A star on the rise

Principal Michael Da Silva Pearce talks about how he started his LIPA 4:19 Wanstead London franchise and the success that it is today

LIPA 4:19 is a part-time performing arts academy offering a management franchise that provides classes to those aged between four and 19 in singing, dance and drama. Since its launch in 2003, it has managed to encourage children’s creativity across the UK, giving them the confidence to perform and learn in a fun, relaxed environment. It was these principles that first attracted Michael to the franchise and he knew then it was what he had been searching for. Michael says: “I am not sure that I had any clear criteria when I started looking but when I came across LIPA, I immediately recognised that I had the skill set necessary to be successful in this venture.”

Even though Michael did not necessarily have any clear objectives to his research, you must be sure that you are indeed the right fit for the franchise and you feel reassured that the franchise is a proven and trusted system worth investing in and that the franchisor will give you all the training required to get you started. Michael had five days worth of training. “I also visited schools that were already operating,” he recalls. “The training was very supportive. I think LIPA recognised what I had to bring to the business and worked around that, filling in any gaps and answering any questions.”

Michael already comes from an extensive background in teaching and still works as a teacher today, but running his LIPA franchise part-time allows him to generate extra income on top of his teacher wage for his retirement. “I have always been in teaching; and still work full-time in a local secondary school. Being in my last decade before retirement, I am looking to maximise on my teaching pension before leaving the profession completely. My background is music, and in the first part of my career I worked as a music teacher and Head of the Music department. I now work on the special needs side of mainstream education. Being a key role in a large successful school has equipped me with many skills that I have taken to LIPA to develop both the business and the teaching ethos of the academy.”

Although having an interest in music and the performing arts is helpful for running a LIPA 4:19 franchise, having a background in this area is not necessary. It is down to the person and what their vision is for a LIPA franchise. Michael explains: “I think you have to be goal orientated. You need to know from the outset what you want your academy to look like and start as you mean to go on. You need to know what you are working towards and establish routines that will set the foundation for when the business expands. You set yourself small achievable goals and work towards those no matter what.”

Michael has proved that he can achieve his goals and since the launch of his franchise back in 2009, the number of classes has doubled in size, so much so that Michael just opened a second academy and has future plans to grow things even further. “We have just expanded the academy by doubling the number of classes and running two parallel academies side by side. These are steadily growing towards full capacity but there is still more work to be done in this area. If this is successful we may look at running an afternoon session. We are also looking at running specialist classes during the week such as ballet and tap.”

Michael has thoroughly loved running the LIPA franchise, he didn’t know when he started what a change it would make to his lifestyle but he certainly doesn’t regret his move into franchising. “I had always been interested in running my own business and liked the idea of being my own boss but the great thing about franchising is that it is a secure way of getting started without having to go it alone from the outset. Unlike today, I didn’t have the business know-how required but franchising has given me the confidence in business for now bigger aspirations.”

While he now runs two franchises, Michael expressed how it’s hard to believe how he started and what his franchise has now become. “The first term or two, it didn’t seem real at all but bit by bit it starts to take on a life of its own and become an established part of the community. Everything you put into place at the beginning becomes routine to the point where it almost runs itself. There is the odd moment when you step outside of yourself and are able to look in on your work, and you suddenly realise you made it happen. Such moments are immensely satisfying.”