Inside Business: Fortune smiles on the fun house

A former teacher started a business selling educational games, and the market swung in her favour

Many people unable to find the products or services they require joke that they should set up their own business supplying it, but few get beyond the chuckling stage. Jane Warren is an exception.

A former teacher, she got her brainwave looking for high- quality products combining fun with a serious teaching purpose. She resolved to find the sorts of toys she had in mind and sell them herself - and so Formative Fun was born, back in 1991.

Now Formative Fun has 11 franchised outlets and three company-owned stores in England and Scotland, as well as a master franchise licensing deal in the Republic of Ireland. The toys, for children up until the age of 16, is also sold by 50 home-based distributors. Turn-over is about pounds 2m.

When Ms Warren started, she was worried that would-be customers would not see the difference between what she was doing and the already well- established Early Learning Centres. She began working from home - and did not open her first two retail outlets until 1994. Even then, they were an 18-month pilot programme.

It seems that she need not have worried. The increasing emphasis put on education by politicians and business people has created a strong market for educational toys and games, says Ms Warren.

"The National Curriculum has created new priorities within schools, with particular emphasis on literacy and numeracy. We have selected games to support this," she says.

But Formative Fun does not just cater for conventional requirements. The company's range includes toys and games aimed at those with dyslexia or other learning difficulties.

Although there are some men in the operation, Ms Warren believes that running the outlets is suitable for women like her who are seeking to combine a career with raising young families. Many of those she has taken on have worked in the professions, but do not want to be confined to conventional nine-to-five hours.

"It fits in well with family life," she says. "But we do far more than provide a cash-and-wrap service. Product knowledge is crucial, especially as things are constantly changing in education," she adds.

Moreover, franchisees are expected to be able to demonstrate the products and games in the shops and also visit schools and playgroups to explain the idea. To help them with this, Ms Warren trains franchisees, employees and distributors so that they understand how each product relates to a particular stage of child development and are thus able to advise customers on the suitability and use of products.

Now that the idea is becoming better established, Ms Warren is looking for further franchisees to help take the number of outlets to about 20 in the UK by the end of this year. There are also plans to take the figure up to about 50 in Britain as well as to expand into other English-speaking countries apart from the United States.

Typical start-up costs are about pounds 30,000, including franchise fee, training, stock and shop-opening costs as well as working capital. Would-be franchisees are recommended to have at least pounds 10,000 of their own money saved; financing for the balance is available at preferential rates.

Annual turnover at outlets is reckoned to be between pounds 100,000 and pounds 200,000 de-pending on the town and such matters as rent costs.

However, it is also possible to become part of the company by signing up as a home-based distributor, which requires an initial investment of about pounds 300 in return for a starter kit of stock and two days' basic training.

With education attracting its current level of interest, there seems to be plenty of reason why Formative Fun should thrive and prosper, and achieve its targets.

Those seeking more information about the Dorset-based company should visit its stand at the Wembley Franchise Exhibition next month.

n Formative Fun can be contacted on 01297 489880.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing