Updated: Oct 23
Katherine joined Nature Makers in Summer 2022 to operate a Franchise in the North of Tyne area. She left a successful teaching career, moving her family from London to Newcastle and joined Nature Makers. The below article is all Katherine's words.
I worked as a geography teacher in London for 13 years in various roles, including Head of Department and Lead Practitioner for Geography in a multi academy trust. I loved teaching in so many ways, but once my son was born I found it increasingly difficult to have a work-family life balance.
I was becoming frustrated with some aspects of teaching and felt that the focus on exams and attainment robbed a lot of the fun out of learning. I tried hard to make sure my students (overwhelmingly from a fairly deprived area of London) experienced trips to rivers, the coast and countryside, and had the chance to ‘run free’ within the bounds of field trips and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. Having my flexible working request denied and returning to work effectively demoted was the last nail in the coffin.
I have always loved being outdoors, particularly taking long meandering walks in the parks or the countryside. My son was a ‘Covid baby’ so when he came along, we had no choice but to do all our exploring and socialising outside. I worried about this at first, but there was definitely a moment when I realised that not being allowed to mix indoors didn’t have a negative effect on him, quite the opposite. Around the same time, I suffered with post-natal depression/anxiety, which led me to learn more about mental health and mindfulness and the benefits of nature for our mental health. I also realised how valuable it is for new mums to have a group of similar people to interact with as more than ‘just’ a mum.
Why a children’s franchise?
I’d started thinking about alternative careers, knowing that I definitely wanted to work with children and their families. Nearly every option that appealed to me (nursing, midwifery, social work, play therapy, youth work, counselling) had similar problems to teaching in terms of a tricky work-life balance, yet seemingly similar benefits in terms of job satisfaction. I was really lost as to what I could possibly do.
One day, when toddler classes had restarted, I turned to my friend in a Singing/Acting class and said ‘I wish this was my job.’ At the time, I was half joking, but it sowed a seed. As much as I loved taking my son to the class, the reason I took him there was it filled a void in my skill set and gave him something I couldn’t. Realistically I am not cut out to be an Imaginator, however fun it looks. I also definitely don’t have space for all those props in my tiny house.
I started researching different children’s franchises. I was still pretty sceptical that it could actually become a viable career and I was scared.
I stumbled upon Nature Makers and loved the sound of the classes. I organised a meeting with Faye, who was completely lovely and I definitely felt like we clicked. I also went to one of her classes at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens (roughly 100 miles away!) with my son. I remember saying to my husband ‘I really hope this is as good as I think it will be because if not I’ll be devastated!’ Thankfully, it was awesome (so was Faye) and I left really inspired and excited for the future.
Fast forward six months and I have moved to the other end of the country and set up Nature Makers in the north east. I absolutely love my job and couldn't be happier.
Here are some of the questions that I had before I took on the Franchise:
What will my week look like?
One of the amazing things about a franchise is that you can organise your work to fit around the rest of your life. At the moment, I’m working 3 days a week, with community classes in the mornings and nursery classes in the afternoons. I also do some one off events, e.g. in the school holidays, or weekend festivals.
Will I still get to plan exciting activities of my own?
Faye is incredibly organised, so there is a curriculum to follow and resources to use, but she also encourages us to be creative and put our own stamp on the activities which I love, as it means I don’t think I will ever get bored.
Will I actually make any money?
In the first few months, you will probably need to invest most of your profits into marketing, advertising and buying materials. However, after 3 months I was consistently making a profit and I’m now in a position to pay myself a wage each month.
Compared to me teaching 3 days a week, we are actually better off financially. Yes, the money I earn is less but because I can work school hours to suit my family life, our childcare bill is drastically reduced, so my ‘take home pay’ is more. I also think this will improve as the business grows.
* Update - by only 9 months Katherine has taken on a Freelancer to run extra classes due to significant demand and continues to see profits grow.*
I don’t know anything about marketing - will I be able to do it?
Definitely yes. Faye gives you training on how to market the business and has lots of resources including poster templates to help you. Facebook is your friend here, but even if you aren't a Facebook whizz, you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
I don't feel like an artist
Definitely not a problem. As long as you love nature, like a good craft and get on well with people, you’ll be good enough!
Do I have the right skills?
I really worried about this one, but honestly, teaching sets you up so well for running a business. This is what I’d say all teachers can already do:
Keep records - you do reports, registers, data all the time as a teacher
Communicate - You will already be able to talk to just about anyone and will be really diplomatic.
Be flexible - If you can cope with a wasp in the classroom, you can cope with anything unexpected in a Nature Makers class.
Be inclusive - You’ll have had loads of practice adapting lessons for children with SEN so it will come as second nature.
Plan- I bet you will spend less time doing this than you did teaching.
Advertise - I reckon you’ve probably done your fair share of that at Open Evening.
Tax - teaching isn't that helpful for this one, but QuickBooks is!
Taking on a Nature-Makers Franchise is honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. I love how I am my own boss and can focus on the things that are important to me. However I would never have been brave enough to set up on my own, and being part of a Franchise gives me a community to learn within."
Katherine has done amazingly well because she gave it her all from day one and with our guidance and support has succeeded in not only being highly profitable but also in achieving that work life balance that she was looking for.
If you are considering leaving Teaching and running your own business/Franchise then find out more about what Nature Makers can offer you on our Franchise Opportunities page here.