From small steps to a giant leap
From small steps to a giant leap
A good investment isn’t just about sound decisions and financial forecasting. It’s also about having faith in people. The same thing that drives successful local Welsh businesses like Pitter Patter.
When Powys entrepreneur Amy Parrotte followed her dream to open a children’s nursery in the heart of her community, she found the usual doors to financial support firmly closed.
Working with children had been Amy’s ambition since school. While reading child studies at Aberystwyth University, she opened an onsite playgroup to support students with toddlers. Running her own business, it transpired, was also something she was drawn to.
Not long after graduating, Amy spotted a similar gap in the market in her hometown of Llanidloes. Given the nearest nurseries were in Newtown, a 20-minute drive away, local parents were crying out for accessible, affordable care.
With this in mind, Amy wrote a well-researched business plan and sought the financial backing crucial to making it happen
“While I had no money to set up the business, I did have a good idea of what I wanted to achieve and the kind of nursery I wanted to offer parents in a town where, at the time, there was no help at all,” she says.
But despite Amy’s clear vision and credentials, her high-street bank rejected her loan application. On account of her student debt, she believes.
Amy took her business plan to Robert Owen Community Banking, on the recommendation of her financial advisor. “The people at Robert Owen were more interested in me and my business idea than in my debt, and could see my potential.”
With the funds to get going, Amy opened Pitter Patter in February 2013. Not only did it bring much-needed childcare services to the parents of Llanidloes, it also provided new jobs for the surrounding area.
But like many fledgling businesses, Pitter Patter wasn’t without its teething problems. Trade was slow initially and, as it approached its first Christmas, even closure was on the cards.
Tipping the balance
Having a small premises wasn’t ideal from the beginning, admits Amy. Fortunately, though, parents began to hear about the warmth and professionalism of Amy’s team, and were soon queuing up to enrol their children.
It wasn’t just the team’s friendliness that won new customers. Amy’s decision to hire staff who lived on the nursery’s doorstep, rather than in nearby towns, was a crucial move in tipping the balance.
“Llanidloes is a small place where everyone knows each other. Parents meet regularly at baby groups, so word of mouth got around,” she confirms.
NO SMALL FEAT: Amy and her team at Pitter Patter, which came back from the brink of near-closure to become the nursery of choice for Llanidloes families.
“It does reassure parents if they know someone here. Also, we’re a really close team – the ladies are fantastic and love what they do, which makes a big difference. For us, childcare is more than a job.”
With attendance at the nursery swelling, Amy borrowed more money from Robert Owen allowing her to move into a bigger space. She’d been eyeing up the former youth centre, which sat conveniently opposite the doctor’s surgery and had a big garden.
“The team at Robert Owen were so accommodating. They came to visit the nursery and supported me with advice throughout the process.”
It’s having a positive impact on communities, helping more parents get back to work by being able to leave their kids in trusted hands.
Tuning into local needs
Over the course of a few years, Amy has tripled her turnover and expanded her team to 15 full and part-time workers. What’s more, she’s started offering apprenticeships to help grow local talent.
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. In that time, she’s also picked up accolades in the Welsh Women’s Awards and Welsh Business Awards.
Now, once again tuning into local needs, Amy is planning to open a second nursery.
“More parents are going back to work thanks to the Welsh government’s childcare deal. And we already have a waiting list,” she explains.
With a healthy balance sheet and a clutch of awards to her name, it’s hard to believe that Amy was ever turned down by a bank. Her biggest achievement, she says, has been simply to keep going.
“Of course, winning two awards and growing the team from three staff to 15 is fantastic. And it’s having a positive impact on communities, helping more parents get back to work by being able to leave their kids in trusted hands.”
Robert Owen Community Banking has loaned Amy £20,000 in total, supporting her at crucial moments in the growth of her business.
“When personal passion and care for local people are at the heart of a business, its potential is huge,” says Jackie Milton, head of operations.