My business story…Emma Enchanted

Emma Enchanted

November 14, 2016

Posted in:
Small Businesses
Business Stories

Character and children’s entertainment company founder, Emma Gerry, talks about how she created Emma Enchanted.

Tell us the Emma Enchanted story…
I’ve been involved with drama since I was about 6-years-old, when my mum got me involved in singing and acting to help my confidence a bit – I was very shy as a child. I’d been in all sorts of shows ever since.

When I was 19, I’d played Dorothy in a production of the Wizard of Oz and my auntie asked me to play Dorothy again at my 5-year-old cousin’s birthday party. Because I’ve been on stage so much it felt quite normal. I just acted as the character and played games with the children. The other mums at the party asked me if I’d do the same for their children’s parties, so I agreed.

I never set out to turn it into a business, but it snowballed! Now we have about 10 freelance performers who work for Emma Enchanted, which is great because we can offer different characters. They say they love it and it’s their favourite job!

How long have you been running Emma Enchanted?
Since 2011.

Have you run any previous businesses?
No, but I have just set up a new drama school with a performer I met through Emma Enchanted, called LE Performing Arts. Although it’s new, we’ve had a constant stream of people wanting to join. It’s fantastic.

What was your first job?
When I was 16 I got a job walking around the city centre giving people information about health tests. Because of my drama background I was quite confident to go up to people and talk about it. Still quite embarrassing though!

How did you fund your business in the beginning?
A mix of cash flowing and help from my mum. Mum is a great seamstress and she made the costumes at first. Due to demand we have bought costumes now, but it really helped at the time.

What was the biggest hurdle in the early days?
Having self-discipline as I was so young when I started. The amount of work it took meant I couldn’t really have a social life – my friends had no idea I was working so hard. Also, I was working full-time whilst setting it up, so time management was difficult.

What is the hardest part of running a business?
I find it quite easy, but the thing I find the hardest is being a manager. Overall it’s a very friendly business, but I still don’t like confrontation. It has got easier the longer I’ve done it though.

Who or what has been your biggest influence?
My family. My mum and dad encouraged me when it got hard, and even though they’ve never run a business, they always gave me advice. I couldn’t drive when I first started the business, so Mum used to drive me to bookings. They are very supportive.

How important is customer service to your business?
It’s very important. We offer a personalised service, and it’s different for every customer, so giving good service is the number one thing.

When did you realise you needed a telephone answering service?
At one point I went back to work part-time, just because I felt so isolated running a business from home on my own. But it meant I couldn’t answer the phone when a customer called. There’s so much competition that a customer had usually gone with someone else by the time I’d get back to them. Having the phone answered every time is really important.

Best business move?
Hiring other performers meant we could play more characters, which we couldn’t before.

Worst business move?
I did try to expand to Leeds (we’re currently based in Sunderland), but I forgot just how much work went into starting the business in the beginning, so we’ve parked it for now. One day we’ll expand to other areas.

What is your plan for the next few years?
Basically to continue to grow the business – keep hiring characters, grow the team, take more bookings.

What piece of advice would you give to a start-up?
There are lots of days you feel like giving up, but to be a success you’ve got to keep going though the peaks and troughs.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t running Emma Enchanted, I would be…
I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, but maybe I’d pursue a career on the stage.