Kathy Doolan took her passion for music and turned it into a business which has helped 200,000 children, aged from two months and up, develop, grow – and have fun
Music has always been a huge part of Kathy Doolan’s life – first as a music teacher and then as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. After starting her own family and realising the virtually non-existent opportunities for very young children to develop and grow through music, Kathy decided to take things into her own hands and set up a business to do just that.
In the mid-Nineties she founded the first Rhythm Time class in Solihull and has just celebrated the 21st anniversary of the remarkable business which now boasts 40 franchises that between them capture the hearts of more than 11,000 babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers across the UK and Ireland every week.
The numbers are even more staggering when looked at across the 21 years with Rhythm Time introducing more than 200,000 little ones to music since it first opened its doors! “After becoming a mum myself, I naturally used singing and music as a way of communicating with my young daughter, and I was constantly amazed to see how it helped her speech and general development,” said Kathy. “I decided that I wanted to give as many children as I could just as good a start through music.”
As well as building a national network of franchise owners, Kathy has a small team at Rhythm Time HQ. The business also has a prestigious collaboration with the London College of Music (Junior Department) and the support of celebrity mums, including Coleen Rooney, wife of footballer Wayne. Kathy’s success continues to be recognised with a number of accolades including being shortlisted in the Best Business Women Awards 2017 for her work introducing children to music.
The saying that you’re never too young to learn is especially true of children – Rhythm Time holds classes for babies as young as two months and up. “To nurture young children’s musical development is an honour,” said Kathy. “I am absolutely delighted with the success of Rhythm Time.
“What started as a dream has now become the passion of franchisees all over the country. I am so proud of our franchise family and have been overwhelmed by their support, enthusiasm and ongoing success.” That success has meant that Kathy’s husband Brendan gave up his previous career job some time ago to also work for Rhythm Time.
Kathy says with understanding pride that her first franchise “is still with me after 17 years”.
To become a member of the Rhythm Time family involves a detailed interview process with Kathy, and once on board she ensures regular visits to see how they are progressing. “We’ve done all the hard work for them by devising the structure and the classes,” she says. “But we are always here for them.” Each franchisee pays £7,500 to start up with Kathy.
Rhythm Time classes consist of a wide range of music styles from traditional nursery rhymes to modern and classical music. And Kathy adds: “You can really tell the children who have been to Rhythm Time. They have so much more confidence and development.”
Kathy’s goal is to achieve 50 franchises across the country – Rhythm Time is already in Aberdeen to the north and the Isle of Wight to the south – but a greater presence in London is a target. “As we are a Midlands-based business we are very strong around this part of the country but I would like to grow, particularly into London,” she explains. “And I hope that families in the UK continue to enjoy attending our classes for another 21 years to come!’