Business is child’s play for nursery chain Clever Clogs

Andrea Townsley set up nursery chain Clever Clogs in 2007 and now turns over more than £660,000. We ask her about how she set up the business and future plans.

How did you get the idea?

I was a business manager for a couple of companies in the food industry so I learned about profit and loss, sales and marketing and all those things you need to run a business. I wanted to find something to do for myself and had always thought I could do a great job at building a nursery from scratch.

How did you finance it?

I did some market research outside a supermarket to assess demand which helped get four banks interested. I managed to raise £1.1 million from one of them and a further £115,000 from North East Loans, a government funded initiative. I spent £215,000 on a plot of land near Durham City FC and got an architect and a builder on board. I nearly ran out of money – I had to borrow an extra £20,000 from my mum and dad at the last minute.

How was it marketed?

I started off by walking the streets and delivering leaflets to people’s houses. I held an open day for people to have a look before we launched. I also put adverts in the local newspaper and I managed to get on the radio. Word of mouth was crucial too.

What sets your nursery apart?

I think we’re a more flexible nursery than most. We try and work around parents’ needs, whereas often it’s all about money in a private nursery. It’s so important we see things from the parents point of view as well as the child’s. If the parent isn’t happy the child isn’t and vice versa. I’m onsite a lot too and you won’t find many nursery owners on the premises so much.

What’s next?

At the start of this year I took on two new nurseries and invested £500,000 bringing them up to scratch, and I think I want to open some more. Originally I thought I might just stick with one and make a nice profit and be happy, but I needed the challenge so I went actively looking for more, and there could be still more to come.

Also see: Interview with mum of two Denise Proctor who started baby equipment rental service business The Baby Loft

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