The number 22 has always been special for mum of two, dance teacher and babyballet® franchisee Jennifer Berrett. It was at that age she performed on her first cruise ship contract, the favourite item of clothing her little girl owns (a ‘tutu’) and the date, in February 2010, that she signed the contract to open her own babyballet® school.
On that day, Jennifer would have never believed that a decade later, herself and her talented team of dance teachers would see over 300 children each week, not only in her hometown of Southport but also at classes in nearby Crosby and Formby too. With little babyballet® stars as young as 6-months old lining up to join her classes, Jennifer has a lot to be proud of and is thrilled that she and her pupils are celebrating being in double figures!
After falling in love with dance at an early age, Jennifer began her dance training in tap before moving onto ballet, modern, and national. By the time she was ready for college Jennifer knew that dance was to be her future career and went on to study at a prestigious dance academy, gaining Distinction and a National Diploma in professional dance along with distinction in RAD and ISTD dance qualifications to teach. But the wider world was calling and, with her dream always set on becoming a professional dancer, she set sail for the seven seas performing and entertaining the passengers on world cruises across the Mediterranean and even further afield.
“It was the experience of a lifetime performing on the ships. I got to see places I’d only dreamed of, but I knew it would come to an end at some point. You get homesick after a while.”
It wasn’t too long after returning to settle in Halifax with her husband, Jennifer first heard of babyballet®. Founded in Halifax, West Yorkshire in 2005, babyballet® was set up by mum-of-four, Claire O’Connor, who spotted a gap in the market for non-competitive dance classes that not only accepted the best but encourage children to find joy in dance. Going from strength to strength, the babyballet® programme is now enjoyed by over 25,000 families globally, covering the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
After training to become a babyballet® teacher, Jennifer fell in love with the ethos and inclusivity of the dance classes, and it was not long until she took the reins of the branch in Southport. In the years that followed, the business went from strength to strength, notably winning the ‘Shooting Star’ award for Best New Business at the Sefton & West Lancashire Women in Business awards in 2011 and ‘Best Class for 0-2years’ in the Mums in the Know Southport, Formby & Ormskirk awards in 2015. More recently, in 2019 the business reached the final stages in the WhatsOn4Kids awards for ‘Most Loved Baby Activity’.
Jennifer has become a pillar of the local community, not only through the families who have experienced the classes, but also through the connections she has made with other local businesses including Diana at Footprints and Fancy Free Photography, who has enjoyed capturing many magical moments over the years.
Two children followed in quick succession, and throughout it all, Jennifer managed to keep her babyballet® franchise going. She feels extremely lucky to be supported in this way, which she sees as quite unusual.
“I can’t see anywhere else letting me have almost three years extended maternity leave and still be able to run my business and earn a living. babyballet® are so supportive of family life. It’s made a huge difference to the way I can balance my home and my working time.”
With the 10th birthday looming, Jennifer and her team have lots planned to help them celebrate. Loveable babyballet® characters Twinkle and Teddy will be making a special appearance at their party event which is open for all her customers and families in the local area to enjoy. Jennifer is a huge fan of the characters who she says really bring dance alive for her little stars. Now she has both a 2 and 3-year old in tow, the whole family can enjoy the babyballet® experience.
“Felicity and Freddie love their babyballet® classes. They love helping mummy at work and are excited to come along to events. I am so lucky to have an incredible team of teachers, including Miss Rebekah (pictured), who share my passion. We all believe so much in babyballet®. It’s a wonderful way to teach dance and the children get so much from it!”
For the grown-ups, Jennifer is hosting a celebratory birthday ball at The Vincent, Southport, in aid of Tommy’s, the official babyballet® charity partner who fund research into miscarriage, premature and still birth pregnancies.
“Lots of our parents are coming to the ball. It’s a chance for everyone to get together and celebrate plus there’s some really strong friendships been formed as parents meet at our dance classes and get to know each other. I can’t wait to get dressed up!”