Grace Francis is the founder of DramEd, a company that creates creative educational experiences for families and children. DramEd celebrates performers and aims to play a significant role in making space for performing arts in childhood education. The company incorporates DramEd Educators, which deliver classes that teach core subjects through performing arts. Since launch they have delivered over 600 classes to thousands of children.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I was an actress. I loved everything about being an actress, I just love the stage. I also worked in a call centre as a ‘bridge’ job whilst doing a nine month acting job at The National Theatre in London.
What drove you to start your own business?
As an actress I was doing quite well in my industry. I’d studied performing arts in college and university, started attending a drama school, got a great agent and was being put forward for big jobs in tv and theatre. However, I had became a parent before I started college and making ends meet whilst trying to make a successful career in the arts was extremely challenging, particularly the periods where I wasn’t booked for a job.
In 2009, I read a statistic that there were around 37,000 actors in the UK and 10% of actors are employed at any one time. so I knew I wasn’t alone in the struggle. Unemployment is a major cause of depression and anxiety amongst performers.
So many performers are working class and the most talented, gifted actors I have ever seen, yet their talents so often go untapped because they are not able to afford to put themselves out there. If the world doesnt get to witness the talents I have shared some drama spaces with, then the world is missing out. Equally, as I was already a parent I was bearing witness to the funding cuts and changes to access to the arts and in education.
I wanted to create a platform that builds a community of actors and creatives, that learn how to engage with children in educational settings through their natural gifts. The platform will allow them to flexibly earn through teaching, whilst making time for following their dreams; whilst inspiring children to do the same.
Tell us about the business planning stage.
I got in touch with The Princes Trust and through them, I wrote a business plan. They were great because they also paired me up with a mentor to work with. (I have deviated from that plan somewhat since then)
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I love planner diaries. I purchase a yearly planner diary at the start of each year, I have a large yearly whiteboard planner and a monthly whiteboard planner at home, I like to see everything in front of me.
I have a goal of reaching up to 26 countries in five years, but I have not mapped that out, although I do have ideas. Thats what keeps me motivated along with having clients. In terms of planning, I have an idea of what I want my life to feel like, I like freedom, expression, travel and being with loved ones. I like setting my goals in line with The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran.
Can you describe a typical working day?
I rise with my children at about 7am, my husband leaves for work at about 7.30am. I do the school run two- three days a week I go to the gym until 10am. I then head home or to the office to work, (I teach my own DramEd classes three mornings a week).
Some days I will have meetings, usually over coffee with a colleague or a friend, but generally, I spend a lot of time on my laptop (maybe too much time).
I collect the children from school at 3pm and between 3pm and 6pm I am on mummy duties; cooking, bath, dinner, reading
and bedtime. My husband arrives home at about 7pm and between 7pm – 10.30pm I complete my days work on DramEd!
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
I went on my honeymoon this year and business was still happening. We had very talented DramEd Educators running school and nursery workshops and they were happy and getting amazing feedback, I was nowhere in sight! I was on a beach with a mocktail, experiencing my dream on a small scale.
What has been your scariest moment?
I had a massive fear around hiring people and delegating. I just found it very hard, and it took me years. So doing that for the first time wasscary. To be honest anything that’s new and outside my comfort zone, I find really scary, but I know it’s got to be done.
How do you work on making your business grow?
This year I took a risk, I stopped teaching 70% of my classes so I could work on the vision of my business.
I knew my income was going to take a hit, but there has been a different form of growth that’s happened as a result of focusing on building my vision, which I couldn’t really see when I was in it all the time. Now I make sure I have that time to strategise.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
My children have always had me around. I’ve been there for their school runs, clubs, etc. I am in control of my time.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
Being in control of my own time doesn’t always mean I make the best choices with it! I have been guilty of prioritising the wrong things, such as housework, that’s when I got some office space.
It can also be quite isolating, so last year I co-founded a not-for-profit organisation called The Gaia Network. It’s our way of supporting women in business. \we meet up twice a month, I have made some great friends through the network.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I admire a lot of women and read a lot of their journey’s, I listen to lots of podcasts which has shaped my own journey so much over the years.
Recently, I have come to look for inspiration from Jessica Huie MBE, as I relate a lot to her journey and find her very inspiring, I admire Roni Savage, an engineer and a successful mother who I came across for the first time at The Precious Awards.
I am a mother of three boys and I find parenting very demanding as it often takes a lot of what I have to give, leaving me cramming in business wherever I can. So looking to inspiration from other mothers in business is important. I ended up following every woman I came across at The Precious Awards, it was truly a space to get inspired.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
Find ‘expanders’ for whereever you are struggling in your life.
Wherever you have low self-worth, go out and find people who you relate to, or who are doing similar things because they are out there. When your mind sees it, it will create new neurological pathways to help you achieve it, so much of who we are comes down to our conditioned beliefs.
I guess over the years this message is communicated in a lot of what I read, but The Expanded Podcast by Lacy Phillips has been a great weekly resource for me.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
Purpose by Jessica Huie
ToBeMagnetic.com by LacyPhilips
You are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I love to dance, particularly to soca and afro beats. I have started attending a sexy heels dance class which I love, it’s so nice to strut across the dance floor with other grown-ups, shout out to @soletosoulheels! I also like supporting friends, and have a few friends who are musicians and actors, so live music and theatre is always fabulous.
I have my yoga mat at home so I regularly dim the lights and go through a yoga sequence, quite often with a four-year-old climbing on my back, but hey ho!
DramEd was a finalist in the Start Up Business of the Year category at the 2019 PRECIOUS Awards.