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At age 8, Toni Henson's son, Camaran, stepped up to the pulpit and read a verse from the Bible. His voice captured the attention of the audience and held his mom spellbound. Meanwhile, Henson's daughter, Micah, then 7, was so painfully shy, she wished she were invisible. So Henson set out to find classes that could develop Camaran's natural abilities and help Micah overcome her fears. When she was unable to find anything in the Princeton, New Jersey, area, she decided to start her own classes, finding the perfect solution in Drama Kids International, a franchise that specializes in teaching 5- to 17-year-olds techniques for speaking clearly and acting confidently.
After purchasing her franchise in April 2004, Henson spent the summer finding locations for classes and securing advertising. September arrived with enough students to fill 10 classes. Using the franchise's set curriculum and her own experience as a youth minister and former college computer instructor, she covers voice training, dramatic movement, and improvisation, ending each class with a big round of applause. Says Henson, 42, "It makes such a difference when their peers are cheering for them from the sidelines."
With first-year sales projections of $50,000, Henson and her students are stealing the spotlight. Students' successes range from jobs in commercials to more personal rewards. "I'm a walking, talking parent testimony. Not only has it helped my son hone his oratorical abilities, but it's drawn out my daughter, and she's realized she has a creative side," says Henson. "It's been a blessing all the way around."