A professional acting background, combined with formal teaching experience and real life parenting skills have provided Giovanni De Lucia with the perfect recipe for success as an Emporium Parties franchisee.
Giovanni, who runs the Brighton Emporium Parties franchise territory, admits that his varied and not altogether conventional career history does in fact deliver the ultimate blend of specialist expertise and hands-on practical know-how required to hit the ground running as an Emporium franchisee.
Setting out originally to carve out a career as an actor, Giovanni honed his acting skills at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance in Sidcup, Kent and in 2001 graduated with a BA (Hons) in Acting. Armed with his hard earned formal qualification, Giovanni began to establish himself in the West End of London, taking on number of minor roles and later returning to his roots in Brighton to seek out any acting opportunities.
As anyone who has dabbled with 'treading the boards' will testify, the path to public recognition, never mind stardom, is certainly not an easy one and as the need to earn a decent living kicked in, Giovanni began to investigate other career options.
Two stints of self-employment followed, one involving a successful sandwich delivery business and the second capitalising on the lucrative wedding stationery market, offering bespoke hand-made wedding invitations. Both of these experiences undoubtedly gave Giovanni a feel for the essential qualities required to run your own business, and helped shape his view of the advantages of 'running your own show'. Whilst still pursuing his acting, Giovanni had the chance to get a taste of the corporate life, working in an Assistant Manager role at Woolworth's. Having quickly proved his worth as an effective member of the management team, Giovanni was fast tracked, and given his own store to run in Lancing. Whilst the recognition of his talents was gratifying, it came at a price. Working a 13 hour day he barely got to spend any quality time with his growing family and Giovanni soon began to question the imbalance in his working / family life.
In 2010, after much soul-searching, Giovanni embarked upon a teacher-training course with a view to channelling his acting experience into a full-time Drama teacher position. The one-year intensive teaching course included a teaching secondment at Patcham High School which Giovanni thoroughly enjoyed. However, as the doom and gloom of the economic recession began to hit the public sector the chances of Giovanni securing a full time teaching post were looking decidedly unlikely and ever the realist, Giovanni accepted that the current spending recession had put the brakes on any planned career in teaching.
With a family of seven to support, Giovanni required no reminders of the need to bring in a healthy wage and fortuitously stumbled across an advertised position for an Entertainer, working with the manager of the Haywards Heath Emporium Parties franchise. Giovanni was quickly recruited to cover the role and spent the summer of 2010 learning the ropes, quickly progressing to the role of Team Leader.
Although not actively looking to buy a franchise, it soon became apparent to Giovanni that the Emporium Party concept represented the ideal business opportunity for him and his family. Not only did it allow Giovanni to draw upon his extensive acting and teaching expertise, not to mention skills as a father of five, it also delivered that all important flexible working arrangement that would enable a return to a more balanced family life. And with Giovanni's wife keen to embark upon a primary school teacher training programme, it would mean that he would have the man hours available during the week to take on the main child care responsibilities.
So when the manager of the Haywards Heath branch left to have a baby and the opportunity arose to buy the franchise territory, Giovanni and his wife jumped at the chance, especially as they had already effectively 'road tested' the business. In November 2010, Giovanni and Jen invested their savings to purchase their own Emporium Parties franchise and in Giovanni's own words "have never looked back".
From day one, Giovanni had always recognised the potential for the business to become a true family enterprise and with a very capable fifteen year old son Dan, who was keen to start earning his own money, Giovanni wasted no time teaching Dan the essential skills associated with being a good children's party entertainer. "Dan's appeal to the kids, especially boisterous young boys was instant and he quickly asserted his role as a highly effective and popular member of the entertainment team".
In the six months since Giovanni took over the business, he has already achieved considerable success, growing the number of parties per week from three to four to up to 11. Now operating with three teams of entertainers, Giovanni has been quick to grasp the importance of investing time and energy into the training of all staff to ensure a consistent service in terms of the delivery of the highest standards of children's entertainment, irrespective of which team is allocated to the job. Equally important has been an appreciation of the power of word of mouth recommendation, since most bookings are the result of a referral from a satisfied customer.
When asked about the benefits of running an Emporium Party franchise, Giovanni is quick to identify the flexibility of the business model, which effectively allows a franchisee to earn a living working two days not five! "I am pretty much free during the week, aside from the natural administration associated with running your own business. This means that I get time to spend quality time with my kids and can be actively involved in their school lives".
For Giovanni, running a party is just liked doing a two hour stage show, but for others with less experience in entertaining, he has the following words of wisdom 'You really need to be prepared to adapt your 'show' to meet the needs of the children you are entertaining. A party in a small cramped venue will differ in content to a party hosted in a spacious village hall, but whilst the programme may vary, the standard of entertainment can never be compromised. You also need to remember, that even if you are doing three parties in one day, the same enthusiasm and passion for doing a good job must always shine through, to ensure the birthday boy or girl goes away thinking this is the best party they have ever had".
For Giovanni, the future looks bright, with limited advertising in a restricted area of his territory he has already established the Emporium brand as the no1 choice of children's party entertainment and he now has his sights set on expanding into Central Brighton.
"Competition within the children's entertainment market is rife so it is really important to gain stand out" says Giovanni. "The structured training received via head office, combined with the extensive choice of party themes on offer, enables us to have absolute confidence in the service we are delivering and the ultimate testament to the appeal of the Emporium party offering has to be in the number of referrals / repeat bookings received from satisfied clients" continues Giovanni.
So for Brighton's children, the show will almost definitely go on!