For over a decade, Wee Little Arts has been fostering and nurturing the creative voices of children. Voices that are being silenced in our nation’s schools as budgets are slashed and programs cancelled.
Wee Little Arts’ highly acclaimed supplemental program stimulates imagination, encourages self-confidence while having fun, and develops skills that have been proven to benefit future academic performance and personal endeavor.
We recently interviewed Melissa Bradshaw, Founder and CEO of Wee Little Arts Inc., to learn what inspired her to start the franchise, what motivates her and what advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What’s special about the franchise?
Wee Little Arts has been my passion since I started the program in 2000. We have focused entirely on the age group of 3-5 year olds. We strive to offer the best arts education available today. As the need has increased, we have begun going into the elementary schools. Our parents, directors of schools, teachers and students rave about the program. Students are developing amazing pieces of artwork, but it is through the process of learning that the children are actually benefiting from. Unlike other franchises, I still continue to teach full time (250+ students, per week), while running the franchise. I consider myself one of the franchisees and am able to offer exceptional training of the program and business because I am involved in every aspect.
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What is the idea behind the franchise?
For over a decade, Wee Little Arts has been fostering and nurturing the creative voices of children. Voices that are being silenced in our nation’s schools as budgets are slashed and programs cancelled. Our highly acclaimed supplemental program stimulates imagination, encourages self-confidence while having fun and develops skills that have been proven to benefit future academic performance and personal endeavor.
Being an experienced elementary teacher with a degree in Arts Education I developed Wee Little Arts in response to a need I saw as a teacher for early childhood arts education. I realized that my students in my elementary school classrooms had been under-served in the development of fine motor skills, critical thinking skills and creativity that early art education encourages.
Wee Little Arts is a process-oriented approach to preschool arts education that has been overwhelmingly successful in engaging and empowering children by helping them discover the creative process.
How does it compare to its competition?
My curriculum is laser focused. We do not promise to serve the masses (ages 0-100). We do not offer birthday parties. We are a very structured, well-organized educational service. We strive to be extremely professional and think that the process of creating a piece of work far exceeds the product. The products, however, are framed all over the country! Furthermore, the curriculum is written to include children with disabilities.
What do you look for in a potential franchisee?
Passion for children and the arts; classroom experience; a “fire” for starting a business that makes a difference; individuals that feel that they can carry the Wee Little Arts banner and represent the program very professionally; positive attitudes and excellent work ethic; creative people that “think outside the box”. Two of our owners have actually had their children go through Wee Little Arts prior to buying into the program. That is a wonderful testament to the program!
Where do you see the franchise in five years?
Can you describe a typical day in the life of a franchisee?
Yes, because I am one! Typically, I teach between 4-6 classes a day. Each class is 45 minutes. I travel from school to school, in the area, or sometimes remain at one school, offering back-to-back classes. I usually stop somewhere for lunch, or run home. I may spend an hour, or two, after classes catching up on paperwork. I adore what I do every day. I have never woken up and said “oh, I wish I didn’t have to work today…or I wish it were Friday.”
What’s your background?
BFA Art Education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. First year teaching visual arts at two public schools in Charleston and then 7 years at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School in Charleston, S.C. Ashley River is a well-known magnet school around the country. It has been used as a model for including the arts in everyday learning. I was also heavily involved with starting The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. I also wrote curriculum and trained staff there, as well.
What motivates you to keep going?
This is my baby. I have seen what it does for children and I see the need in our country. Seeing the children, every day, with their open minds and incredible natural ability to learn and create, is always inspiring. They are also full of love. We receive praise, on a daily basis. I would say that’s a perfect job!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I think because I have developed the curriculum, run the business for years and then franchised the business with my husband, I have learned so much about everything. I would wish for some sort of filter that let me know that I was spending money on people and/or things that were never going to help the business. You learn a great deal about people and how incapable they actually are.
Please tell us your secret to success…
Passion, perseverance, organization, motivation… wanting to see my dream through. Wanting others to see the importance of the work we are doing for children.
What is the worst job you have ever had and what did you learn from it?
Telemarking for Olan Mills. I learned that I never wanted to try to sell something that I didn’t believe in.
What is one trend that really excites you?
I’m interested in the Constructivism Learning Theory. I still use, and believe in, collaboration, cooperative learning and developing critical thinking skills.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Skype — I can interview and do business from anywhere.
Pinterest — It inspires!
National Gallery of Art, NGAkids Art zone — interactive online fun activities for kids of all ages.
Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?
Not one in particular. I think there have been many people in my life that have contributed to my thoughts in regards to my business.
Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
One of my favorite quotes: “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – A student in Warren G. Tracy’s class
It truly does take blood, sweat and tears to make your dreams come true. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! It can take years and you will most likely fail or be near failure, but you must continue to persevere. It is incredible to see your dream come true!
Where can people get more information on Wee Little Arts franchise opportunities?
Visit the website here.
Where can people find Wee Little Arts on social media?
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