- Caterpillar Music
Today on MyBump2Baby expert podcast we chat with Helen Simmons the CEO of Caterpillar music. We talk all about the classes, what to expect, how they can help your child’s development as well as, how she began her career and the opportunities available.
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Helen Simmons is the CEO and Franchisor of Caterpillar Music Ltd.
After becoming a Mummy, Helen decided she wanted a more flexible career and invested in a Caterpillar Music Franchise in 2006. After 12 years of running her Caterpillar classes in South West London, the opportunity arose for her to take over the whole network and in 2018 she became the Franchisor and CEO. She now enjoys helping others to enjoy running their own flexible, fun and rewarding businesses in their own local areas.
Find a Caterpillar Music class near you:
Find out more about running your own Caterpillar Music Business:
Book a 15 minute Franchise Discovery Call with Helen:
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[00:01:48] Carla: Hello and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby Expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the UK to answer your questions on everything.
[00:02:12] Carla: Hello everybody and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert Podcast. Today I am delighted to be talking to Helen Simmons, the CEO of Caterpillar Music. And we’re going to be talking about all of their classes, franchise opportunities and much more. You can find your nearest baby group by visiting www.mybump2baby.com. I hope you enjoy this episode.
[00:02:42] Carla: Hello everybody, and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today I am joined by the lovely Helen Simmons, the CEO of Caterpillar music, and we’re gonna be talking all about her classes and more of what she does and the opportunities that she’s got available as well.
[00:03:00] Carla: So, hi Helen. How are
[00:03:01] Carla: you?
[00:03:02] Helen: Hello, I’m very well today. Thank you. Not bad at all.
[00:03:05] Carla: Oh, good. It’s lovely to have you on here today. I’m looking forward to speaking to you about Caterpillar music.
[00:03:12] Helen: And you too. Really nice to have a chat with you, Carla.
[00:03:16] Carla: So, in terms of Caterpillar music, I’m sure most of our audience have heard about it, but if not, can you just tell us a little bit about what it is?
[00:03:23] Helen: Absolutely. Yeah, so Caterpillar Music is geared towards, um, nought to four, so before they start school. And it’s a really interactive music, movement, and sensory session. And we have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and it’s, it’s fun. Focuses on, um, Montessori principles. It’s based on Montessori principles, which is, we, we think children learn best when they’re having fun.
[00:03:52] Helen: So it’s really colourful, lots of different props. And every week we have, um, a different weekly theme. So we have. kind of parent child classes or carer child classes in local community centres and things like church halls or leisure centres, that kind of thing. We also go into soft play centres and we go into some nurseries and preschools.
[00:04:16] Helen: And a few years ago, we piloted intergenerational sessions. So Some of our class leaders go into care homes. So they’re really special classes there. And we do birthday parties as well. Some of our class leaders run those mostly at weekends, which are a lot of fun. So it’s lots of props, lots of puppets, just a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
[00:04:41] Helen: So it’s, uh, yeah, it’s, um, we, we think children join in when they’re ready. So we don’t kind of force them to. No, just when they’re comfortable. And it’s amazing when we see, you know, shy little one and then two sessions later they’re right up in the middle with the, uh, with the class leader, with lots of confidence, so, yeah.
[00:05:03] Carla: Oh, that’s lovely. What age group are that your class is aimed at then?
[00:05:07] Helen: So it’s not to force and so we do some special baby sessions and then we have kind of, um, crawlers up to walking and then we have, we have, we call those caterpillar classes. And then 18 months to four year olds are what we call butterfly classes and they are for the confident walkers and we have families come as well if somebody’s got more than one child.
[00:05:31] Helen: Then we always say to focus on the older one and the little one will follow soon. There’s lots. for every age really in every session and the class leaders tailor it towards the personalities and the ages within the group and, um, we have kind of lots of activities of past leave to, to, uh, you know, if we have to change direction, um, in a class, but yeah, it’s, um. It, there’s something for everyone really.
[00:05:57] Carla: They sound lovely. I know as a mum, it’s, you know, it can be quite a lonely time, can’t it? Once you’ve had a baby and you’re on maternity leave. And I mean, I, I, for one with my first, I looked forward to maternity leave so much, but actually, um, it was quite a lonely time.
