The Business Owner: Leanna Barrett, Little Forest Folk
Not many would remortgage a house to start to business, but Leanna Barrett did. She talks to is4profit about her outdoor forest nursery
Name: Lenna Barrett
Company: Little Forest Folk
Founders: Leanna and James Barrett
Location: Wimbledon, Chiswick, Wandsworth
Proposition: Full-time childcare for two to five year olds in an outdoor nursery setting in various locations in South West London
Size: 27 employees
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
Unlike normal nurseries that are indoors, Little Forest Folk is fully outdoors in a forest setting. Children are free to explore, learn and play surrounded by the wonders of nature. Our nursery is open 51 weeks of the year and the children continue playing outdoors in all weather conditions, even if it’s raining! We believe having an all-weather policy helps children to build strength of character and resilience.
How did you finance your business?
My husband and I remortgaged our house – a risky move but setting up the business has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
For me, it’s customer satisfaction. We thrive on giving children the best nursery experience possible. Without happy families, we couldn’t exist.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
In a rapidly expanding business, the biggest challenge we face is finding amazing staff to keep standards in new teams as high as our initial nursery. We look for staff that are not only equipped with the relevant qualifications and love working with children, but also have a great passion for the outdoors.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
Rather than marketing, we are more focused on providing an excellent experience and creating a buzz by word- of-mouth. We have a blog where we explore relevant topics and post updates from the nursery to let parents know what the children have been up to, and we are also very active on Twitter.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
We don’t export as we don’t manufacture goods.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
I don’t have a preference for a particular app but given that I’m always out and about, Little Forest Folk would not exist without my iPhone!
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Inspiring, pioneering, dynamic.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
It’s not easy setting up your own business, especially when it comes to sourcing the capital to fund it. I think the government needs to make it easier for entrepreneurs to access start-up finance and introduce more schemes that provide advice, loans and mentoring to new businesses.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
An old friend of mine, Will Beckett, set up the award-winning steak restaurant chain – Hawksmoor. I admire him not only because he’s set up a fantastic business but because Hawksmoor is consistently voted one of the best places to work in the UK – a fantastic achievement in an industry that is known for its long hours and hard work!
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
I want to have at least five nurseries all of which are providing an excellent service, changing the lives of children from all backgrounds and revolutionising early years’ education in the UK
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
We don’t run Little Forest Folk to make a profit, we run to change lives.