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Graduate founds childcare business that 'does it all' so parents can enjoy time with their children not spend it doing chores

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Written by: Gavin Thompson | Posted 08 December 2015 17:37

Graduate founds childcare business that 'does it all' so parents can enjoy time with their children not spend it doing chores
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When Joanna Chavasse started working with a family to help with childcare it was meant to be a gap year option on the way to a career in the City.

But right through her four-year economics degree at The University of Bath, Joanna felt there was something missing in the way many families went about finding support to look after their children.

Now the 24-year-old is plugging that gap with her own company, Freckles Childcare, based at the Entrepreneurial Spark powered by NatWest hub in Trinity Quay, Bristol. In five months the company has gained six clients in Bath, two in Bristol and one in Gloucester.

“The family I worked with have four children and they have had 16 au pairs in six years,” said Joanna. “I thought a lot about why these problems were arising for families and about what was missing. I began to identify that the issues primarily revolved around children in full time education or nursery, around pick ups and drop offs and the day to day running of the home, which consequently impacted on precious family time.”

After graduating Joanna turned down a job in the City of London and went back to childcare, working with two families in Bath to look after the youngsters but also to run the house.

“It means that when the parents come home from work they can spend time with their family,” she said. “Our goal is ‘someone to do it all’.”

Alongside her work Joanna was busy drawing up plans for Freckles, and her own experiences have inspired the ethos of the company.

“Family is at the heart of everything we do,” she said. “I grew up in a home where family was at the heart of everything and I was lucky enough that it wasn’t compromised by demanding working hours.”

Freckles started trading in May and Joanna took up a place at the Entrepreneurial Spark hub, or hatchery, in August, when she started working full-time on her business dream.

It provides candidates who combine childcare and housekeeping. Duties range from school drop offs and pick ups, play dates and helping with homework to laundry, ironing and cooking. Freckles Childcare can provide one of their candidates, who are known as Kayas, for full time childcare, part-time wrap-around childcare and childcare at events such as weddings.

“Kaya is a Native American word which means ‘elder sibling’,” said Joanna. “That’s very much what we’re all about – a level of fun combined with responsibility.

“I want the term Kaya to become as well-known as ‘nanny’ or ‘au pair’ so that people don’t think there are only two options when it comes to childcare,” she said.

Broadly, said Joanna, a nanny would not usually do household tasks, while an au pair is not permitted to have continuous sole charge of children under the age of two and will undertake some but not all housekeeping tasks.

“There’s been a huge amount of interest from both potential clients and Kayas,” said Joanna. “We’ve had more than 900 applications.”

Candidates go through a tough selection process that includes submitting a video CV, undergoing a competency interview and attending an activity session where they have to deliver a presentation and partake in scenario role-plays. Those who are successful are enhanced DBS-checked, enrolled on a paediatric first-aid course and must attend training which includes their food hygiene certificate.

Joanna herself is undergoing a rigorous regime which demands commitment, energy and passion – the Entrepreneurial Spark programme. She is among the inaugural intake of 80 entrepreneurs at the hub in the NatWest building in Trinity Quay. They are spending six months there, with the option to stay for a further 12 for the most promising.

The programme includes physical office space with super-fast internet, a start-up boot-camp, dedicated mentoring, regular events, workshops and training, all free of charge.

The Entrepreneurial Spark powered by NatWest programme focuses on developing the entrepreneur’s skills and attributes as individuals, preparing them to have the know-how to make their business ideas investor-ready.

“The office space first attracted me – until August I was working from home and I don’t really like an isolated environment,” said Joanna. “I wanted a community. When you’re co-working you make really good connections – you might solve a problem in five minutes over a coffee rather than spending hours dwelling on it by yourself.”

She praised staff at the hatchery who helped motivate her to push herself out of her comfort zone.

For now Joanna is working on establishing Freckles in the South West, and would like to grow the business sufficiently to take on a staff member to help with recruitment and placement. Future plans include expansion into London – and eventually nationally and even internationally.

Pictured top Joanna and some of her clients: left to right, mum Anna Pirani holding Kiran, Freckles founder Joanna Chavasse, ‘Kaya’ Lauren Pritchard and Reuben.



Case study: The Pirani family

Joanna and some of her happy clients: Left to right, mum Anna Pirani holding Kiran, Freckles founder Joanna Chavasse, ‘Kaya’ Lauren Pritchard and Reuben.

Pictured: Reuben, left, and Kiran,with Kaya Lauren Pritchard

Engaging a Kaya has given Bristol lawyer Anna Pirani the flexibility she was looking for around childcare.

Anna and her husband had always employed a full-time nanny to look after Reuben, seven, and Kiran, four, but once they were both in school the family found that their needs had changed.

“Having a nanny four days a week, 7am til 7pm, worked until Kiran started school,” said Anna, from Redland. “Then we wondered if we could justify employing someone for 12 hours a day when for six of them the boys didn’t need looking after. We decided instead that we needed someone for fewer hours and who could be very flexible.”

Anna posted an advert online and Joanna replied, suggesting that Freckles Childcare could be the solution. After reviewing several video CVs and interviewing most of the candidates put forward Anna settled on Lauren Pritchard.

“Lauren comes in at 1pm and helps around the house, then picks the boys up from school, helps with their homework and stays until 7pm,” said Anna. “It’s perfect because now the boys are older we don’t necessarily need a qualified nanny – what we need is someone who knows how to deal with school-age children, is active and enjoys being around them.

“The greatest advantage for us of having a Kaya is the flexibility – Lauren is willing to do any household tasks, which get done as if by magic, and she’s able to do ad hoc hours. A nanny understandably usually wants something more solid in terms of hours and usually needs a full-time post.

“I think a Kaya is a really good option for childcare for school-age children.”

Lauren, 21, from Downend, said: “I graduated from university this summer and I was looking around for jobs when I saw Joanna’s advert. I thought it sounded quite fun.

“Being a Kaya gives me some of the freedom I had as a student, which allows me to think about my career goals. Since I started working with Anna’s family at the end of September it has reaffirmed for me that childcare could be a long-term career option, whether in an educational environment or as a Kaya.”

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