This podcast is part of a series of case studies in which we speak to small business owners. Find out about the challenges and advantages of owning your own business, and pick up some advice on how to get started.
Lullabyz Nursery is a family run day care and wrap around facility based in Newport, south Wales. The Nursery was set up by Nicola Reed and her husband Karl in October 2011.
Read more about them on our website - www.gov.uk/government/case-stu…es/lullabyz-nursery
Gary Townley: Okay. Hello. My name is Gary Townley. I'm part of the communications team here at Companies House. I'm delighted to today be here with Nicola Reed, one of the owners and one of the directors of Lullabyz Nursery. So thank you for having us Nicola. Would you like to introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about yourself and the company?
Nicola Reed: Okay. Well, the company would have been running, it’ll be 6 years this October. So we opened on the first of October 2012. It’s Lullabyz Nursery. We're a family run nursery, based in Newport quite near the city centre. We started off with 5 members of staff and know there’s 34, so we were a fast growing business but we've sort of levelled out now. That’s where we are and we've got a great reputation which we fiercely protect.
GT: Okay. So you say you started out about 6 years ago?
NR: It’ll be 6 years ago in October.
GT: And do you run it on your own? Are you the sort of the sole manager here?
NR: Yes. With CIW who's our governing body, you have to have a registered person. That's the person who oversees everything and then you have a person in charge. Somebody who runs it on the day-to-day basis. I am both of those people here.
GT: Okay. So what inspired you to start the business?
NR: I always wanted to work with children and I went to do a teaching degree as soon as I did my A-levels. So I was teaching for 3 or 4 years actually in Nottingham. When I moved back, because I’m from Newport originally, I was doing supply teaching. Nursery owning was always something that I wanted to do. So because I was only doing supply teaching it was a now or never sort of thing.
GT: So what did you do first? Was it finding premises or find staff?
NR: Finding a premises, it took us 2 years to find premises and then when we actually found this building it took us a year to buy it. So it was a very messy operation, but it was worth it. We got there in the end. So it took us a year to buy it and then it took us 9 months to renovate it to be open
GT: Right so it’s this building. You haven't moved since you started out?
GT: Okay brilliant. So when did you decide to become a limited company? Was that straight away?
NR: Yes straight away initially. My dad previously had set up his own business and that was a limited company. So he already had expertise in that area and that's what he recommended as the safest way, you know to protect the business.
GT: Okay. And so he gave you most of the advice. Did you search anywhere else’s website?
NR: No, not really. My dad is one of the directors of the company and he's got over 40 years experience, you know, with running his own business. So he was our go-to person. So we went on his advice really. He set us up with our current accountant who also offered us a lot of advice.
GT: That was the next question really, did you do it on yourself or did you use a formation agent, stroke accountant?
NR: Yeah, we've got accountants who are Lewis Ballard and we pay them for different services. They not only do our wages, you know pensions lots of other things. So they do a lot of work for us. And yeah, we trust them implicitly so we have meetings with them quarterly and updates. My husband Carl, who’s also a director, does a lot of the accounts as well and sends them over to Lewis Ballard.
GT: Excellent. So the company was incorporated in October 2011. So actually before you opened.
NR: Yes, as I said it was 9 months of building work and paper work.
GT: Okay. I know you use an accountant, but are you aware of your responsibilities as a director?
NR: Yeah, we know what our responsibilities are and they're quick to pick us up if we’re not doing anything right. So yeah between myself and my husband all the paperworks.
GT: Yep. So it's confirmation statement on an annual basis. The PSC register is one we’re particularly interested in. That was introduced about 2 years ago now in 2016. Do you know what that is?
NR: Yes, I think so, let me get it right now. A person of significant control.
GT: That's right. That’s it, someone who has ownership of the business. Does not have to be a director, does not have to be a shareholder. Someone who has influence about how the company runs. Now I have noticed actually from the register because the register’s free to inspect for anyone, that you recently changed your details on your PSC. Do you know what that was?
NR: We've recently moved house so it would be a change of address.
GT: Right okay, so change of service address. And you know when that has to be filed?
NR: Is it 14 or 28 days? Is it 14 days?
GT: 14 days, absolutely. You have to notify Companies House within 14 days of a change of address.
NR: Which we did.
GT: Brilliant, your accountant did and you did that obviously online. It's much quicker to do it online. Now I notice your husband is also a director. Does he have any role in the business?
