to have such a supportive business network around me, both within my tutoring team and our school partnerships, which helps massively.”
It’s clear that what Ashlea has in spades is an entrepreneurial instinct, a passion for business, and an enviable drive & determination.
And it’s this potent combination that’s enabled her to weather the lows and highs of the past 10 years and finally achieve her business dream.
We reckon she’s smashed it!
To find out more about Little Voices in your area, or to book a free trial class, just contact your local Little Voices office.
And if you’re interested in exploring more about our franchise opportunities, you can download a copy of our franchise prospectus here.