Razzamataz Theatre Schools has announced the winners of its Franchisee of the Year Award 2011 and its New Franchisee of the Year.

Shelly Fitzgibbon (pictured), the owner of Razzamataz Wokingham and Woodley, was awarded the Franchisee of the Year due to her passion and dedication to the arts and her students. The winners of New Franchisee of the Year, Lisa and Neil Roberts, owners of Razzamataz Rickmansworth, were presented with the award due to how well they have taken to the business.

The Razzamataz Awards were set up to highlight outstanding schools and franchise owners and to reward the individuals who have made an exceptional commitment to the company. Denise Hutton-Gosney, Founder and Managing Director of Razzamataz, said: “Shelley has had huge success in both her territories within her first year in business and runs her business with the utmost professionalism and determination to do the very best by her students and the ethos of Razzamataz Theatre Schools.”

When choosing the winner of the New Franchisee of the Year award, the judges looked for individual franchise owners who excelled in many areas of the theatre school business including those who showed initiative in combating the effects of the general downturn, meeting deadlines in the creative and business side of the schools and maintaining a healthy turnover – all very difficult for a new business. “Lisa and Neil have really left no stone unturned and their attention to detail has meant that they have made a huge success of their new business, which is no mean feat in this challenging financial climate,” added Hutton-Gosney. “Their understanding of PR and Marketing has allowed them to launch with multiple Razz Minis classes on day one of trading and their school has grown beyond expectations in just over one term.”

For Mrs Roberts the Razzamataz Theatre Schools franchise appealed as it offered the ability to run her own business with the flexibility to fit around her family life. She said: “It has been particularly special to me that I have found a career I absolutely love, but more importantly, one that fits around my children. I put my acting career on the back burner so I could concentrate on brining up my two boys, but finding work that would fit around school hours has always been so hard. Razzamataz has worked perfectly for me and I am very grateful to the Razzamataz team who has helped us so much. Neil is still able to continue with his acting career as he can support the work we do while away from home although he does hate missing seeing everyone on a Saturday morning.”

The couple’s Razzamataz Rickmansworth franchise opened in September 2011 and now has approximately 96 students and growing. The school’s highlights include: performing at the Rickmansworth Starlight Parade in November with over 50 students and the end of term presentation for the parents, with amazing feedback about how impressed they were with the progress of their children. Although in its infancy, students from Razzamataz Rickmansworth have already won roles in an opera and two films.

For Fitzgibbon, who launched her first Razzamataz location in 2010, the business has become a major part of her life and she says that it is the most rewarding job she has ever done, even compared to being a professional performer in London’s West End. “Don’t get me wrong it has been very hard work but I have never had a day when I have woken up and thought ‘Uh it’s Razz today’. My husband, family and our neighbours have all caught the Razz Bug and are now very much involved in supporting our shows. Receiving Franchisee of the Year is almost as exciting as getting married last year and that takes some beating.”

As well as launching Razzamataz Wokingham in September 2010, Fitzgibbon has also opened Razzamataz Woodley in September 2011. In total the schools have more than 150 students with many of them already enjoying professional work. Fitzgibbon negotiated a Sky TV contract for 10 children who will appear on a new show called Ballooniverse, which is part of the Cartoon Network.

Several of Fitzgibbon’s students were also chosen for professional pantomimes, two were invited to attend a glittering party held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to celebrate their success at winning a prestigious scholarship held in association with The Stage newspaper and 13 students passed the Bronze Arts Award. Having worked in theatre for over 10 years Fitzgibbon has been able to draw upon professional contacts. Her schools have had Master Classes from West End performers from ‘Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Mamma Mia’, as well as a stunt workshop.

To become a Razzamataz franchise owner it is not necessary to have a performing arts background or to have run a part-time theatre school previously, however you must have a real passion for the performing arts and love working with young people. The Razzamataz team provides a fully comprehensive training week that will cover all aspects of the business from how to find the most dynamic teachers to sorting the accounts and even PR and Marketing.

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