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Happy 12th Birthday Perform

12 months. 12 disciples. 12 star signs. 12 years of Perform.

On 8th January 2012, Perform was 12 years old and I, for one, can't quite believe it. It was January 8th 2000 when I started my first ever Perform class at Primrose Hill Community Centre with just 4 children. And now, 12 years later, we have over 4,000 children attending our classes every week in over 200 venues from London to Brighton, to Winchester to Leighton Buzzard and to Oxford.

I'd started planning Perform in June 1999 and my business partner Will and I had spent hours and hours even before then thinking of how we could create the best ever drama workshops for young children. We'd worked for other drama schools and we wanted to do something better. Something with child's development at the heart of the workshops instead of vocal technique, dance steps, lines and auditions. An opportunity for young children to have fun with drama, dance and singing, but without the pressure of having to be "talented" or competing with others.

Luckily, we already had lots of experience in theatre and teaching children. But what we didn't have was the experience of running a business and that has definitely been interesting. Interesting, exhausting, exciting, frightening (at times), exhilarating (at others) but ultimately rewarding.

As it's the start of a new year, lots of people will have made New Year's resolutions including thinking about starting their own businesses. If that's a long-term goal of yours then why not start planning now? I think the beginning of the year really helps to focus the mind.

I celebrated Perform's birthday on the 8th Jan with 206 teachers learning the Circus and Hercules Beat songs and dances for the Spring Term. But, for many, January 8th will be the start of something brand new and exciting. For anyone who is thinking of launching their new business this year, I thought I'd give you my Top 6 Tips for starting a new business.

1. Only start a business if you believe in the product 100%. It has to be amazing and something that you absolutely love.

2. Nurture your business as you would a newborn baby. There will be hard hard work involved. Sleepless nights, worry, lack of money, but once you get through the hard first few months (or years with a business), it will be worth it.

3. Keep a strong belief in your original idea. Loads of people said to me, ?Don't open drama classes in North London, it's already full of them?. But I knew that what we were offering at Perform was a unique children's drama class and that there would be space for us - especially for parents who want their children to just be confident and happy rather than little starlets.

4. Have an amazing business partner. In the words of Velma Kelly from the musical Chicago - ?I can't do it alone?. Find someone to start your business with who compliments your skills - i.e. is good at what you're not good at. I was so lucky to find Will, my business partner. It also really helps to have someone to talk things over with.

5. Create a reason you can't fail. One of our motivations was having to pay back a personal bank loan. The fear of default or being saddled with debt over several years kept us working through the bad times to make the business a success because we felt we had no choice.

6. Just do it. Just like having a baby, there will never be a perfect time to start. Running a business is constant work in progress. Once you have done the planning, the only way to find out if it will work is to jump in then refine and improve as you go. You'll often be surprised at what works and what doesn't.

If you've started your own business, the best of luck. If you can offer any more suggestions, please get in touch. And Happy New Year!

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