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Joanne Robinson
The Little Art School

Here, Joanne tells her story of going from an Officer in the Royal Air Force to setting up her own business, The Little Art School. 

I am a mother of four children, ranging from the age of 14 to 5 years. When one of my children had to change schools, I offered to go into her class to teach them drawing skills. After several visits to the school, I was approached by some mothers asking me if I would consider running art classes as the children had really enjoyed my visits to their class. I became an accidental entrepreneur. Less than three years ago I ran my first class in my dining room. We are now preparing to open our fifth Little Art School. The team has 30 flexible part time workers, a rapidly rising profit margin and within 36 months we will have grown the business right across the UK. It has been an amazing journey. I had help from Business Gateway in the first year. I have been part of Entrepreneurial Spark for 18 months and their incredible support has enabled me and my business partner, Melissa Haddow, to meticulously plan and implement the scale up of the business.


Before I took the plunge and started my own business I had a varied working background. After graduating from Oxford University I worked in Japan then served as an officer in the Royal Air Force for six years. I learned how to draw and paint while I was in the RAF and struggled for many years in evening classes. After leaving the RAF, I gained an MA in Museum and Gallery Studies. Twelve years after my first art class (‘Drawing and Painting for those who think they can’t!’) I finally felt that I had the skills to design the course I wish I’d had available as a child, or as an adult looking for a new skill.


Building the business from my dining room table, whilst juggling the demands of 4 young children, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s my team who keep me moving forward; they are amazing. My advice to anyone starting out would be to be really honest about where your shortcomings are and find some way to tackle this head on. With my background being RAF, I didn’t have finance experience. The best decision I ever made was taking on my business partner, Melissa, to craft our Financial Policy and keep us sailing in safe waters. Together we feel invincible!

The award winning Little Art School is a hybrid business; a profitable, scalable business working hand in hand with a charity promoting positive social change. They can teach anyone, from age 5 to 105, how to draw and paint using their Little Art School (TM) highly structured Drawing and Painting Course; the first of its kind in the UK. Their Charity, The Little Art School Trust (Scottish Charity SCO45848) offers free art lessons to people with dementia and their carers in the studio, and to the less mobile directly in care homes.


The ethos behind the Little Art School is simple; they believe that anyone can be taught how to draw and paint. Children who love to dance, sing, act or play a musical instrument; play football, tennis or any other sport have many different after school clubs in which to pursue their hobby and learn a new skill. In response to a lack of opportunity to develop art skills, the Little Art School has created the UK’s first self-esteem building, highly structured drawing and painting course. Developed in Ayrshire and now rolling out across the UK, the little Art school has incredibly high re-enrolment figures (95%). The Little Art School Team, awarded ‘Best Performing Team in Scotland 2015’, believe passionately in the self-esteem building power of developing artistic skills.


The Little Art School Trust is bringing so much happiness to People with Dementia and their Carers. They deliver free art lessons and are raising funds to enable us them expand the lovely 'Art in a Suitcase' project giving free art lessons in Carehomes. You can find out more at or go to to help them keep those smiles coming!

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