Meet the Annas
Ragdolly Annas was created and developed lovingly by Anna Everington and Anna Varone-Johnson in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire in 2011.
Meet Anna Everington
Prior to Ragdolly Annas, I spent my days working in IT Service Management. I loved my job and the experiences it gave me. Then came my beautiful children, Austin was born in 2007 and then Milly followed in 2009. My whole outlook on life changed, as did my priorities and I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to go back to work. After a couple of years as a stay at home mum, I needed to do something for me. I had met Anna VJ in my last role and as well as being a great work team, known as ‘The Annas’, we become great friends too. I had the idea of running my own business for a while as I wanted the children to remain my priority and decide my own working hours but I couldn’t do it on my own. When Anna VJ called me to say she had decided she had, had enough of the ‘corporate world’ I told her of my plan. Within hours she had sent me a list of her ideas too and then, as they say, the rest is history!
I now work part-time, choosing my own hours and have the best of both worlds being at home for my children as and when they need me, attending their school events, having their friends over for play dates after school and having my own career. I am very privileged to be able to go to work doing something I love with one of my best friends and we want to share that experience with as many other parents as possible, not just in them attending our sessions but also in the franchise opportunities that we offer.
Being a parent can be very lonely sometimes, especially if none of your friends have children of a similar age or live far away. We wanted to create an environment that the adults could enjoy as much as the children. From my own experience, I know that children love music, whether it is to listen to, sing along to or dance to, even if they are a bit shy at first! I wanted to ensure that Ragdolly Annas would be a place which would nurture that simple enjoyment whilst aiding key learning and development areas for each child.
Since launching in 2011, I have met some incredibly wonderful children and lovely parents/carers who make my job the best in the world. Who could ask for more!
Austin & Milly
Now he is a little older, music still plays a big part in Austin’s interests and he loves all genres from Kasabian and Royal Blood to Black Eyed Peas and McFly. He has a list as long as his arm of what he is going to be when he grows up, a Builder on a Monday, Racing Driver on a Tuesday, Paleontologist on a Wednesday, a Musician on a Thursday and so the list goes on. He is known as the nature expert in his class and he has set up his very own museum in his room, with items ranging from shark teeth to shells, to resin cased creatures, I have drawn a line at dead spiders he finds around the house though!
Milly is lovingly called “The Beast” by our family, she is the sweetest, cutest child in the world, most days and then others she is unrecognisable with her tantrums but I wouldn’t change her for the world. Once Austin started school, Milly would come to Ragdolly Annas with me and she was such a great ambassador, standing at the front with me dancing away and helping out with the props. She has now decided that she is going to be a ‘Ragdolly Anna’ when she grows up – Watch this space! Musically, she is eclectic as Austin from Avril Lavigne, the Nashville soundtracks to Biffy Clyro and Oasis. She is also a wonderful singer and came 2nd in her school talent show.
Ragdolly Annas was created for us to work around our family life and set up from a parent’s point of view and having our little ones there to critique our playlists and help us mould our sessions and parties has been invaluable, what a lucky mummy I am.
Meet Anna Varone-Johnson
My old working life in the IT services industry seems like a distant memory now. May 2011 everything changed for me, I left the world of suits, deadlines, meetings, high heels and with my good friend Anna E we created Ragdolly Annas. Life is just as busy don’t get me wrong, however now with a job I love, that fits around my children, I never miss a school assembly, am always there to pick up my boys from school and no longer have the sense of dread that the weekend is over on a Sunday night.
There is not one day where I get that feeling that I don’t want to go to work. Running our own business has been challenging yet hugely satisfying. Working with children and being a part of their development whilst watching them grow in confidence, learn new words and bust out the dance move makes all the hard work worth it! Seeing the delight in their faces when their favourite song comes on and in some cases seeing their first steps, has been more rewarding than any job I have ever done. I love it!
Luca & Fred
I have two boys, Luca was born in 2010 and Fred in 2013. Both of my boys love music, and we always have something playing in the house, be it the latest Disney soundtrack, a Ragdolly Annas playlist or if I am lucky, a bit of “grown up” music.
Luca always enjoyed coming to Ragdolly Annas, and did regularly from the day we set up until he started school. He knows all the moves, words and actions, and even joined me on stage in 2015 at the National Play Day, which was a real treat for him and me! He has had three Ragdolly Annas birthday party so far, for his 5th birthday he had a rainbow disco, with lots of games, dances, ‘sing a longs’ and glitter tattoos! As a result of these parties I have also entertained at lots of his friend’s parties and even his school for their Christmas parties.
Like Luca, Fred attended Ragdolly Annas once a week before he started pre-school. Even though personality wise he is very different to Luca, the love of music and dance is something they both have in common. You will often find us at home having a “kitchen disco” where they take it in turns to request their favorite songs and bust out some moves! Luca’s music taste has developed somewhat as he has gotten older and now he favours pop songs (which is very useful for me when I am practicing at home for disco parties) whilst Fred is still a big fan of everything you would find playing at a pre-school Ragdolly Annas session. 5 Little Speckled Frogs gets played again and again at home – he doesn’t ever seem to get bored of it!! I often test out new songs and party games with the boys and they even introduce new songs to me which they have learnt at school and we have loads of fun practicing them together.
To be able to share my job with the children, to be able to fit my job around my children, to be able to take my children to work with me if I need to, really does make life so much easier for me and as a result we are a very happy family.