Family business: Alex and Isabell of Little Hands Learning

Little Hands Learning is a children’s book subscription box, founded by sisters Alex Hasell, 38 and Isabell Fisher, 40. They say, “Every month we send everything needed for four fun, educational and , hands on activities. All the activities are based on a wonderful children’s book which is included in the box. It is designed to enable parents to easily support their child’s early education at home. We know, as parents ourselves, how busy life is so we provide everything parents / carers need for the activities. We use our experience as teachers to design the activities and write the parent support cards to ensure that children are learning whilst also having lots of fun.

“We are two sisters; Alex is a mum to two daughters (7 and 4 years old) Isabell is a mum to a son (4 years old). As sisters we have always been close and it is now great to be able to run this business together.

“We were both teachers before we launched our business. Alex worked in a mainstream inner-London primary school and Isabell was the Head of Autism at a London borough. After having our children, we both wanted jobs that gave us flexible working hours, which unfortunately is not possible when working in education. However, we also wanted to use our knowledge and experience to support parents. And so Little Hands Learning was born.

“We launched at the end of February 2020, which in many ways was not the best time to launch a small business. When lockdown hit, we could no longer meet up and both were then busy home schooling and looking after our children at home. We initially started our website as a way of providing parents a free bank of easy to set up, educational activities that they could try at home with their children. We also wanted to share our knowledge of childhood development with parents to enable them to support their child’s education. We quickly realised that many parents are short on time and are, therefore, unable to spend time sourcing all the different resources needed. So, we started creating our boxes! We still have a vast free bank of activity ideas on our website for parents to access and use.

“Our favourite thing about running the business is getting really positive feedback from our customers! We receive so many lovely photos of children enjoying the activities and emails from parents saying how much their child looks forward to our boxes and that they can see the impact the boxes has had on their child. This is definitely something that keeps us going when we are having a tough day.

“On the downside, there is never quite enough time to dedicate to the business and because we work from home we never switch off from it. Running a small business is definitely all consuming! It has been a very positive thing to have each other. We have both said at various points that we would probably have given up or at least wanted to hide away from the business at times when it has got tough, if we weren’t working together.

“Fitting in work with family is tough and both our youngest are only at nursery part time currently, so time is very much limited for now. We both spend many late evenings working to ensure that during the day when our children are at home we can focus on them. But there are times when something comes up that needs to be dealt with when they are around. However, we both feel our children are incredibly proud of what we do and have both found our children creating their own subscription boxes to sell.

“Currently we reinvest all money back into the business with the view that we will be able to reap the benefit in the not-so-distant future! We like that our business gives us the flexibility to be able to work from home and be able to pick our children up from school. Unfortunately, this is something that would not be possible whilst still working in schools.

“When we started the business, we had the conversation as to whether we wanted the business to be one that we grew and then sold on. We knew that that decision would influence the choices we made in our company. We both very quickly decided we did not want to sell it on! This informs every decision we take as Little Hands Learning is our fourth baby and we want our business to reflect our core values.

“We haven’t had an “I’ve made it” moment yet but lots of “wow can’t believe we have achieved this” moments! In the short time we have been running this business we have learnt so much and achieved things we hadn’t know we could.

“In five years time we hope to have grown the business to the point where we can employ a small team of people to work with us. We want to offer other people the flexible working patterns that we know is important to families.  We hope to have expanded the range of subscriptions that we offer and both be earning a good full-time salary from the business.

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