At the recent Nursery World Awards 2018 held in London, Pebbles Childcare became the first ever winners of the 'Childminding Business of the Year' award. We had a chat with the dream team, Chloe and Bridgit, about their win and what their plans are for the future.
How do you feel about being Nursery World's first winner of the ‘Childminding Business of the Year’ award 2018?
"Just being a finalist is a huge achievement, but winning is the icing on the cake, it has still not really sunk in yet!", says Bridgit. She was honoured to be at such a glamorous evening “with so many early years experts and voices of the sector, it was overwhelming". Chloe mentioned that winning was "a surreal feeling...we are so proud and I'm not sure it will ever sink in to be honest!"
How was Pebbles Childcare created?
Bridgit has been working in early years for over 26 years and after working "in nurseries, and as a nursery manager, I needed to adjust my work/home-life balance as my son was about to start secondary school". So after lots of planning, she decided to take the plunge. "By using my knowledge and experience, I set up my own homebased childcare setting which would allow greater flexibility for my changing home-life", Bridgit added.
How long have you both been childminding together and how do you both work as a team?
Chloe joined Pebbles Childcare in February 2016. The pair had previously worked together in another setting, so already knew each other’s strengths. Chloe says that "working together previously definitely made the decision to co-mind together an easier one”. Bridgit adds, “I think had we not known each other already it would have been a bit challenging, working so closely together in my home, the days can be long". But because they know each other so well, they are able to "talk about any niggles we may be feeling and bounce really well off each other, it just... works!"
For some people, co-minding can be difficult and when you spend a long time with one person, this can put real pressure on a working relationship. Chloe comments that "we are very lucky, I think our relationship shows in the care we provide and the environment we've created."
What is the best thing about being a childminder?
It is the "spontaneity of our days" that Bridgit loves the most. Chloe adds that "being able to bring learning to life so significantly" is amazing. Although there is a reasonable amount of planning based on the children's next steps and interests, “no two days are the same!" Being a childminding setting means that Pebbles can remain flexible to the children's changing interests. "We may plan to visit a library one day, but if a child comes in excited about something, we can change our plans to include that child's interest as well" says Bridgit.
Not only is it about the learning, but the best thing about being a childminder is the relationships you create. Chloe comments that "the dynamics of the relationships you forge with the children and their families takes on a totally different perspective and are so much more meaningful in a home-based environment, we've developed a real sense of 'family' and it's such a lovely environment to be in".
…and the most challenging?
As a lot of childcare providers in the sector, Pebbles Childcare faces a number of challenges, including the impact of funded hours, the cost of training and the need for resources, but "these challenges just motivate us to overcome these issues" says Bridgit. Chloe adds that "negative stereotypes you face can be really detrimental if you were to take them too seriously". She continues that "this is one of the main things that motivates us to continue to share our practice, develop our business and change these negative stereotypes that childminders currently face."
The pair both agree that it is important to show society that not only is childminding a viable childcare option, but it's a career too.
On a lighter note, what are your never fails, the-children-always-love-it activity?
Chloe immediately comments that "anything with water or a nature walk!", The children at Pebbles "love to collect and forage when we are out and about, giving them a purpose and a list of things to collect when we are out and about not only encompasses learning but also captures their attention."
Bridgit adds that for her "it depends on the ages of the children, but a firm favourite with our gang is combining junk modelling materials in the tuff spot. Add in a mud kitchen and they'll be absorbed in all sorts of shenanigans!"
What business tips would you give to other childminders setting up?
The key to running your business is to "have a plan!" says Bridgit, "know what it is you want to achieve and make sure you have a budget to help you achieve that goal". It is always important to remember that you can't always meet all the needs of your potential clients, but "if you're going to make any adjustments just for one family, make sure it doesn't adversely affect your home-life, and is cost effective."
How do you manage juggling the business aspects vs. the childcare aspects of running Pebbles childcare?
This is where the amazing teamwork at Pebbles comes in. It is all about using the opportunities presented to you. For example, "if the children are asleep or playing independently, Chloe or I can take turns to have some time out to catch up on writing observations" says Bridgit. Chloe comments that "the fact there are two of us helps us juggle the different aspects of the day to day running of the business".
Sometimes the responsibility of running your own business can be overwhelming as the pair "only have ourselves to answer to", but they are always able to "encourage and support each other to get things done and again, it is a testament to our working relationship" says Chloe.
Although not everyone is happy to work after hours, Bridgit admits that sometimes "creating invoices and catching up on funding does happen in the evenings or weekends when my sons are at football, but this is part of running your own business, you can chose how you manage your own workload".
What do you admire most about the other team member?
Chloe says that she loves Bridgit's creativity and enthusiasm, "I really admire this in her and she constantly challenges me to step outside of my comfort zone, work on new displays and motivate me in areas that I would normally struggle in.". Bridgit loves Chloe's passion for thinking outside the box with activities and her love for continually developing the environment provided to the children. She adds, "her drive and energy for developing her own skills is phenomenal. She is the driving force behind our social media accounts, blogs and articles published in early years magazines. I wouldn't want to be doing this with anyone else!"
Why do you love being a PACEY member?
Bridgit has been a PACEY member since first setting up Pebbles Childcare back in 2015. The best aspect about membership for her is "the training and support, during and after training. It has been essential in running Pebbles Childcare, in particularly the Business Smart toolkit. When updating policies and seeking advice this is the place I go." When Bridgit employed Chloe as her assistant and co-minder she found it "especially useful".
What are your plans for the future?
Plans at the moment include working on some ideas for publishing their own e-book and continuing their lovely blog which is read across the world. Chloe mentions partnerships as a key plan as well, "building links with other settings and professionals, we've loved collaborating with PACEY and Childcare Expo, so would like to build these relationships further."