Mumpreneur profile: Clare Roberts of Kids Planet day nurseries

Your Name and Age:

Clare Roberts, CEO of Kids Planet Day Nurseries, aged 42.

Tell us about your family

I have 3 daughters, Isabelle aged 11, Scarlett aged 8 and Tilly who is nearly 6. I’m the eldest of 4 so am used to being around big families!

How did you get started?

Having just had my first daughter, Isabelle, I knew that my role as an Area Manager in the Pharmaceutical industry which required travelling between my home in Manchester and the head office in Northern Ireland, wasn’t conducive to family life. I was also struggling to find childcare in my local area that had the flexible hours I needed. Having decided to take voluntary redundancy, I convinced my father who had previously sold a nursery chain to start again and set up Kids Planet. My sister, Lucy joined us a few years later as Director of Early Years and it remains very much a family business ten years on.

What did you do before coming up with your business idea?

Having gained an IT degree at Leeds University in the 1990’s, I worked for 3 ½ years in IT recruitment before making the move into the pharmaceutical industry. I started as a rep and worked my way to Area Manager covering the North of England.

When did you launch?

We opened our first nurseries in Warrington and Widnes in 2008 and followed these with settings in Beamont and Lymm in 2009. Ten years on and we now have 38 settings across the North West and The Midlands.

What’s your favourite thing about running your own business

I like making decisions under pressure and thrive on being reactive across a range of situations. Fundamentally, I enjoy being able to make a difference to the lives of many people, whether that’s the children in our care, parents that choose our nurseries or the colleagues I work with.

What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business

Being the last person to make a decision is always tough, knowing the buck stops with me and having nowhere to go can be frightening.  Fortunately, I have a great team around me who I can turn to for support and advice.

What has worked well about your business?

Lots of things come to mind but I’m proud of our staff and their commitment to viewing childcare as a profession, not just a job. We recognise that a nursery can only ever be as good as the team who run it and at Kids Planet I think you’ll find some of the best most qualified people in the industry. It’s important we achieve Outstanding provision in everything we do and having set up our own in-house Training Academy last year, we believe we are doing this by putting teaching and learning at the heart of it all.

We’ve grown to 38 settings in just ten years and within the previous 12 months, we have had 7 Ofsted inspections with all seven settings gaining the highest possible rating of Outstanding so something is working!

What’s been your biggest business mistake?  How did you deal with it?

Thinking that I always need to know every detail about all things. It’s tough, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate that others have qualities and skills I don’t and I’ve learnt how to maximise that. As a result, I’ve been able to release a level of control and use the skills and experience of others to our advantage.

Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?

Kids Planet has a three-year expansion where we hope to increase the number of nurseries to 50 and take yearly revenues to more than £40 million.  

How do you include family friendly working I  your business?

We’re definitely a family friendly business and offer a range of flexible working opportunities to all our staff. Many work part time, some do early starts and late finishes whilst others work 5 longer days over 4.  Family is important to us and we want all our staff to be able to have choices around their work life patterns.

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