Talking Tots: Lisa Houghton and Tracey Park
Lisa Houghton & Tracey Park describe their journey from speech therapists to entrepreneurs
Company Name: Talking Tots
Founders: Lisa Houghton & Tracey Park
Age: 38 & 41
Based: Fylde Coast, Lytham
Date started: September 2005
Tell us what your business does:
Talking Tots is a unique children’s franchise opportunity offering fun interactive sessions to help pre school children develop: social confidence, listening and attention skills, sharing and turn taking skills, semantic knowledge (word meaning), narrative ability (storytelling), phonological awareness (to aid literacy).
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We are both paediatric speech and language therapists, with over 30 years experience between us and after noticing a decline in the social and communication skills of the general pre school population, we developed Talking Tots classes in September 2005.
How did you know there was a market for it?
There is now a national growing recognition of the importance of communication and pre-literacy skills among pre-school children. Communication skills can be taken for granted. Yet communication is one of the most important, complex skills we ever learn, but rarely do we support it or develop it in the same way that we might actively support, for example, learning to walk! The first classes that we started became so popular we decided to launch Talking Tots throughout the UK and Ireland, by franchising the business.
What were you doing before starting up?
We are paediatric speech and language therapists, specialising in children’s language development. We were working in the NHS and it was hard (and scary!) to leave a regular income, but our commitment to Talking Tots drove us on!
What planning did you do before you started up?
We had been running communication groups for many years in a non-commercial way, so we knew the format and content of the sessions. After market research and competitor analysis, we realised that we had developed a fantastic and unique product.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
After many years of working within the NHS, we entered the business world, which was interesting! One day we are dealing with lawyers and accountants and the next, the media and press. We are constantly juggling lots of different roles: wife / mother / franchisor / public relations / general dogsbody! We’ve worked very hard, with long hours to make our franchise package second to none. It’s been exhausting, exciting and exhilarating all at the same time!
What has your growth been like?
We have been amazed at the number of enquiries that we have had (even some from as far away as the US and Australia!). We’ve sold 3 franchises since launching our franchise package, with many more in the pipeline.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We hope to be managing a network of Talking Tots Franchises throughout the UK and Ireland and to be ready to launch internationally.