The Swansea-based founder of Tiny Toes Ballet, the UK’s only pre-school ballet programme to be integrated with the Early Years Foundation Stage, has been shortlisted for a major UK business award.

Emma Morgan will travel to London on May 14 for to find out if she has won Best New Woman Franchisor of the Year the Natwest EWIF (Encouraging Women into Franchising) Awards. The awards bring together the best women in the industry to celebrate their successes.

Emma founded Tiny Toes Ballet in Swansea in 2011 and franchised the business in 2016. She now has eight franchises in various parts of the UK. She opened a franchise in London this month and is due to open three further franchises in Leicester, Stafford and Cambridge in June 2018.

“I began the company while working as a full-time primary school teacher,” says Emma. “Within six months of its launch I was teaching Tiny Toes ballet classes on both a Saturday and Sunday morning to keep up with the ever-growing demand.”

At this time, Emma had a 14 month old baby, was  expecting her second child and was working 7 days a week. As demand continued to grow she began to employ teachers and stopped working as a primary school teacher, to focus on the growth of Tiny Toes ballet.

“I franchised my company because it had grown so much that I couldn’t continue to expand and manage its growth,” she says. “I therefore investigated franchising and spent a great deal of time contemplating whether a franchise route would dilute the quality of my product.”

After careful research, she decided franchising was the best route for her business. Some of her existing teachers, committed to the product as its unique USP, were keen to open their own franchisees. Emma has made it her mission to stay closely in touch with every franchise, providing valuable guidance and support every step of the way.

“I am still passionate and determined that the quality of the lessons delivered to our pupils remains of the highest standard,” she says.

“It is for this reason that I have allowed the company to grown organically, just as it has from its very beginnings. I do not actively spend my time advertising for new franchisees, but instead spend time helping and supporting my existing franchise areas.”

She has also built the business with working mums in mind.

“The Tiny Toes franchise model has been developed to work as a full time or part time franchise,” she says. “Most of my current franchisees, like myself, have young children and want a part-time business that works around their family.”

Tiny Toes Ballet’s syllabus was carefully developed with both fun and learning as priorities.  A professionally trained Classical Ballet dancer, Registered Royal Academy of Dance teacher and experienced Primary School teacher, Emma has combined her extensive knowledge of how children learn with her dance expertises to create a curriculum that offers 16 different termly themes where children explore the world around them and ‘learn through dance’.

“Although Tiny Toes ballet is a creative dance syllabus, ballet is at the heart of our programme, because ballet is the foundation of all dance and where all other genres of dance are built from,” says Emma.

However, the classes are significantly different from “traditional” dance classes.

“Tiny Toes may be a dance class but it’s not all about demi plies,” says Emma. “We understand that the first years of life are a vital period for early brain development: 90% of a child’s brain development happens before the age of five. Movement is the gateway for all learning during the first five years of life because sensory, motor and social development precede language and logic skills. Children learn by playing and doing. Dance, in particular, integrates kinesthetic learning with understanding.

“We fill our classes with as many real sensations and activities as possible – no tapping an iPad here; instead, we might enjoy sandwiches for a teddy bears’ picnic or squish through foam as we go on a bear hunt. Our strapline is ‘learning through dance’ but that also means learning through play – something that Einstein once called the highest form of research.”

The classes are also unusual in starting from such a young age: they are open to children aged 6 months to 7 years.

“Just as babies are born with the ability to express themselves through movement, so they are born with the ability to express themselves through sound,” says Emma. “You can see their first gurgles as the beginning not only of speech, but also song, and as Tiny Toes teachers take their pupils through the tunes and patterns of favourite songs, they encourage them to use their voices and enter into the magical world of imagination and storytelling.”

Tiny Toes also caters for children with special needs. In March 2018, Emma and some of her teachers completed their ParaDance UK training. They will now be delivering their programme to children with disabilities and developing an inclusive Tiny Toes dance class that all children, regardless of their needs can access and attend.

In September 2017, Emma introduced the Tiny Toes ballet programme into mainstream and special needs schools.

“Franchisees now have the training and an extended programme which they can also deliver in schools creating further revenue their business,” she says.

Tiny Toes’ success has already made it to the finals of a clutch of awards, and Emma won South Wales Entrepreneur of the Year 2014. She is now thrilled to have made the final in the EWIF National awards.

“It’s great to have this recognition,” she says. “In December 2017 there were more than 900 franchise brands in the UK, with over 44,000 operating franchises. As far as I am aware there are no other children’s franchise companies which have been founded in Wales. There are many franchises that have be purchased and operate in Wales, but none whose head office is based in Wales. Whether we win or not, I am very excited to be representing Wales at these awards.: