Images Art Exhibitions: The Flexibility To Work When You Want To
Back in 2007 having become disillusioned with working for others for many years at all levels in organisations from lowly Sales Representative to the dizzy heights of Managing Director all resulting in being time-poor, cash-rich and dreading Mondays.
I decided that I would do something about it and take control of my future and jump into the deep end and become self-employed.
Initially, I offered my services as a ‘Business Consultant’ to the types of industries that I had had previous experience and expertise in. I had looked at Franchises in a half-hearted way in the past and had been put off by the idea of a large upfront investment plus monthly management fees with potential penalties if things didn’t go to plan.
Couple that with no real guarantees of success other than glossy pictures of successful couples with really white teeth, smiling all the way to the bank, all wearing the company logo on their workwear.
What did I really want? I wanted to make a living, in my own time, at my own pace with the flexibility to work when I wanted to, as long as the deadline was met. As important of course was that I wanted to enjoy what I was doing and even shape the process and put some of ‘me’ in it.
As luck would have it my wife Nicki and I attended a party and met a couple who were involved in providing a School Art Exhibition service to Primary Schools, something I had never heard of before in a sector I was unfamiliar with and I was certainly no artist.
We were invited to attend one of their events at a local school which we did after getting permission to attend.
Not only did we attend but we ended up helping them with their event on the day.
Images School Art Exhibitions enables schools to convert their own school hall into an Art Gallery for the day or an afternoon exhibiting work produced by the pupils all professionally framed by the Images area franchisee.
The service covers most of the U.K. and Ireland and the local franchisee is equipped with display screens and everything needed to provide a pop-up art gallery which can be a whole or partial school event, even the teachers and school Governors had provided artwork. Some schools also use the event as a way of raising funds.
Nicki and I were impressed to see rows and rows of blue display screens all neatly laid out in the school hall upon which the children’s framed artwork was displayed for all to see.
We were lucky enough to be there when a teacher brought her class of 8 year old’s into view, the sound of “Wow’s” and “Where’s mine?” heralded their arrival as some paused to look at the a-z list of picture locations. Others decided to hunt blindly, with a worksheet in hand, in any event, all the children had come to search for their picture which was mixed in with the rest, “so they get to see them all, “ my host told me.
Of course not only had the pupils come to appreciate their work but also to look at their friend’s and siblings’ work too. Noting the style of the artist and what they liked best about their best picture choice, all filled in their worksheet.
This was effectively an extended art appreciation lesson. Not only had they produced their own work in line with the school curriculum a few weeks ago in the company of their classmates, they now could view the work with all the others, younger and older pupils’ work displayed side by side in this whole school event. “350 pictures all mounted and framed” our Images host informed us proudly.
All too soon for the artists, the teacher gathered them all together again to take them out of this fantasy gallery and back to double maths and the school hall was silent once again. “Wow what a great thing to witness,” my wife and I said virtually in harmony.
The best was yet to come as after more classes came through a trickle of parents came into the school hall ahead of pick-up time. More “Wows” and “Did my child do this?” and “Don’t they look great framed”.
Quickly we were given a few minutes of training in taking orders and Nicki and I manned a sales desk and the trickle turned into a torrent with queues of parents wishing to purchase the pictures cash in hand, within an hour it was all over. We helped cash up and divide the ‘sold’ from any ‘unsold’ pictures and we helped pack all away into the couple’s van.
What impressed us most was the way the school staff as a whole appreciated the way the event was managed by our Images hosts and the Head Teacher was over the moon with how it had all gone and how positive the atmosphere in the school was. The Head Teacher had helped on the sales desk too and said that the event would help with their OFSTED grading.
The following day we reviewed what had happened and decided that we wanted to get involved with Images and made contact with the Franchisor who unfortunately didn’t have an area available exactly where we lived but did have one close enough for us to operate easily enough.
We visited another couple of events in schools and spent some time seeing how the pictures were framed by other franchisees in their homes using frames made at the Images HQ in Grimsby.
We liked the relaxed approach the Franchisor had. As part of the purchase we acquired simple framing equipment and to this day there are no onerous targets and no monthly fees. We needed to buy a vehicle to transport the display screens but again that was left to us to get what was needed.
Fortunately, we were conversant with basic computer use and we were very impressed with the bespoke software which made production and collation of the various lists etc. needed for the service to function.
We paid for the franchise in three monthly instalments whilst we were absorbing the comprehensive training both in our own home and Images HQ. We purchased our first Images School Art Exhibition Franchise in November 2009 and just over a year later bought the area that we live in from a Franchisee that was retiring.
In the main, I run the day-to-day business with Nicki helping when an extra hand is needed in school or with the business admin. 10 years later we sold that area to another person who wished to get involved with Images and now have a single area again.
Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of work involved in making sure each event is as perfect as it can be and if you take time off you have to put it back in to achieve a deadline. Did I mention we get the school holidays off?
The initial training we received on joining the network stood us in good stead and we were ready to do our own event with help from the previous franchisee within 4 weeks.
For the past 12 years, we have grown in a business sense with Images and have been pleased to help shape the processes as things have evolved including assisting with the new ‘online’ offering which was developed as our answer to business continuity following the pandemic.
But schools now seem keener than ever to demonstrate that normality is returning. The online offering is very exciting as it will enable us to add additional products to our range as well as hopefully take us into the new secondary schools and other markets.