Fran Nicholson

  • Fran Nicholson

    My husband and I took ownership of Sensational Kids in 2009 and rebuilt the business.  It is a child therapy practice for children aged 0 to 18 years, and we offer support for families as well.   We don’t just treat the child’s symptoms.  We ask why the child is presenting in a particular way - what is causing the child to lash out, bite, behave in a difficult way, to avoid school, to not want to talk to people.  It is a really fun, play-centred approach.  We incorporate all of our therapy in to a play format based on what the child’s natural interests are.  The kids don’t even know they’re coming in for therapy. 

    Starting our own business was all about flexibility, and using our creativity to help develop and design a business that suited our own personalities and aspirations. My husband Jay is a Director of Sensational Kids, managing our IT and helping out with marketing ideas and strategic planning. I am a qualified Speech Pathologist and he is a Software Engineer so he offers a very different perspective on things which is often very helpful. I officially manage the business, although Jay did take on that role during my maternity leave - I took 17 months off when I had Louie (now 4) and then a year off with Ned (nearly 2). Day to day I look after a team of 20 admin staff and therapists which involves daily operational matters as well as marketing, forward planning and everything else that comes with running a small business. Jay and I do talk about the business a lot but we have also learnt to switch off and just enjoy each other and our family.

    The key to managing the work/family life balance is one word - organisation! You have to be very organised and have a good team of people around you.  You also need to very disciplined – when you’re running a business it can sometimes take over a lot of your day, and your night as well!  I try to put boundaries in place – I keep one day during the week ‘work free’ where I take the boys out or we spend the time at home just mucking about.  It’s important to me that they have my undivided attention.  I try not to answer my phone unless I really have to, in particular on weekends. There are times, despite your best intentions, when you just have to take that call or manage that issue. This comes as part and parcel of owning and running your own business.  Of course you can combine work and play at times, and other times you just have to do what needs to be done – for your business or for your kids.

    At Sensational Kids we foster a culture without hierarchy – where people feel valued and they can talk openly about their ideas and suggestions.  Our incredible team is autonomous, creative and understands the company vision. To hear that people love working for us and that they are excited about where they work and what they do, that is a great achievement.

    Success is having a business that we feel really good about.  We have made a lot of compromises financially for the business in order to achieve something that has really strong values. Every decision we make is judged by whether it is in line with the values.  You can’t run a business like ours and make it all about the money. Loving what we do and knowing that we are helping people whilst achieving the financial goals we have set is what our business is all about.  We are incredibly passionate about helping people and providing the best possible facilities to ensure our team can perform at their best.  We are always thinking of new services we can offer our clients, and we fearlessly innovate and throw ourselves in the deep end - which is why we have stayed open as long as we have and why we are successful. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s important to ask ‘what can we do differently?’ We have a heartfelt desire to develop a reputation as the leader in child therapy, the go-to team, the ‘experts’ in our field.

    My advice to other mums who want to start their own business is make a business plan and stick to it! Understand what your business is - its personality, its style of communicating, what you want to achieve and how you think you’ll do it. Honour your intentions, your skills and your ability. Have faith that even if you don’t know what you are doing sometimes, you can always learn. 

    Seek advice and don’t be afraid to speak to others openly about your business.  Attend forums and business networking meetings, and get yourself a mentor if you need to.  All of these things will help your confidence and ultimately improve your chances of success. Try to contain your work. You may not be working the same days or hours each week, and some weeks will be crazy but if you can find that balance (even if it means turning your phone off or leaving it at home sometimes) then it all helps.

    Think outside the square and learn from your mistakes. Some of the most successful people have made enormous mistakes and have come back into the game with fresh ideas. And remember to make time for yourself. In the words of Maya Angelou, “ Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”.



    Sensational Kids helps children develop the self confidence they need to reach their full potential.  Their team of Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists and Psychologists assesses and treats most childhood developmental concerns.

    600 North Road, Ormond.  Victoria  3204 Tel:  9578 7560

    17 Norwood Crescent Moonee Ponds.  Victoria 3039 Tel:  8560 4050

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios

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