Jessica Chandler-Smith’s dream of opening a theatre school came to fruition in 2017 when she opened Razzamataz Brentwood. Within just five years, that dream multiplied and Jessica was able to also open Razzamataz schools in Romford, Hornchurch and Thurrock. This phenomenal growth was made even sweeter as her business partners are her sister and her best friend. This is her story.

In the beginning

I always wanted a theatre school and when the time was right, I looked at all my options. I was already running a dog grooming business and a children’s entertaining business, but my passion was in performing arts. I looked at many different options, including different theatre school franchises. When I met the team at Razzamataz, their ethos really spoke to me and I loved the family atmosphere and the emphasis on giving children confidence through the arts.

Describe the community at the schools

We are like one big extended family and do so much together. What I love is that we build people up and everyone has their own Razz cheerleader. This really helps students feel confident and supported and I love it when I’m out and about as I will pretty much always bump into a student or their family.

Business growth

I started with Brentwood in 2017 and within two years opened Hornchurch in 2019. However, we only opened a term when the pandemic hit and we had to rethink how we were going to run the schools. A part of this restructuring was my sister leaving her corporate role and joining as the joint Principal, which enabled us to also open Dagenham and she took on a role in Romford and Hornchurch as well. One of my team members Kasey also came on board to be the joint Principal of the Thurrock school.

Student achievements

We have three students this year who have gone to performing arts colleges, which is a massive achievement for us because we coached them through their auditions. We have students that are on the TV programme Milkshake most weeks, which they love and is great for our brand exposure. But what is the most special to us is that we’ve helped so many children with their confidence. We had one little student who took a term and a half to even say anything to us and now does three classes a week and the transformation has been outstanding. I say to friends that I feel like I have 800 children because they all mean so much to me.

Staff progression

Kasey started out with us around 2018 as a classroom assistant, progressing to become the singing teacher. We really clicked and I could see how committed she was, so I trained her up to be the assistant Principal before we opened Thurrock together. The Managers Training that Head Office provides has also meant that Paige in my team has been able to move through the ranks and has progressed from teaching assistant through to assistant Principal. It’s a lovely feeling being part of the progression for team members, and it means our Razzamataz family is constantly growing. Another bonus of progressing staff is that we retain that strong personal touch. No matter how big we grow, it is so important that we never lose that.

Stand out experiences

For the first time, our students will be performing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End and the lead up to it has been amazing. It’s been lovely for me because I’ve also choreographed and staged some of the numbers and it’s been lovely to get so involved with the children and unleash my creative side. I can already see how proud the students are, so it is going to be an amazing experience in November. We also took a team to Britain’s Got Talent, and they got to perform for the producers. Every year we take part in the Brentwood Christmas parade, in fact, we were the ones that introduced the parade and each year it gets bigger and better. During the summer, we also put on our first festival, Razz Fest. We hired bouncy castles, trampolines, had stalls and food tents and the children performed on the stage. It was a huge event so took a lot to organise, but we had the full support of Brentwood Council, and its success means that we will be doing it again next year.

Lessons learnt

Previously to Razzamataz, I’ve run businesses before but always by myself or just a few people. I’ve had to learn how to manage a big team and of course all the marketing that constantly needs to be updated to keep up with the changing times.

Building a lifestyle through franchising

Without the support and guidance from Head Office, I don’t believe I could have grown in this way. Being part of a franchise network like Razzamataz means there are always people there to help you take those big leaps, which you need to do in business. All the training from Head Office gives you the confidence to believe that you can do it and all the support from other franchisees gives you conviction that you should go for it.

Advice for others

Life is short so go for it if this is something that you really want to do. Believe in yourself and know that if you have the passion, with the support of Razzamataz, you will achieve. The great thing about a network likes ours is that everyone has different skill sets and we all learn and support each other so you never feel like you are alone.

Future plans

We are looking at further expansion in Essex including opening a school in Billericay. This will take us to seven schools, which is a massive achievement for our whole team. We are also looking at more events that will include all our Essex schools such as workshops with a performing arts celebrity, staff outings and training, Razz Fest and of course performing in the West End.

Join our team

We are looking for dynamic partners to own a Razzamataz Theatre School. If you are looking to make a difference in your local community to the lives of young people and you have a passion for performing arts, we would love to hear from you.

Re-sale opportunities

Occasionally franchise territories come up for re-sale due to a change in the franchisees’ personal circumstances or simply because they have decided to sell their asset and reap the rewards of their hard work. These re-sale schools very rarely stay on the market for long, so if you are interested, don’t delay in contacting us. Re-sale schools in:

  • Merseyside
  • Berkshire
  • Midlands

If you would like to find out more about our ambitious growth plans and be part of multi-award winning Razzamataz Theatre Schools network, drop Charlotte a line from our friendly Head Office team to book on to one of our virtual Discovery Dens.