A fierce determination to succeed resulted in the founder and MD of Childs Play Private Nurseries working around the clock and even answering emails while in labour.
Her son, George William, is now two and the businesses she has established in the meantime are thriving, like the children in the nurseries.
To call 29-year-old Laura Davies an entrepreneurial powerhouse is an understatement. She has developed three businesses and a community enterprise project, driven by a passion to help those less fortunate than herself.
Her interest in childcare began when she was just 14 where she helped out at her younger brother, Samuel’s after school club. This experience started her interest in the early years and how beneficial it could be for children.
After studying childcare and education qualifications at college and university she began working in a local nursery. By 17 she was appointed Deputy Manager before being named Nursery Manager. Her promotion continued with five years as manager where, alongside the nursery owner, she helped raise the nursery’s Ofsted grade to Outstanding.
At this point in her career Laura knew she wanted to start her own nursery but the plans didn’t materialise as she had hoped, shortly after she found her now Ferryhill site.
She said: “I had always wanted to have my own nursery and do things my way but I felt too young to have the responsibility of being an employer. My mum Karen and Aunty Julie really encouraged me to explore opening the Ferryhill nursery.
“I was 23 and it felt like a huge step but thanks to them, I took it. We had four children and one member of staff at first. I had my vision for Childs Play and knew what worked and now we have 19 members in my team at Ferryhill and an Outstanding grading from Ofsted and won multiple awards and accolades.”
Laura’s approach is to constantly evolve and inspire her team with different innovative ideas. “I always think, ‘What can we do better tomorrow? How can we improve our Edu-care service for our children and families?’”
She is now building on the success of her Ferryhill Childs Play Nursery experience which won her a plethora of awards and honours including being appointed an Ambassador for the Princes Trust, attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by HRH Prince Charles and receiving Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, in the North East Businesswomen Awards. Laura has also been acknowledged and recognised at industry specific awards ceremonies; Nursery World Awards, National Day Nursery Association Awards and Daynurseries.co.uk.
The growth of the company accelerated at the turn of this year when she took over and transformed two existing nurseries in Chester le Street and Seaham. One of
which had been identified as, Requiring Improvement, by Ofsted, before her take over.
“I was extremely nervous about taking over someone else’s set up but I had wanted to expand from the second year of owning Ferryhill Childs Play. I literally can’t rest! My eye was always looking for the right place, or places, and I found them.
“It has taken a little while to shape both new nurseries into how I want them, with my ethos and belief in the early years truly embedded. I am so proud of all of the employees who were transferred over to my company. They have worked tirelessly to create the Child’s Play Vision; it’s certainly coming together.
“I pride myself on being hands on. I want Child’s Play to be a leader in the field of Early Years and to inspire my team, so I have arranged for Shonette Basson, a brilliant, dynamic speaker to come to talk to them. I also put together my own unique bespoke training programmes and all of the management team are attending the Upcoming Nursery World Conference so we can upskill our knowledge and approach even further.”
One of the innovative elements of Childs Play Private Nurseries is the emphasis on parental involvement in their child’s nursery education. There is a parental action group which acts like a board of Governors in a school and the children themselves have a voice on what happens inside the nurseries. This approach also ensures parents understand what is planned and why.
Laura Davies believes the difference of her nurseries is down to the clear child centred approach, where there are constantly different toys put out to stimulate their interest. Each room in the nurseries is dedicated to specific age groups and is full of interesting themes and toys which change daily, to add to a child’s excitement of arriving there, to play and learn. With a Rhythm of the Day, each child’s day is unique to them.
As well as being fun, Laura also has child safety at the forefront of her business and Ferryhill has the Millie’s Mark Accreditation, the gold standard accreditation for Paediatric First Aid. The accreditation shows that they have 100% of staff trained and qualified in First aid. The two new nurseries are currently going through the same accreditation process.
Not one to rest on her laurels, and as part of her determination to support disadvantaged communities, she has being integral in developing the Ferryhill Community Partnership CIO, which took over the former council leisure centre.
Her Ferryhill nursery is on the ground floor of the newly named ‘Ferryhill Sport and Education Centre’ and there are wide range of sports activities and uses in the rest of the building including the Seconds Out boxing club, indoor bowls, roller discos, conference, dance classes, fitness classes and community projects to name but a few.
She is proud that the venture is a big success with four times the amount of sport in the centre compared to the past.
With someone as entrepreneurial as Laura Davies it is no surprise that a new enterprise is also on the horizon. This next venture for her innovative drive is a new digital business aimed at nursery owners.
She said: “Nurseries are notoriously paper heavy and usually have tiny office space the size of a cupboard. I realised this was not a great way to run a business especially when other sectors are increasingly going paperless, we needed to put our house in order.”
The problem has been solved by new digital software developed by Laura and Dom Ryan, from BeBig Online for her own use, which will run a nursery from everything from top end reports, to child care plans, learning journeys, assessments, staff management, statutory requirements and fee payments across multiple sites, 24/7.
There is a clear demand for the product with over 100 nurseries already registering an interest in it. Entitled ‘Thrive’ the software, it is expected to be launched in 2019.
Laura Davies said: “My heart is in the North East and I am so pleased I can help children and families get the best start in life, no matter where they live. I’ve now achieved a comfortable work-life balance. I also set aside more time to evaluate and reflect more than I used to. I am surrounded by an amazing team, my managers, practitioners, cleaners, everyone are all so valuable to me. Without them Child’s Play wouldn’t be what it is. They have taken my vision, embraced it and made it a reality, for that I am eternally grateful and thankful.”
A true indicator of her drive and commitment to excellence is a final note of the interview, for the Ofsted evaluation for the two new nurseries in her portfolio she is not aiming for good, “I want Outstanding and know how to get it.” Only the best will do, not just for her own satisfaction but for the children, family and staff as well.