I started Starr Tutoring (bear with me) in 2012 and although the company had grown considerably and we had a fantastic reputation, I was living my life in the middle lane of the motorway (metaphorically speaking). I never really pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
At the beginning of 2019, I declared that this was going to be the year of change. I do this most years, so I don’t think I really believed it and I don’t think anyone else did either.
Then I happened to see a post in a Facebook group I belonged to asking if anyone had ever considered franchising their business. I replied stating that it was a dream I had for “one day”.
She suggested we had a chat. She looked at my numbers and my business model and told me it would be perfect to franchise. We were so different from so many tutors; we had a unique selling point that would make it easy for people to grow and expand their own “Starr Tutoring Franchise”.
I mentioned this to my daughter and we both spent 5 minutes dreaming about what the future could hold before climbing back into the familiar comfort zone.
Days later, I arrived at a house for a lesson. The mum came home minutes later and said that the road into town had been closed. It looked like there had been an accident. That evening, I had a text from my son, (Jamie) who’s away at Uni saying that a close friend had been killed in that accident. It was his mum’s birthday and he’d been driving into the local town to buy candles for her cake. His car had been involved in a head-on accident and both drivers had been killed. He was just 21 years old.
When something like that happens, it makes you realise that we take tomorrow for granted. We must make the most of every opportunity.
Coincidently, a few days later, I was told that my mentor was changing as the previous one was leaving to build her own business. It turned out that, Michelle, my new mentor’s background was growing franchises.
I mentioned to her that one day I would like to franchise the company. And suddenly, the wheels were in motion.
I was indicating to get ready to move into the fast lane.
I was bombarded with things I had to do, and I worked hard to do these things. I grew my team and restructured my day.
Then in March I applied for a loan to pay for the franchise agreement. The bank turned me down, so I searched online for a different avenue. A company confirmed that they could help. There would, however, be a sign-up fee. Then a non-guarantor’s fee and then… I had fallen for a scam. It cost me nearly one thousand pounds.
My initial thoughts were to forget this and maybe try again in the future.
Then, a few days later I was speaking to my brother. A friend of his son had been hit on the head with a hockey ball during a match. He had succumbed to his injuries. He was just 13 years old.
Again, life was put into perspective. Losing the money was nothing compared to what that child’s family was going through.
I increased my hours, increased my fees and made the money back.
I paid for the franchise agreement and again things started racing forwards.
One of the next items on the list to be done was to register the company’s name for a trademark. The company was called Starr Tutoring because Starr was my maiden name. I was always proud to be Dawn Starr and it was also an acknowledgement to my Dad who was my hero but died from a fatal heart attack when I was just 16 years old.
My dream was rapidly becoming a reality. Having a clear goal is uplifting. It inspires and motivates you to get up and work hard.
Then in May, I had an email from the IPO (the Intelligence Property Office – the people who deal with trade marking) stating that someone might want to contest the name.
The application would take another month to complete.
I sought advice and was told that I should be fine. The 2 names were different, what we did was different. Although not trade marked, I had been using the name and had had it registered with Companies House for much longer.
I did and just a few weeks later, I had a letter saying that the name had been contested. I went back to those that had given me advise. To fight to keep the name could cost in excess of £20K and take over 2 years to resolve.
At this point I was tempted to take this as a sign to go back to comfort zone and give up on the idea.
A few days later I had a text from an aunt of a girl I tutor. Could they put the tutoring on hold for a couple of weeks as the mum had been involved in an accident.
2 weeks later, I had a message to say the mum had died from her injuries.
Again, life was put back into perspective. If I quit now what had it all been for.
I chose a new name: Clara James Tutoring (Clara and Jamie, my oldest 2 children) and the logo changed to an angel holding a book. Angel is my youngest daughter.
Here we are, in November. We have a new name and a company that is stronger than ever. We are proud of what we have achieved this year and look forward to becoming a national brand in 2020.
The Clara James Tutoring Franchise may not be for you. That’s fine. But life is short. Make the most of every day and if you have a dream, don’t leave it for one day, act on it today.
Make 2020 your year. But do something today to make that change.