French teaching franchise, Les Puces is changing the way children learn languages

Mandie Davis is changing the way children learn languages through song and dance with her franchise Les Puces

French teaching franchise

Mandie Davis, founder of Les Puces, the french teaching franchise, has just returned from Morocco. The British embassy there is hoping to help her create partnerships with schools to expand the company’s services to the country and introduced her to the nation’s minister of education. This is the first foreign opportunity for Les Puces since its conception and Davis couldn’t be more chuffed. “It was a hectic few days,” she says, adding that she’s now fuelled with renewed enthusiasm to capitalise on her new contacts. “This visit was a breakthrough because it was really well-received and I’ve got five or six contacts who, including the minister of education, all seemed really keen.”

Davis knows networking is important as she has spearheaded many companies. Her entrepreneurial journey began in the 1980s when she used to train women to use computers. She’s also launched a non-profit organisation in Germany helping German and British families connect. Davis even had a vegan catering business and taught English to French children during her time in France between 2008 and 2012. However, she never nourished these ideas enough to turn them into full-fledged businesses. “Les Puces is like my first grown-up company and the first limited company, [so] I’m a bit more serious now,” she admits.”

Having launched the company in January 2015, it wasn’t an easy ride for Davis despite her business background. When she was toying with the idea to launch Les Puces, she didn’t get the feedback she expected. “People thought I was absolutely crazy when I gave up a pretty good job to do this,” she recalls. “But in the early days there were things that were important to me which meant spending time with my children and having a bit of freedom in my life but I suppose those things can come across as being quite selfish.” However, she persevered. “I think it’s inevitable in the early days that people will always try and put you down,” she says. “So you have to really hold on to that one day when you’ll become a well-known and established brand, then nobody will say ‘That’s not a good idea.'”

And that wasn’t the only obstacle she had to deal with. The struggle was in everything – from finding funding to ensuring a strong cashflow. Having used her savings, Davis didn’t have a lot of money to spend and that proved heavy on the pocket. “When we first started we had empty halls and sometimes just one or two children in each class,” she remembers. “That in itself is an expense because you’re paying for venues. Even if you get one child who signs up, you’re paying for the venue and the teacher and that one child isn’t covering either of the costs.” As a result, it got difficult to plan ahead and allocate budgets.”

Due to financial hurdles, Davis leveraged social media and gave out leaflets to attract more clients. And she believes while it might seem unproductive in the beginning, it’s imperative to be persistent. “I remember giving a leaflet out to one lady and she said ‘I’ve seen this on Facebook and have had a leaflet through my door too,'” Davis states, noting it was this meeting which finally made the woman sign up. “It’s just keeping at it. People have got to see what you’re offering three, four, five times.””

Varsha Saraogi
Varsha Saraogi