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Childminder’s challenge pays off with third nursery set for expansion

A family nursery business has embarked on the next stage of its expansion nine years after the founder chose to take on a new challenge and build on her success as a home-based childminder.

Springboard Nursery has taken capacity at its three locations in and around Hull to more than 300 with the addition of the pre-school room at the site in Willerby which it launched in September at one of Allenby Commercial’s Trade Yard developments.

Owner Gail Heelas said the growth has been driven by her own ambition and by the strong relationship with Allenby Commercial, who keep coming up with great sites for nurseries.

Gail said: “We had been operating a nursery at The Bloc, Allenby’s site in Anlaby, for three years when they told me they had bought Worx in Hull city centre. It’s a completely different environment but it’s also very busy so we gave it a go.

“The week before the first lockdown they asked when we would be opening another nursery. I asked when they would have a site and they told me they’d just started work at The Trade Yard in Willerby. So here we are!”

Gail had been working from home for 13 years before setting up the first nursery at Anlaby. Husband Richard was working for himself as an electrician and moved across to the family business when the second site opened in 2018. Son Tyler found himself pondering his next move after university and jumped on board to run HR and health and safety as the business grew.

From a team of six in 2014 the company now employs 82 people, with new staff arriving every month to cater for rising demand. The Anlaby and Hull sites, which also have pre-school rooms, can each accommodate nearly 100 children. The completion of the pre-school room at Willerby takes capacity there to more than 120.

Gail said: “We opened in September and we are filling up very quickly. The children and parents absolutely love it and most of the people who have been to look round have signed up. Also, because Anlaby is full any families who need extra sessions can come and see what we have at Willerby.

“Every time we have opened a new nursery, we have evolved the offer and the facilities. We have identified and introduced improvements based on our experience of working with parents and their children.”

The new building has a baby room, toddler room and pre-school room and each has a dedicated outdoor play area, enabling all the children to play inside and outdoors and stay in their own groups. Opening hours are 7.30am until 6pm five days a week and other facilities include a sensory room, IT room and a staff area, with plans to add out-of-school services in a future phase.

Gail added: “We have worked closely with Allenby Commercial and they have provided us with an absolutely beautiful building in an area with a major retail park across the road and a lot of new housing in the area. We’re supporting local jobs by creating opportunities here and by helping parents get back to work in the knowledge that their children are being looked after.”

Georgia Allenby, Design and Marketing Manager at Allenby Commercial, said the site was originally acquired as another location for The Trade Yard brand, aimed at the trade counter and DIY sectors.

The Trade Yard sites in Beverley and Scunthorpe are both full and work is in progress on new developments at Immingham and Barton-on-Humber. The Trade Yard Willerby was filling up quickly with Toolstation, Screwfix and Easy Bathrooms and then Allenby came up with the idea of trying something different at the development which now has only one unit available.

Georgia said: “When we started planning this site the idea was that it would be another trade counter unit to complement the rest of The Trade Yard. But when the conversation with Springboard Nursery happened, it became clear that it was the perfect spot for a new-build nursery and pre-school facility.

“We knew there was a good opportunity for a nursery because of all the housebuilding going on nearby. We work on new-build and historic restorations in everything from retail and offices to creative space and our own hotel so we were confident we could build an excellent nursery.

“We worked closely with Gail and her team when designing and developing their first two facilities into our existing buildings and we’ve seen the outstanding facilities and service they offer. To develop a purpose-built facility from the ground up for them and see it working as we’d all hoped is very rewarding. Together we’ve created a state of the art facility for future generations to enjoy.”

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