We caught up with local mum Tracey Blake, 41, founder of Student Nannies, a website connecting local students and families to offer a smart solution to term-time and school holiday childcare.
Which part of the Chilterns do you live in?
We’ve lived in Princes Risborough for about 10 years.
There’s myself, my other half James, gymnastics-mad Minnie, 7, and Lego- and Batman-obsessed Monty, 5.
Sum up your business in a sentence:
Studentnannies.com links up parents who need flexible childcare with local students who make great nannies because they are smart, energetic and available.
What’s your career background?
I am a journalist. I started off in magazines and have worked at national newspapers for the past 12 years. I am currently the features editor at Metro, the UK’s best-read week-day newspaper.
How did your career change after becoming a mum?
I was a lot more tired but I carried on regardless, because I had to!
What first inspired you to start Student Nannies?
I was struggling to find childcare help after school on Wednesdays and, by chance, ended up hiring a student studying art foundation at Bucks New Uni. She was totally brilliant with the kids and did fantastic craft projects with them every week, which they loved. When she left us after a year I wanted to find another student as I realised they were a great fit, but there was no way to connect with students. Student Nannies was born!
And how did you move from idea to actually taking your first business steps?
I knew James and I couldn’t do it on our own so I asked three friends with complementary skills to take a share of the business. This meant we could pool our skills and keep start-up costs low. Plus it’s been a joy to share this adventure with friends!
What skills or experience from your career do you use in your business?
I am a writer so I was able to create the ‘voice’ of the brand, and I have an eye for a news story so this has helped with our PR and marketing.
Who is your target customer and how do you find and market to them?
We have two customers – working parents with school-age children and students. At the moment the business is growing pretty organically. We are reaching people through word of mouth recommendations, as well as social media and press. We are particularly focussing our marketing efforts on Bucks, Oxford and London.
What are the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in starting your own business?
Being time poor!
Your biggest successes to date?
This lovely piece in The Telegraph which totally sums up what the business is about – smart childcare.
What’s your vision for your business?
We want to help parents and students connect in every big University city in the country.
What has most surprised you about yourself in starting your business?
How tenacious I am – I know it’s a good idea that solves a problem for parents and students, and I won’t give up!
How do you juggle running a business and family life?
With the help of our brilliant Student Nanny Chloe, and the reward of an episode of Riviera once I have done a few hours work of an evening!
What advice do you have for other parents who want to start a business?
Just go for it, it’s always better to regret trying something than to regret not trying it!
How do you relax?
Walking our Borrow My Doggy pooch Bramble with the children, and a good TV drama (current faves are Riveira, Billions and Designated Survivor on Netflix) with a glass of wine.
What do you love most about where you live?
I love that it totally feels like we are in the countryside, but I am only 40 mins to London. I also love that if we walk into town or step into our local pub The Bird In Hand we always bump into someone we know.
Your simple pleasure?
Feeling the sun on my face.
What’s your favourite tipple?
An Aperol Spritz with lots of ice and an olive.
Top dinner party guests?
Kate Moss because she’s such an enigma and she’s a party pro, Keifer Sutherland (TV crush thanks to all those dramas I love watching) plus he’s a rodeo rider and I love horses, J K Rowling (I am awe of what she has achieved in getting kids reading), Sacha Baron Cohen to create some interesting awkward moments and Mark Zuckerberg so he can tell us what’s coming next!
It has to be fresh seafood or Thai – or maybe both combined!
One thing on your bucket list?
I am dreaming about a visit to New Zealand to meet up with my sister and nephews who live in Australia.