Imagining the Future of Speak Up Studio

imagination and small business

Imagining the Future of Speak Up Studio

I started Speak Up when I was 20 years old. Looking back, I think I had more confidence than I do now. Or maybe it was naivety? Or blind faith that I could build a performing arts studio from nothing. 

Some of my early goals were to enrol 100 students (this took about a year), find an actual studio space and move out of my parent’s study (this took three years), and hold a concert where all of our students came together to perform (this took two years).  

After Speak Up’s third year, my original “business plan” was finished. Now what? I thought. 

And so began the almost constant process of planning and imagining and building and re-planning and re-imagining and re-building the studio you see today – 10 years on from Speak Up’s first Speech and Drama lesson. 

I’ve been reflecting on my Speak Up journey so far – where we’ve been as a studio and what I imagine for us in the future. Yes, there are more grand plans, more crazy shows and more I want to achieve in my business. 

Here are some of the areas we’ll be focussing on in 2021 and taking great pride in.

Our team

Many businesses say “customers come first”. Well, I’m not afraid to admit that’s not the case at Speak Up. At Speak Up, *team* always comes first.

From our marvellous office mums [Amy & Sarah] who are actual marketing and admin geniuses, to our bookkeeper & accountant [Kara] who is as kind as she is clever, to our teachers, who turn themselves inside out to create inspiring moments for our students.

This amazing team is organised, smooth, professional, personal and relaxed. If you’ve been to a Speak Up performance, you’ve probably felt it.

All of these attributes are critical to our *customer experience*, but none of them are possible without a team that lovingly supports each other and a culture that takes care of them.

Our goal is to give our kids the chance to be on stage. The Speak Up team do a wonderful job of making this happen.

A family friendly workplace

With 12 women employed at Speak Up [two of whom are already working mums] creating a mum-friendly workplace (particularly for impending new mothers) is something I’ve been pondering for a long time.

The children of our staff are already welcome in the studio whenever they need to be. These wonderful kids are part of the Speak Up family. But how are things going to look when the new babies come…

🧐 How does paid parental leave work in such a small business?

🧐 How do we keep mums included, while protecting their time with their new baby?

🧐 Is our office set up for teeny tiny people?

Many small businesses see this as a risk – the majority of our staff members are youngish women, all of whom love kids, there is no denying that there will be babies in the future. 

But on the other side of that risk is an incredible opportunity to support our team in this way and be part of their village. 

As I imagine the future, I do imagine Speak Up being a working mum’s home away from home, and I’ll be doing all I can to make that happen.

Our very own theatre

When I have a dream, I print it out and stick it on my wall. This image has been printed out and stuck on my wall for about 3 years. My dream is to have a church or theatre or hall and turn it into a performing arts campus! A space that is both studio, office & theatre, to host classes, workshops and performances. 

The impact this would have for our students would be monumental.

🎭 Somewhere where we don’t have to book 12 months early 

🎭 Or put up signs so people know where to go

🎭 A place where our students can rehearse all year

🎭 A place we can design to be perfect for our students and our style of teaching and performing

🎭 In other words, a home!

I’ve started to become [just a little bit] obsessed with this idea, and it feels like it might be within reach! Watch this space.

In a past life, I worked in film and television creating costumes and dressing sets. It was such a creative and imaginative job and I LOVED it! For a while, I tried to have two careers at once; running Speak Up and working on set. 

Eventually the time came to choose. Speak Up had doubled in size within a few months, and I had a team that needed me. Part of me felt that choosing Speak Up was somehow admitting defeat. Giving up. Bowing out early because I couldn’t handle it.

There’s an amazing quote from Walt Disney about creating Disneyworld: 

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.” – Walt Disney 

Movies end. Businesses don’t. 

Speak Up is my Disneyland. It’s a place where I can take as much time as I  need to get things “just” right. It’s a place where my imagination, creativity and problem solving skills are in demand at all times.