Dundee business unveils national franchise plans

Hayley Donnelly of Racquet Buddies

A DUNDEE business, which provides racquet sports classes for children, has unveiled national franchising plans for the year ahead.

The seeds of Racquet Buddies were sewn when Hayley Donnelly (36), a former primary school teacher, who also represented Scotland in badminton at senior level, was teaching part-time in 2013. Launching her first class, for 10 children in 2013, Racquet Buddies now offers 14 toddler and primary classes for almost 200 children across Dundee, Angus and Fife, generating a turnover of £70,000.

Racquet Buddies offers classes for two to five and five to 12 year olds, with toddlers learning transferable racquet skills which can be used in tennis and badminton, developing their motor skills and coordination, as well as listening and social skills. Primary schoolers go on to learn about specific strokes, techniques and tactics for playing in a competitive game situation.

Now, Hayley has set her sights on recruiting 1,000 ‘racquet buddies’ age two and upwards within the next three years, initially branching into Perth and Perthshire, wider Angus and North Fife and, ultimately, right across Scotland.  

Having represented Scotland in badminton in under 15, under 17, under 19 and under 21 categories, Hayley played against various different countries, was capped in ladies’ doubles at senior level, and coached children from the age of 17.   She then graduated with a 1st class honours degree in Primary Education in 2007 and worked as a primary teacher in Dundee until summer 2019.

Following the birth of her first son in 2010, Hayley spotted a gap in the market when it came to racquet sports classes so decided to start her own, launching a pilot class in Birkhill in 2013.

While continuing to work as a teacher, Hayley’s passion to set up her own business grew and, in February 2019, she completed the Coca-Cola 5by20 Dundee programme which provided her with the necessary business skills to turn her dream into a reality.  She left the teaching profession to work on Racquet Buddies full-time in Summer 2019.

As a mother of two, with vast experience of working with children of all ages, Hayley is a firm believer that learning through play at an early age is crucial in a child’s development.

Hayley said, “Many other exercise classes for children are rather formulaic but we put a huge amount of effort into ensuring that our classes are varied, stimulating and engaging. When it comes to younger children, our classes make a huge difference – children not only learn practical skills but develop listening coordination and motor skills, number recognition and colour matching, and of course the classes work wonders for their confidence and social skills. Their parents, grandparents and carers also gain hugely from coming along, seeing the children play, learn and develop, and being part of something. Of course, regardless of the child’s age, it’s also about fun, fitness and making friends, contributing massively to the child’s health and wellbeing and developing a love of racquet sports – or simply being active – longer-term.”

Hayley believes that her ambitions for business growth can be best secured through franchising, adding, “We are now looking to identify people who not only have a passion for sport and healthy living but who enjoy working with children and who, ideally, might also have teaching experience. Unfortunately, many teachers are leaving the profession in their droves but many would love to plough their experience, skills and enthusiasm into a new career.  This is a great opportunity to deliver the fun and educational product I’ve put my efforts into while building your own business, perhaps around you own family commitments, and really making a difference to countless children in your community.”

Franchisees will benefit from ongoing support, scope to work across Scotland, comprehensive and detailed lesson plan packs and games manuals.

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