Only the best pass the LIPA 4:19 audition

For some franchises there is significant financial temptation to expand rapidly. Yet LIPA 4:19 has adopted a stable and careful approach to its awarding process to protect the quality of the brand.

LIPA 4:19 is the stage school franchise of the renowned Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), which was co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty. It offers classes in acting, singing and dancing for children aged four to 19.

It opened its first franchise in September 2008 and has since embarked upon a strategy of steady and cautious growth, with franchises in London, across the North West and in Bulgaria.

Sammy Murphy, acting head of LIPA 4:19, says: “For us, it’s not about the number of franchises, it’s about choosing the right franchise owners. We have always generated lots of interest, but we’ve been very careful about who we award our franchises to.

“Our brand is a strong one because we’ve worked hard to build and maintain it, along with our franchise owners. We look for people that truly represent our brand and can provide the best teaching environment for children and then spend a substantial amount of time training them.”

LIPA 4:19 opened its latest academy in Ramsey on the Isle of Man in January. Dance teacher Laura Walkom opened the academy after the subject was cut from her school’s curriculum, meaning that she no longer had a job and that her students had nowhere to learn dance. After her students launched a Facebook campaign to save the classes and her as a teacher, she knew there would be demand for a LIPA 4:19 franchise.

Sammy says: “Laura was an ideal candidate for a franchise as she has a strong performing arts background and a good head for business, and that’s what we look for. She had done lots of research and was confident that there is real demand for performing arts education on the island.

“This was evident when she received hundreds of enquiries before opening and she is planning to open three academies in the next 10 years. This talent and enthusiasm, coupled with the strength of our brand, is the perfect mix for a thriving franchise.

“What’s fundamental to our success is the standard of what we’re offering – we’re the only stage school franchise that’s linked to an established performing arts school, while our academies are designed to complement, develop and enhance themes within the key stages of the National Curriculum.

“That’s what makes it so attractive for students and their parents and many of our franchise owners reported strong enquiries and enrolment numbers at the start of the year. Indeed, our franchise in Knutsford, Cheshire enrolled 12 new students in January for the new term.

“We’ll continue with this approach to ensure that the LIPA 4:19 brand is the strongest it can be and that we’re offering the best possible performing arts education across all of our franchises.”

It costs £13,500 to set up a LIPA 4:19 franchise with the earning potential of a £65,000 turnover in the first year of operation.