[00:06:12] Carla: So going to baby groups is a great way to meet other mums, but also get out the house and bond with your baby as well.
[00:06:19] Helen: Absolutely. Yeah, it really is a lovely kind of bonding time for little ones. And we say, you know, put your phones away. This is your time, your special time. And we see all sorts of friendships developing between the little ones, but also the mums and the.
[00:06:35] Helen: Childminders that come along as well and the grandmas, not forgetting, of course. And so, you know, we have lots of new moms coming. It might be the first class that they’ve attended. And we always say to them, just join in as much as you want to. And we’ve had people come in for some, some families have been coming for 10 years with, and they’ve brought their second and third or fourth sibling along because they love the atmosphere.
[00:07:00] Helen: And we’ve even had. Such friendships developing that we’ve had a couple of mums be bridesmaids at each other’s wedding. It’s so Special that is so nice. I mean the the session is structured So the little ones get to know what’s coming next if you like so that really and they do like repetition little ones.
[00:07:22] Helen: So we do a certain amount of repetition, but we also keep it a bit fresh for the grownups with the different weekly themes, because, you know, we know that they want to have new ideas and new activities and we want the little ones to kind of learn about their place in the world. And so we’re exposing them to all kinds of new vocabulary and, you know, kind of vocabulary that’s really good for later on.
[00:07:48] Helen: Um, we do lots of, lots of, uh, different exercises. Within the class, and they they’re having so much fun. They don’t understand that there is a structure behind it and there’s, they’re actually learning. And there’s a reason behind everything that we do. Um, because we know it will help with their communication skills, uh, rhyme and rhythm really helped with vocabulary.
[00:08:11] Helen: There’s social benefits so sharing and turn taking, you know, having that resilience and waiting for their turn to come really prepares them well for school. And obviously the rhythm and the rhythm that we use with that you might be tapping with claves or shaking the eggs to the sound but we tap out syllables and that of course in turn helps with the future reading so we are.
[00:08:34] Helen: In a, in a sense, we’re preparing them for their next steps. And of course, the physical benefits as well. There’s lots of gross motor skills and fine motor skills being used. And then they, you know, listening skills, because they have to listen for their cue to shake that shaker, you know, um, I’ll listen for instructions.
[00:08:55] Helen: And, um, it really does enhance their learning, you know, when they go on to their next step of preschool or nursery.
[00:09:02] Carla: Oh, that’s lovely. Yeah, it sounds like a great class to go to. And a little bit about you then, Helen. So, so how did you get involved with Caterpillar music?
[00:09:12] Helen: It’s funny, really, because basically what happened is I had a baby.
[00:09:17] Helen: Yeah, yeah. And, and then, um, I was on mat leave and I really didn’t want to go back to my job. It was in London. I was based in London at the time. And, um, And I thought I went back part time, but I didn’t like leaving my son for the whole day for three days a week with a childminder. It just didn’t sit well that I was giving him breakfast, shovelling breakfast in and then whizzing him off and then not seeing him till six o’clock in the evening.
[00:09:44] Helen: It just felt wrong. So I wanted something that was flexible and, um. Uh, it was actually a male colleague told me about, have you heard about Caterpillar music? And I’ve never heard of it. Um, and obviously I’d started attending various baby groups and absolutely loved it. Always wanted to run my own business.
[00:10:02] Helen: And, um, I went and I thought, Oh, that, that really interested me, you know, running my own business, but actually you’ve got the support of an established brand behind you already. So I went and chatted to them and that was. That was back in, um, 2006 . Wow. It’s actually been running since 2001. It’s been running for 22 years now.
[00:10:29] Helen: Um, and they franchised it out in 2003. So I came on as a franchisee. I invested in, um, the area and. Yeah, 12 years I ran, you know, classes in my area, which was absolutely perfect. So I could choose the hours that I wanted to work, choose the days I wanted to work, you know, it works well. And actually now I’ve got three boys, so it works perfectly around family life.
