Mumpreneur Profile: Libby of Smart Talkers

Name of Business:

Smart Talkers Pre-School Groups

I am Libby Hill aged 46, single parent of 2 boys Tom aged 10 and George 7. Prior to starting this business I had a business with my ex husband.  When we split up I decided to return to my previous career as a speech and language therapist. New regulations meant, I had to do supervised practice for a while and update my HPC registration. During this time I found out that NHS Therapists were generally overworked and extremely fed up plus that I wasn’t marketable any more! I decided to pursue independent therapy by setting up Small Talk Ltd. By the time I was ready to practise there was little market for private therapy as we were in the midst of a recession and parents preferred to wait for free NHS appointments than pay.  In the first 6 months, despite my best efforts in terms of advertising and marketing, I had just 2 referrals!

In many ways this was a good thing because I had to pursue other ways of making money while waiting for the phone to ring. I did telesales, telemarketing, cleaning and set up a security business for a friend. I also found that people came to me for practical help with their small businesses because running a business depends on the same business drivers as another, whatever field you’re in.

However, I was determined to develop Small Talk and decided to widen our potential client market, the pool of children with speech, language and communication problems is growing but nonetheless small but the numbers of preschoolers is significant. I decided, therefore, to set up pre-school groups which concentrated on communication issues for all children, Smart Talkers were launched in January 2009.

The Bercow report which highlighted the speech, language and communication problems of reception children at school in Nov 2008 boosted our impact and enabled us to access the Sure Start Children’s Centres. We now run groups throughout south Staffordshire and are now franchising them.  Its great opportunity to have fun, make money and make a real difference, knowing you’re helping children and their parents. Children who attend our Smart Talkers groups are much more able to attend and listen as soon as they start school.

I really enjoy the balance of running my own business, being a therapist and running the groups, I have the best of both worlds as I love working with children but need the mental challenge involved in working for myself and growing a business to its potential.

I funded the business start up myself. My marketing plan therefore had to be good but cheap. I used my website to full advantage accessing all the free ways to promote it and working on SEO. I also highly recommend the power of social media marketing as I’ve had great results here. I’ve done very little ‘paid for’ advertising so far as I’ve been lucky enough to get some good editorial coverage. I’m aiming for national now so I have enlisted the help of a specialist.

I plan to keep building the speech & language therapy practice throughout Staffordshire and develop a national network of franchisees. The advice Id give to someone else wanting to work in this area is ‘Just have the confidence to do it’. I don’t know any other job with the opportunity to have fun, make a real difference and make money.

For more information about the franchises  www.smarttalkers.org.uk

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