The pre-school music franchise, Little Music Stars has come to the UK to make kids sing

From pitching her own show on Netflix to rubbing shoulders with Sandra Bullock, Katie Verner's franchise Little Music Stars is belting out success

The pre-school music franchise

Leaving your whole life behind to start over in another country is something few people dare to do. However, Katie Verner, co-founder of Little Music Stars, the pre-school music and movement franchise, was brave enough to do it. A few years ago, she moved to Los Angeles with her son hoping to find success. Before undertaking her new role as franchisor, Verner was singing her heart out on stages in front of big audiences pursuing a career in musical theatre but after her child was born she decided it was time for a new adventure. “I was living in a lovely village near London called Thames Ditton, which was nice but it just wasn’t enough for me and I wanted to go and explore and see what it was like living in another country,” Verner explains.

In the US, it all started when a musical education franchise caught Verner’s eyes, giving her the perfect opportunity to earn a living and raise her kid at the same time. “I’m a single parent and I wanted something that fitted around his school schedule so I knew that I could go pick him up,” remembers Verner. Combining her passion for musical theatre and her love for kids, Verner decided to go for it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly what she thought it was going to be. “I started teaching [with] the franchise and it just wasn’t working,” Verner recalls. She ended up deciding to part ways with the franchisor.”

Determined to not let the experience hold her back, she decided to launch a pre-school music business of her own together with her old school friend Jeanne Friedman. “I wanted to start again and build my own franchise and I thought I could do a better job and make it more modern,” Verner explains. With both of them having singing and acting backgrounds they had everything in place to create the musical content. Together, they began to write music. And it didn’t hurt that Friedman’s husband was a record producer and that their Grammy-winning friend Rich Jacques helped pump out a few tunes. With the music in place and a drive to make this plan a reality, Verner started working on the business plan. “I sort of put what I have learned from [musical theatre] into what I thought a child would benefit from,” Verner adds.

To fund the business, Verner decided to sell her house in London. Having already sold an apartment she owned in the Big Smoke before moving to LA she was now ready to fully commit to her dream. “I knew that I wasn’t going to go back to that area in London so I sold my house and I made quite a big profit on it,” says Verner. “I decided to take a third of that chunk of money and put it into Little Music Stars.” Most of which was spent on getting the copyrights for the nursery rhymes they use in addition to their original songs. “

And so Little Music Stars was born, offering a range of pre-school music and movement classes for kids aged between three months and three years. “We had people like Sandra Bullock come to one of our classes,” she remembers. “Penny Lancaster and Sarah Michelle Gellar [were also] there. [So] quite a few famous kids came along.” However, Verner’s visa was running out. So after three years of living the American dream it was time to move back to England. With her moving back, Friedman eventually decided to close the operations in the US.”

Encouraged to make Little Music Stars a success back in Blighty, Verner started to teach classes in Kent where she moved after coming back from America. While it took some time for people to get familiar with the brand, Verner has managed to build a great reputation for Little Music Stars. “We’re hitting our fourth year and things are really busy all the time, there doesn’t ever seem to be a dip,” says Verner. “[It] takes quite a while for a business to launch and now I just feel like we’re really up and running.” With more demand than she could handle it was time to expand her business.

Looking at ways to scale the company without losing its character, she started to consider franchising. “I felt that it was right for franchising because it was doing really well, it’s a proven business and I have managed to start it up from scratch,” Verner explains. “I just thought if I can do it and if someone replicated exactly what I have done then I don’t see how it could fail.””

However, putting the franchise model together took longer than expected. In order to get everything together she locked herself up in her office and started typing away on her computer. “I just sat in front of the computer for many, many, many hours and slowly built up the curriculum,” recalls Verner. The entrepreneur made sure to list everything in her model, from all the instruments needed in the classes to how many students the franchisee should be inquiring. With the agreement and the model typed up Verner felt ready to embark on her new adventure.

Anne Struijcken
Anne Struijcken