My evolving business

Amanda is a PACEY Champion and runs a successful childminding business in Cornwall.

I have been in business for 18 years and it has evolved over the years. At the outset I didn’t have a formal business strategy but my USP has naturally developed and now it is very evident to prospective parents that we heavily focus on outdoor learning and getting out and about – this provides a point of differentiation from other settings.

At the outset I saw the importance of keeping detailed records of your accounts (income and expenditure) and setting aside time each month to do it. Online software system has really helped me manage my finances – it enables me to issue invoices and also record itemised expenses. It even gives me a report to send to HMRC meaning I can do my own accounts and save on the cost of an accountant. I am able to keep records of my accounts online, which saves time. I order food shopping online every week and plan my weekly menu in advance. This definitely saves lots of money.

From a marketing point of view it is important to be seen in your local community. Being around at schools, pre-schools and playgroups really helps. Most of my work comes from word of mouth, so it is important to get out there and talk to people about your business, tell friends and family, get chatting to people in parks, play centres, the beach, schools, playgroups etc. I also use a Facebook business page for marketing my business and have found that this is a great way of engaging with people.

Taking on an assistant was key to expanding my business because it provided that all-important increase in my ratios. It does require a big shift in mindset going from working on your own to having someone in your house, but if you are able to make the financial side worth it and would like to work with someone else it is a great option. I provide full training but expect my staff to be just as skilful as me when it comes to every aspect of care and providing learning opportunities. We all change nappies, clean up, set up and provide activities - workload is divided up equally.

I have focused on getting myself known in the local area and have established good relationships with other settings. Effective partnership working is so important – particularly when it comes to funded places. Some of my children use part funding with me and part with pre-schools/nurseries. I currently have 10 children on funding and about half use their full entitlement with me. The process is fairly smooth, we use an online portal and I am planning on offering the full 30 hours entitlement, because our system hasn’t been problematic.

Amanda's top tips 

  • Use technology and go paperless, it might seem daunting but it saves so much time and money
  • Use online resources to stay up to date and keep on track with your business - the HMRC website is very useful
  • Ensure that the children you take on, and the hours they do, work for you financially
  • Regularly record your expenses, set up a robust system from the beginning. Budget and plan for resources and consumables.

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