Backwell Children First, a Community Interest Company (CIC) which operates Meadowside Breakfast Club and Pre-school in the village of Backwell, is soon to celebrate its four year anniversary. In that time the company has taken over the running of the long-established pre-school and successfully expanded it to offer extra sessions and a breakfast club. It employs nine members of staff.
Backwell Children First was first structured in April 2009 by business partners Catherine Nelson, a former media production manager and Eloise Sinclair, a qualified teacher.
Meadowside Pre-school, which had been in existence for nearly 50 years, was registered as a charity and run by a management committee of parent volunteers. However when no individuals could be found who wanted to take on the roles of Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer, Catherine and Eloise decided to take the pre-school on themselves.
“We originally looked at setting up as a limited company but felt that the primary focus of our organisation was for the benefit of the local community and that the CIC structure was the best way forward.” explains Catherine.
“North Somerset Enterprise Agency provided huge support through its business advisor Abdullah Ali-Ahmadi, a specialist in helping social enterprises make their business ventures successful. He provided us with lots of business advice and pointed us in the right direction.
“Abdullah was completely key to our success because he took us seriously and shared a wealth of professional knowledge, including the importance of thinking about the structure of our business.”
This advice helped enable Catherine and Eloise to take on and run the business, including taking responsibility for employing the seven existing staff.
Now, at approaching four years on, Meadowside is an outstanding community pre-school that creates the opportunity for children aged between two years and five years to play together in a setting where parents and carers are encouraged to be involved in their child’s learning.
Graded as Outstanding by Ofsted on three separate inspections, it prides itself on providing a safe, secure, happy, healthy and stimulating environment in which children can develop their individual and independent skills and where equality of opportunity is offered for all children and families.
The CIC structure ensures that any money from funding remains in the pre-school for the benefit of the children and that all equipment and toys are asset-locked to Meadowside’s nominated Charity, the Pre-School Learning Alliance, thus safeguarding the future of the pre-school.
As it approaches it’s four year anniversary, the business has proved so successful that Meadowside Pre-School has expanded to run extra pre-school sessions and a breakfast club for West Leigh Infant School which it shares a site with.
Whilst Eloise has since returned to teaching, three existing members of staff – Elaine Croker who has worked at Meadowside for over 10 years, Sharon Bratley who is studying for an Early Years Degree and Jane Wilmott, whose children attended the pre-school – have now become directors of the company.
“Our journey into the world of business has been a challenging one, especially as we have had to learn about employment law, paying wages, and tax, all of which were new to us.” reflects Catherine. “But we found good local businesses to support us and we are all very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve.
“I would say to others thinking about starting out as a social enterprise or CIC to go for it!” adds Catherine. “But it’s important to take advice from others, do your research and think carefully about what you are doing.”