Anne-Marie Martin, founder of diddi dance, explains how she discovered her ‘why’ and used it to create the ideal job for herself – and many others.
I did my degree in dance a long time ago (no need to mention dates here!) and went on to perform all over the world. It was an amazing experience, but eventually the time came to think of a more stable and secure way of life. Having always been self-employed, I was used to hustling for contracts and work, and I had studied teaching in my final year of university, so I decided to search for dance teaching jobs. I travelled all over London from one class to another. Teaching dance to all ages was fun, but most of the work was in the evenings and at weekends.
It was then that I found a daytime play leader role from Monday to Friday, working with under 5s. And I loved it. During my time at this job, parents and childminders would often ask me about preschool dance classes. They knew I’d been a dancer and told me I should start up a class for little ones. I was unsure what I could teach to toddlers, but they took matters into their own hands and booked me a venue! I planned a rough 45-minute structure and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was completely different to any other dance classes I’d taught.
I knew this was my why. My passion. I loved seeing their firsts. Their first glimmer of confidence, the first time they held another’s hand, or the first time they galloped with me. It also made me realise the responsibility that now lay with me, for this first impression and first experience of a dance class was placed on me.
As the weeks and months passed, I loved the sessions, and the children and their grown-ups did, too. What started as a single class soon grew, so I decided to explore other areas. They were thankfully successful, and it was then that I realised this could be a business idea. I could turn my passion into my future career! I was aware that I had no business or marketing qualifications and no financial knowledge; I would have to learn from scratch, but the passion drove me through. The people who came to the classes enjoyed what I was doing, and supported my mission and ethos.
After three years, I decided to explore franchising. I’d not long met my now-husband and I spent early dates with him either in tears or zoned out, panicking about the money I was spending and all the work I had to do! But his support was amazing and that, paired with my drive and passion, got it off the ground. I launched my first three pilot franchises, and all three still run today.
The diddi dance network is now at 43 franchisees all over the UK, from Glasgow to Plymouth. To this day, I try to instil in them the passion that is needed to run a business. You have to figure out your why, and what made you take on the franchise. Franchising means local people can run their own local businesses; they are the face in their local communities and they make their own revenue that pays for their lifestyle. My passion is now not only getting children moving and setting healthy habits early in life, but also helping other people to find their why.
To find out more about Diddi Dance franchises, visit www.diddidance.com/franchise/