Expansion for prize-winning project

Art school draws up plans for growth

Little Art SchoolAn art business which began on a dining room table has unveiled plans for 100 teaching centres across the UK.

The Little Art School emerged from the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator programme in Ayrshire and has enjoyed a record-breaking three months since winning £10,000 at its Entrepreneuring Awards in January.

Set up by Joanne Robinson and Melissa Haddow in 2013, The Little Art School offers people of all ages the chance to learn to paint and draw. From toddlers through to the elderly, the ethos of the business is focused on giving people confidence in their abilities and teaching new skills.

Originally working from Joanne’s dining room table, the business has seen exponential growth since winning the cash. Now operating from four schools, and having recently expanded from Ayrshire into Glasgow, The Little Art School employs over 30 part-time staff members and plans to open an additional five schools over the coming months.

With a projected annual turnover of £10 million by 2020, and an anticipated 100 schools operating across the UK by then, the entrepreneurial duo is focused on giving back to their local community as the business grows.

Joanne was well versed in the difficulties faced by those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and was determined to use her business to give back to sufferers and their families. After noting the difference it made to her grandmother when her daughter sang to her, Joanne realised that by offering sufferers an artistic outlet she could make a difference to their lives, even if only temporarily.

In September 2015 Joanne and Melissa set up The Little Art School Trust, an official registered charity (SCIO) focused on teaching people with Alzheimer’s and their carers to draw and paint, and within 12 weeks had raised £30,000 in funding. Following the positie reaction to the studio-based lessons, the team at The Little Art School Trust applied to the Big Lottery Fund where they received funding to allow them to set up Art in a Suitcase, a portable art studio attending to the needs of those who are less mobile.

Speaking about their success, founder Joanne Robinson said: “The last three months have been absolutely incredible and we’ve achieved fantastic growth for both The Little Art School and The Little Art School Trust. The money we were awarded at the Entrepreneuring Awards in January really helped us make our vision to expand into Glasgow a reality, and we’re now about to open our first school in England.

“Joining Entrepreneurial Spark last year helped us to really step it up a gear. With the help of our Enabler Frank we quickly validated our business, made sure it was protected, and firmed up our plans to develop and scale.

“We started The Little Art School after meeting at the school playground and bonding over the need for flexible working for women with young children. We were often told in the beginning that we were being naïve and unrealistic, but our recent growth and incredible feedback we get on a daily basis just goes to prove that anyone can start their own business. You just need to be determined, willing to work hard and make the most of every tool and resource you can find.”

Jim Duffy, founder and Chief Executive Optimist, Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “I am delighted with the amazing success the team at The Little Art School have achieved over the past year.

“We chose to award Joanne the ‘Entrepreneur of the Moment’ award, and £10,000 cash, because she has proven just how dedicated she is to taking her business to the next level. At Entrepreneurial Spark we’re focused on developing entrepreneurs who give back to their community, and couldn’t be happier with the remarkable work The Little Art School Trust is doing from its HQ in Ayrshire.”

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