Jo who has a BA ( Hons) and PGCE began the company in 2005 and has trained for over 8 years as both an actor and teacher. She won ‘Entrepreneur of The Year’ at Salford Business Awards in 2016. She has produced, and directed plays at The Lowry Studio and in recent times written three brand new plays; ‘And Then you Kissed Me‘ about Domestic Abuse, ‘Invisible’ (Child Sexual Exploitation) and ‘WiFi‘ (Cyberbullying). She started the company over 12 years ago as she wanted to offer affordable training to children from deprived areas as well as those from middle income families.
She grew up in Higher Openshaw, a deprived area, left school aged 14 with no qualifications and became the first milkwoman in Manchester in 1988 at the age of 18. Although, as a child, Jo loved literature, she was not encouraged to pursue her ambitions but instead expected to drift into an unskilled job. Jo fought against this and, in 1992, decided to fulfil her dream and train as an actor. Jo ‘fell’ into teaching and discovered she had as much passion for this as she did for books and acting. In 2005, after years of freelance teaching work and acting, she launched Footlights with just £300 on a credit card.
Jo used her training and life experience to create an innovative business that is at the forefront of its field. Jo stated: “One of the reasons I started Footlights is because I wanted to engage with young people, take them off the streets, out of the classroom and onto the stage. I also thought I could provide a better service than our competition!” She recognises the importance of working collaboratively to achieve the best outcomes and her enthusiasm and tenacity has led to partnerships with senior educationalists, police and community services. She firmly believes that working with the right people, both inside and outside the business, is fundamental to success.
Jo’s drive is central to the company – she is quick to identify opportunities to grow the business and has a successful track record in doing so.
In 2016, Jo steered the company through an increase in turnover 39% at a time when funding for youth provisions & schools took a massive hit; despite the economic recession, cementing her belief that providing a fabulous, value for money service is central to achieving manageable and sustainable growth.
Over the years, the schools franchise network has grown and now boast 22 schools with 15 franchisees.