NR: He manages the accounts. Or he sends everything onto the accountant. So he's in charge of the paperwork on that side of it. Although I say paperwork, it’s all done online now.
GT: Right, okay, and also he's a PSC because you both own over 25% of the shares and that's one of the criteria of being a PSC. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far since starting the company?
NR: I will probably always say staffing and I'm sure if you come back in another 20 years, I'll still say staffing. If you get your staff right then your business is right, especially in the childcare industry, I can't speak for other people, but we spent the first 2 years of our business recruiting. And now it's sort of a one-out one-in basis because we're at maximum capacity now and I would always say get your staff right. If I go on courses, or meet anyone else, that's what everyone talks about. It's just staffing and having staff issues.
We have an excellent team of staff here. We have a very low turnaround for staff which is unusual in this industry and that's because, you know, we do have a good reputation. The girls want to work here.
GT: Would you have done anything differently? If you had your time again?
NR: What would I do differently? Obviously, yes, you look back now and you just think you were so naive on different things. You think you can hit the ground running but it is an evolving business. We will never say that we’re the finished article because the nursery is always changing. We're always growing, we’re always improving. So yeah, there's a lot of things that I would have done differently. But everything we've done has got us to where we are now.
GT: And it’s been successful because you have grown. What do you think the most important factor in the success of the business has been?
NR: I think that I'm so hands-on in the business. There's not very many nurseries where the owner runs the nursery day-to-day as well. Normally an owner will set up a nursery and they'll disappear and pull somebody else in to run it. I've got 2 children of my own and I always say this is my third baby. People have asked us about setting up another nursery under the same name, but I just feel like I would dilute what I've got here, you know. Me being here all the time is what makes it special.
GT: Okay, and what advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of starting up a similar sort of business?
NR: Go and speak to somebody really who's already done it because it always seems like such a lovely idea but you don't realise the work that is involved in it. Not just the hours but the paperwork and everything that you've got to keep on top of. I speak to my staff and I asked them, what would you like to do in the future? And lots of them say run their own place. It's easy to say that it's not as easy to do it.
GT: Okay, how do you promote the business? Do you use social media? What do you need to do? Do you use word of mouth?
NR: Yeah a lot of it is word of mouth. We do use Twitter and Facebook. But really they're not really for promoting the business, they’re just for information and sharing ideas with other settings. At the beginning we did a lot of promotion and we advertised in magazines and leafleting but we haven't had to do that for quite a while.
GT: Okay, and what's the web address in case anybody wants to get in touch?
NR: It’s www.lullabyznursery.co.uk.
GT: Excellent. And what's the most important lesson you've learned since setting up?
NR: I suppose, be confident. I've grown as a person since opening the business. My husband will tell you, he probably thinks I don't need any more confidence, but yes I think before I started the nursery I would be scared to speak to people about different things and now you have to. My staff have to know that I am in charge and that they've got confidence in me. So you do have to be confident in speaking in front of people. I will speak to anybody now on any level and enjoy it.
GT: That's great. And if you could what's the best piece of business advice you'd give to your younger self, perhaps you’re just leaving school?
NR: My younger self. Follow your dream. Yeah.
GT: Is this your dream?
NR: This is my dream. Yeah. This is my dream.
GT: And what's the best thing about owning your own business?
NR: Coming and going as I please. Yeah. I've got 2 children. So running my own business. It has enabled me to take my children to school, pick them up when they've got concerts, can go in and out. So as a family person it’s been a big part of my life, but it doesn’t take over my life. It's finding that work-life balance, which if I was an employee, I wouldn't necessarily be able to do.
GT: Being limited liability means you've got that protection as well.
GT: That's great, right. So how do you see the company developing in the future?
NR: As I said, we will always continue to grow and improve. We're always looking for ways in which to improve the nursery, but income wise we're probably at capacity now. For the last couple of years that hasn't really changed. Numbers do go up and down throughout the year, but it sort of balances itself out. We can't really take on any more children at the current time.
GT: Okay, and that's I think about it for me. So thank you very much Nicola. If you do want to contact us it's www.gov.uk/companieshouse. You can telephone us on 0303 1234 500. And if you do want to contact us, it’s email@example.com. So, thank you very much for listening, listen in to the next one. Thanks, Nicola, if you want to say goodbye?
GR: Okay. Thanks very much, and we'll see you next time.