[00:10:57] Helen: And then as time went on, I became involved in training new class leaders as they came on board, you know, the company was expanding, um, they’re getting more people in more areas across the UK. So I helped out with training. So I’ve been involved in training before. And, uh, then five years ago, I was offered the opportunity to buy the network and the timing was just right for me.
[00:11:21] Helen: So five years ago, 2018. I became the franchisor and the CEO and, um, yeah, here I am.
[00:11:29] Carla: Wow. That’s amazing. Wow. What a journey. And yeah, I mean, I know exactly what you mean about maternity leave. Cause that’s where I started as well. And do you know what? I always thought I’d want to go back to work and then I had my son and I was like, actually.
[00:11:44] Carla: No, I don’t actually. And, and it’s just that, I think it’s just, I think you change a lot as a person when you have a baby, don’t you? And it’s like, you know, you, you enjoy that time with them and you don’t really want to sacrifice that. And now in this world, you know, that we’re in, you know, people are a lot more open to flexible working opportunities, aren’t they really?
[00:12:06] Helen: That’s it. Well, I, I’d always said before I had children, I always said when my, when I have children, I’m going to take five years off because I know that those years are so special, but actually in reality, we couldn’t afford to do that. So I thought, what can I do that, you know, gives me the flexibility to spend time with my son and actually earn an income at the same time.
[00:12:30] Helen: And I never, I’ve never looked back and some of our class leaders say the same. And I just. Like, I can’t imagine, you know, going back to that. Well, we’ve had, um, I think it’s quite, it’s really high percentage. I think it’s something like two thirds of our class leaders were teachers in some capacity, whether it’s in secondary, primary or nursery, but you know, it does suit.
[00:12:56] Helen: All kind of backgrounds really is it’s more about the, the personality and the passion for wanting to work with little ones but yeah I mean it’s it’s really flexible and you’ve got that support of the network behind you I mean we really do have a lovely supportive team and. You get the training, the support, the guidance, and it doesn’t all end there.
[00:13:18] Helen: We put on regular training. We have, uh, we’ve got some Zooms coming up with our, um, for our network. So we, we put on regular training and social Zooms as well. Um, and There’s, um, a platform that we have that where they can bounce ideas off each other. So it’s, it’s a really nice group. And, um, so when you invest in a franchise, you get the equipment, the marketing materials.
[00:13:43] Helen: There’s a lot of things that are done for you already, like a web page, um, the booking platform, all the policies are in place. The lesson plans are in place. It’s like. You’re, it’s like a business in a box, if that’s the way we kind of look at it. So everything’s done for you, but obviously it takes a lot of hard work at the beginning, especially if you’re going into a new area, but, um, you’ve got all that training, support and guidance.
[00:14:08] Helen: And there’s always someone at the end of the phone or email, if you’ve got any questions or problems. And I think as well, um, being part of a bigger organisation, even though you’re running your own business in your own local area. We have kind of more buying power. So it makes kind of stock cheaper and that kind of thing.
[00:14:30] Helen: And we’re, we’re also members of the British Franchise Association, um, as well as Children’s Activities Association. So the, the British Franchise Association, it basically, we got accreditation through them. So I sent them all of our paperwork, all of our documents. They spoke to our franchisees. And we got accreditation, which I’m really thrilled about because, you know, I bought this business and I thought, does it.
[00:14:56] Helen: Is it, is everything legit? Am I doing it the right way? And that was kind of peace of mind for me that we are recruiting ethically, the class leaders, and, and the franchisees as well are happy. It was a survey that went round, which was great. And then Being part of those bigger organisations, it just raises standards, I think, across what we’re doing.
[00:15:19] Helen: The Children’s Activities Association, we joined them because basically we wanted to know that we’re doing everything correctly as far as the children are concerned in a largely unregulated industry. Um, being part of the Children’s Activities Association. They want to see your insurance. They want to see your safeguarding policy.
[00:15:41] Helen: And just to know that those policies are being looked over and somebody else has got our backs so that we can, in turn, give parents peace of mind that the activities that their children are attending are safe and of a high standard. So, yeah, it just gives us It gives me confidence as well that we’re all doing the right thing and everything’s above board.
