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I run my own performing arts school – here’s how I got here

Emma Bentley, 26, has taken over as principal and business owner of Stagecoach Chichester, a performing arts group which gives children aged four to 18 the opportunity to participate in drama classes, dance classes and singing classes.

Here, Emma explains how she got involved with the performing arts and what it’s like to take on her own franchise business.

Tell us about Stagecoach and why you decided to take on this business.

Stagecoach Theatre Arts Ltd is a professional part-time theatre arts school, with over 600 schools in the United Kingdom. Training is offered in singing, dancing and acting.

Stagecoach Theatre Arts is a franchise for part-time theatre arts schools in Australia, Canada, Germany, Gibraltar, Malta, Spain and the UK.

Having personally worked for various Stagecoach franchises for the last six years, I gained invaluable experience and inside knowledge of how the Stagecoach model works.

I also believe that having been an early stages teacher, singing teacher, drama teacher and manager for Stagecoach gives me a huge advantage in my new role as a principal and owner. Because of this, I have a real understanding of what it’s like to work for a Stagecoach franchise and how it feels to be a staff member. I feel passionate about supporting my staff in every way possible and encouraging them to further their careers within the industry without limitation.

How did you get into this industry? What did you study and how did you get to where you are now?

At 16 years old I was accepted into the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, Surrey to study vocal performance. I then went on to complete my degree and left in 2015 with a BMus honours degree in vocal performance.

I performed a lot with various bands, trios, and duos in London and around the UK in venues like Cliveden House, Metropolis Studios, Novotel West, Mr Whites (Leicester square) and many more.

What is an average day like for you?

I wake up, try and do Pilates (sometimes I struggle with the motivation!), do emails, admin and follow up on any calls/enquiries.

I then try and go for a walk in the park on my lunch break, then it’s time to prepare for either teaching 1-2-1 vocal coaching lessons or a live gig.

Occasionally I will also do a vaccine shift at my local vaccination centre. Fun fact, i’m a fully qualified Covid-19 and flu vaccinator for the NHS.

On my day off, I love to shop, I am a total shopaholic! Then followed with the cinema and a Wagamama’s.

What’s the thing you love best about what you do?

I love that every day is different. This job is definitely not 9-5 and lacks stability and routine, but that works well for me, It’s a perfect job for someone who wants to be their own boss, be kept on their toes and take on more responsibility in life.

What are some obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I really struggled at school and just never really fitted in. I always wanted a seat at the adults’ table. Unfortunately, I was quite unwell as a child and spent some time in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London so missed a lot of school.

I also struggled academically. I had undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia that wasn’t found until university so left school with very few GCSEs. However, I was determined to one day own and run a successful business.

What is your highlight or proudest achievement of your career so far?

Honestly, I think buying this business. If someone had told me two years ago, during a worldwide pandemic, working as a vaccinator, that I would be in a position to buy a franchise and create a working lifestyle to suit me I wouldn’t have believed them.

 

What’s the biggest misconception about working in the performing arts?

That you have to look a certain way to be successful. It’s no secret that the performing arts is a highly competitive field and focuses a lot on physical appearance. I believe, certainly whilst I’ve been in the industry, we have made huge strides towards breaking this barrier down and focusing more on acceptance and representation for all.

 

We still have a long way to go but I am a huge champion of representation for all regardless of race, gender, size, disability or sexual orientation.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into this field?

Find yourself a good business mentor. I was very lucky to be mentored by the Salvadors, who are the best in this business.

Surround yourself with a team of people that elevate and add to your business and plans. I did a personal S.W.O.T analysis on myself and identifying my weaknesses and threats enabled me to find people that had those strengths.

Emma, Stagecoach performing arts

In terms of performing arts, you will need a thick skin! But never compromise your morals and integrity for a job, know your worth and the value you bring.

Can you tell us your plans for the future?

Right now I’m still adjusting to the huge life change, but I’m enjoying every second. I can’t reveal too much at the moment, but I have lots of plans to provide even more performance opportunities and industry experiences to my schools. My priority is to deliver an exceptional performing arts education to children and to assist in them gaining creative courage for life.

If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Hang in there, things will get better, these just aren’t your people! One day you’ll be at the head of the table. You get out what you put in, so keep working hard and focus. Other peoples’ opinions of you is none of your business.

Find out more about Stagecoach Chichester or follow the Facebook page.

Bex Bastable
Bex Bastablehttp://bexbastable.co.uk
Bex is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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