RACHEL Martin’s baby classes are booming – or should that be blooming?

The mum-of-two loved the activity sessions her own children attended when they were small so much that she decided to purchase a franchise and run the classes herself!

Here, in our latest Business of the Week feature, Rachel tells us what it was like starting out in a competitive market mid pandemic and her expansion plans for 2024.

If you would like your business to feature as Business or Trader of the Week, email heidi.summerfield@newsquest.co.uk

Bloom Warrington and St Helens & Wigan owner Rachel Martin

Bloom Warrington and St Helens & Wigan owner Rachel Martin

What’s your full name?

Rachel Martin

What’s the name of the business?

Bloom St Helens & Wigan and I have just purchased Bloom Warrington

What’s the address?

Various venues around St Helens and Wigan - Ruskin Sports Village, Haydock Conservative Club, St Anne’s Social Club in Sutton, Prescot Methodist Centre, Upholland Methodist Church, St Wilfrid’s Parish Hall in Standish and Jigsaw’s Adventure Play in Pemberton. I’ve just taken over at Warrington venues – Great Sankey, Appleton, Lowton and Newton-le-Willows – and will be expanding further. Watch this space!

Are you the owner/manager?

Yes, I’m the owner.

Babies and children classes keep little ones entertained

Babies and children classes keep little ones entertained

When did you open the business?

I bought into the Bloom baby classes franchise in February 2020 with a view to start running classes in April 2020 but had to postpone due to the pandemic. I eventually started running classes in September 2020.

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Has it always been in the same location?

I started in just a few venues and have expanded over the years. I run the classes across St Helens and now have a lovely teacher who runs the classes across Wigan.

Are you local to the area? Did you grow up here?

I live in Newton-le-Willows, lived in Haydock prior to this, but grew up in Warrington. I lived in Padgate until I was ten and went to Padgate Primary School before moving to Culcheth and attended Culcheth High School.

Tell me a bit about your business

I run baby development and sensory classes for babies aged six weeks through to 14/15 months with activities to encourage babies’ physical, cognitive and social development. Using instruments, bubbles and parachutes as well as sensory props, baby-safe lights, treasure baskets and beautiful bespoke songs, our classes build fine and gross motor skills, encourage visual development and tracking skills while promoting early language acquisition skills and we aim to strengthen the bond between baby and caregiver.

In our younger babies class (nought to six months), we encourage gentle tummy time activities throughout the session and we finish with a short gentle baby massage at the end to relax them. With our older babies (six-14 months), we encourage more movement through use of more instruments and ‘action’ songs and incorporate Makaton signing (after having completed training with a Makaton tutor) enhancing communication in babies.

Rachel Martin has Bloom classes in St Helens and Wigan with Warrington coming soon

Rachel Martin has Bloom classes in St Helens and Wigan with Warrington coming soon

Why did you decide to open your own business?

When it came to thinking about returning to work after my maternity leave, my priorities had changed. The thought of returning to long days away from my babies and barely seeing them during the week, was not something I wanted to do. I attended the Warrington franchise of Bloom baby classes with my own baby while on maternity leave and loved everything about them. I mentioned to a friend that I would love to do a job like that and she agreed that I’d be perfect for it. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I could choose my own hours, work around my family and do a job that I’d actually enjoy - I couldn’t resist buying into the franchise.

What’s your business background?

I studied business studies and psychology at university with the intention of training further in child psychology / child development but life got in the way! I had to start paying bills, paying for a mortgage, saving for a wedding, saving for kids and it never seemed the right time to train further towards a career I actually wanted. Instead, I fell into a career in finance and although I was successful in working my way up through the company, it wasn’t a career I enjoyed.

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Why this type of business?

While on maternity leave in 2017 and 2019, I felt that there was a lack of parent/baby classes across St Helens. After attending Bloom in Warrington, I thought the classes were exactly what was missing in St Helens and Wigan. I chose to buy into an existing franchise rather than set up independently due to the brand recognition, market expertise, business support and ongoing training. I loved everything about Bloom so it had to be that franchise.

Were you open before/during/after the Covid-19 pandemic? How did this affect your business?

I started running classes in September 2020 when businesses like mine were given the green light following local and national lockdowns during the pandemic. I honestly had no idea how it would go as our whole set up had to change - activities, how classes were run and cleaning practices – everything had to be adapted to keep everyone super safe. We were still in and out of lockdowns and classes stopped and started. We could only run from huge halls where we could all socially distance two metres apart and masks had to be worn making the social side of classes quite difficult. Parents - mums especially, some of who had been so lonely during lockdown - were so keen to get out and actually see other mums, let their babies see other babies, interact with others and give their little ones some sort of normality that they’d missed out on for months. All classes sold out straight away, which was unheard of when starting out in this kind of business, as it usually takes months of getting the word out for classes to become popular.

Classes have a different theme each week

Classes have a different theme each week

What makes your business different to others in the same area/field? What sets your business apart from your competitors?

Since starting my business, there have been other similar businesses opening in the same area. Without attending the others, it’s difficult to know what they’re doing differently. Customers who’ve been to others tell me that they like that our classes are purposely kept a bit smaller and more intimate, which enables me to get to know parents and babies and they get to know each other. They like that we, as teachers, recognise that babies learn from repetition. We keep some of the same core songs every week (such as our pom pom shake song and peekaboo song) so babies become familiar with the songs and the activities, and as they grow and progress, parents love watching how their baby starts to master the skills. They can see how happy baby becomes when they know they’ve done it. They also love that we have a fun theme every week. We always have lots of colourful props and music relating to the theme and parents absolutely love the dress up that comes with it!

Why do loyal customers return to your business?

My reviews prove that customers find classes fun, friendly, warm and welcoming. They like that they’re made to feel comfortable from the start and they love being able to see the progress in their baby’s development week by week. They enjoy the structure of the classes with the right balance of upbeat activities and chill time for babies, enabling them to enjoy the classes without becoming overstimulated or overtired. And I love being able to get to know the parents - as well as the babies - quite often over the course of a whole year. It can be quite emotional saying goodbyes.

What’s next? What do the next few months hold for you and your business?

I have just purchased the Warrington franchise - I couldn’t resist when I heard it was up for sale, as it’s where my love for the classes began. I’m currently training up some new teachers ready for more expansion of the business.