[00:16:04] Helen: And um, yeah, I think for me, when I first started wanting to run my own business, I thought, what, where, what do I go? Where do I what, where do I go? What do I turn to? And organisations like this really help to, um, just make sure we’re all doing the right thing, really, which is fabulous.
[00:16:23] Carla: That’s great. Yeah. And, and with, if someone was interested in running their own Caterpillar music business, where would they go? What would they need to do? What’s the process?
[00:16:34] Helen: Yeah, so if they go on to our website, um, which is caterpillarmusic.com.
[00:16:40] Carla: We’ll drop that underneath the podcast for anyone listening.
[00:16:43] Helen: Yeah. Fantastic.
[00:16:45] Helen: Yeah. So there is a specific franchise page and you can go on to there. And, um, it literally, um, you can even watch an online discovery session. So you can go and watch a series of. I think six, six or seven videos, it’s only about 20 minutes, but it gives you all the information you need to, um, just to find out a little bit more and there’s no obligation to proceed or anything like that.
[00:17:12] Helen: Um, they can also just give me a call. I have, um, Hallendale link to a discovery call. It’s only a 15 minute chat. We can chat about your local area. It’s really important for me that we find the right people. So, because. Their success is paramount to our success, really, and we wouldn’t want to put somebody in, in a position where that we didn’t feel they’d be successful.
[00:17:37] Helen: So there is like a, an application process. And based upon that with then award a franchise or not to somebody, but, um, So there’s um, yeah, there’s a discovery call that somebody can do or, or a discovery session online, watch the video and then give me a call. Um, and I’m more than happy to chat with anybody that’s interested.
[00:17:58] Helen: And, um, you know, it’s like I said, there’s no obligation to proceed. It’s, it’s important for us that it’s like a relationship really. It’s not, I’m not. The franchisee’s boss kind of thing. It’s more like a business relationship. So it’s like beginning this relationship that, um, you know, we need to support the right people to, uh, to lead the classes for us and represent the brand.
[00:18:24] Carla: That’s great. It sounds brilliant. And lastly, I just want to touch on the book that you’ve recently, um, you’ve been in a book collaboration recently. So can you tell us a little bit about that?
[00:18:35] Helen: That’s right. I’m really super excited. Um, it’s coming out on the 27th of October. It’s called, um, Learning for Life.
[00:18:43] Helen: And it’s, it’s a collaboration of all different kinds of children’s activity providers. So there’s myself with music, there’s art, there’s drama, there’s cooking, and it’s all about, um, the benefits of extracurricular activities on a child’s cognitive development and how. It helps them just help set them up for a life of learning.
[00:19:08] Helen: Basically, it’s, um, I’m really excited. So that, yeah, it comes out on the 27th of October. So if anyone’s following our, um, you know, if anyone links to our newsletter, we’ll give you, um, the link when it comes out, basically we’ll. Send you a, I think it’s a priority link coming out. So I’m, yeah, I feel like, uh, I feel very proud of that.
[00:19:31] Carla: Yeah, it sounds brilliant. I mean, you sound very busy, but it sounds so good. Your classes sound great as well. So Helen, then just, um, to finish off then, where can people find you guys?
[00:19:42] Helen: So our website, Caterpillarmusic. com, there is a find a class page. So you basically at the top, you’ll see a little button that says find a class, click on there, and then you can put in your postcode and the postcode will then show your, all your closest classes, the closest classes first, obviously.
[00:20:01] Helen: And, um, there’s a booking, booking links on there. Some of our class leaders offer trial sessions if they’re not fully booked. So you can, um, have a look on there and find your closest class.
[00:20:11] Carla: Brilliant. That’s brilliant. Thank you so much for coming on today, Helen, and speaking to us. It’s been really interesting.
[00:20:18] Helen: Ah, amazing. Thank you so much for inviting me.
[00:20:22] Carla: Oh, no problem. Thank you so much.
[00:20:24] Helen: Ah, thank you. Take care.
[00:20:29] Carla: Thanks for listening to today’s podcast. If you are looking to take your little one to a baby group, head over to www. mybump2baby. com where you can find your nearest baby group. My Bump 2 Baby is one of the UK’s leading parenting platforms. You can find local pregnancy to preschool groups, classes, and lessons wherever you are in the UK.
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