Posted on 07.04.2017
A self-confessed “accidental entrepreneur”, Tracey Blake had her lightbulb moment when she couldn’t find another student nanny for her children
Tell us what your business does:
We are a marketplace linking up parents who need help with childcare, with students looking for fun, well-paid work.
We are not a nanny agency and do not employ students or nannies – we simply provide a smart network through which students and parents can discover local matches. Then it’s up to them to contact the person, meet up, chat and see if they want to work together.
Students and parents negotiate their own rates of pay and terms of employment.
We also encourage our parents to help students with career advice and introductions from their own professional networks.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea for the business came about when we hired a local art student to mind our two children – every Wednesday they made amazing craft projects together which they all enjoyed. When she left us after a year we wanted to find another student but couldn’t. So, we set up studentnannies.com!
How did you know there was a market for it?
The founders of Student Nannies are all working parents, and we kept having the same conversations about the struggle to find smart, flexible childcare solutions. There are seven million working families in the UK, and a recent report by the Family & Childcare Trust revealed that only 30% of local authorities have enough after-school childcare provision.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was, and still am, a working mother, working on a national newspaper.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
It was never a major ambition of mine to run my own business, but I knew this idea was too good to pass up – so in some ways I am an accidental entrepreneur.
How did you raise the money?
All of the initial funding came from the founders, and we have been ‘bootstrapping’ the business to date. We are now exploring our investment options as we look to take the business to the next level.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
The business works on a subscription model. It’s free for parents and students to sign up, post a profile and see who is looking for help or work locally to them.
They can also receive, and reply to, messages. But if they want to be proactive in their search and send messages to members they think might make a good match, they can upgrade to VIP membership (£15 a month for parents and £10 a year for students). There’s no minimum sign-up period.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
With limited funds to get the business up and running, we decided it would be important to find the right team of founders, with complimentary skills and experience, so we have a team with legal, marketing, creative, editorial and commercial experience – which has allowed us to keep our costs to a minimum.
What was your first big breakthrough?
When we realised that parents outside of the founders and their immediate contacts loved the idea of Student Nannies – we have received so much positive feedback from parents, and we are already seeing business grow organically – despite our minimal marketing budgets.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Student Nannies has been based at the Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by NatWest hub in Milton Keynes since February. Entrepreneurial Spark is the world’s largest free business accelerator and provides a unique training and enablement programme focused on developing the right mindset and behaviours needed to become a successful entrepreneur.
One of their key mantras is “Go Do” and I think this is great advice for budding entrepreneurs – you will learn so much more actually ‘doing’ something in the real world than you can from planning and thinking through hypothetical situations.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I would hope that Student Nannies will have a presence in every university town in the UK. Solving childcare problems for as many parents as we can – and hopefully helping to mentor students as they take their first steps into the world of work.