Early years childcare is fraught with challenges, including a shortage of skilled staff and low pay.
It has created a lot of pressure on parents to find the right childcare, as well as on the care providers who don’t feel their wages match up to the skills required.
It is no surprise that one in five early years workers considered leaving the sector this year, according to a report by the Early Years Alliance.
Brett Wigdortz is also the founder of the largest graduate recruiter in the UK – Teach First. He has plans to grow Tiney in much the same way as he grew the Teach First business
An added problem is that few new businesses are entering the childminding and nursery care sector to fill in the gaps, because of the red tape involved.
But entrepreneur Brett Wigdortz sees tackling these challenges as a business opportunity.
Along with his co-founder Edd Read, who was also behind the snack box company Graze, Wigdortz has launched the Ofsted-approved childminding agency Tiney, which is based around an app.
What is Tiney?
Tiney is a London-headquartered start-up that finds people interested in being childminders and offers them training to run and set up a business from home.
Once trained, it marries them up with parents seeking good-quality childcare.
‘Parents are desperate for childminders and the number of people doing it has dropped,’ says Wigdortz.
‘One of the reasons for that is that it’s a really hard thing to do on your own and it’s very complicated to get registered and licensed.’
Tiney aims to make it simpler for people to set up a childminding business in their homes
The business – which has been described as the ‘Airbnb of childcare’ – enables the childminders it signs up to cut down on overheads because they work in their own homes.
It is currently only operating in the South East of England, but there are plans to expand into other areas.
‘I thought about how we could get more practitioners while ensuring that there was good-quality care and the ability to earn a good salary,’ Wigdortz adds.
‘I wanted to do this without costing parents and government more money, so the key was to get people to use their homes and resources better so that there’d be no upping of the costs.’
App provides a ‘supportive ecosystem’
Wigdortz admits that running a childminding business from home is not a new concept, but he says the ‘supportive ecosystem’ Tiney provides for its childminders is what makes the business unique.
For example, business administration such as drawing up contracts, taking payments and saving money for paying wages and taxes can be a barrier to entry for people wanting to set up childminding businesses.
In response, Tiney has developed technology to assist with these tasks, and it has even created its own e-money account, similar to PayPal, that its childminders can use to run their businesses. It’s provided by banking partner Modulr, which also works with Revolut, Sage and Bubble.
They don’t have to worry about the business aspect, they just need to worry about the kids
Brett Wigdortz, co-founder, Tiney
The e-money account doesn’t fall under the remit of FSCS protection, but Wigdortz assures that Modulr has protections in place to safeguard transactions and points out that the partner itself is FCA regulated.
‘All payments need to be made initially to the Tiney wallet, but the childminder can withdraw funds to their own bank account on a daily basis for no extra fee. They are encouraged to withdraw their funds regularly,’ he says.
‘The benefit of processing everything through the wallet is that Tiney can register the individual childminders for all the available childcare funding schemes, such as tax credits and free childcare hours, on their behalf.
‘We do all the registering, licensing, and a lot of it is tech enabled – we deal with all their contract,’ Wigdortz says.
He adds that the model enables childminders the luxury of just worrying about the kids and not the business aspect.
‘Many childminders like to have this e-money account so they can keep things separate. It’s simple, but it’s based on childminder feedback.’
How much does setting up a childminding business cost?
The fee to start with Tiney is £200, but it recommends that childminders put aside £500-£600 to get their business off the ground.
This will cover things like making sure their home is suitable for young children.
Says Wigdortz: ‘They need a good front room and access to an outside area, which could be a park. For some people it could cost them nothing as their house is already set up for small children.
‘Other than that, there are no other big costs. With our training and checks the quickest people have done it is in six weeks, but it normally takes three months.
‘We do a lot of safety and background checks with local authorities and that is often the delaying factor.’
Tutoring and networking
As well as handling the financial side of things, Tiney’s tech platform also helps childminders find activities for children to do.
Childminders get access to the early years national curriculum, the app pushes out early years foundation stage activities every day, and there is also a tracker that helps them log what they have done.
To address the loneliness of the job, Tiney has also created a community which allows childminders to connect and offer each other support.
In exchange for these services, the business does take a cut of childminders’ earnings, and also charges them a one-off fee of £200 to get started.
Says Wigdortz: ‘We take 10 per cent of the money off the contracts that they get.
‘Most of our childminders earn more than an average childminder as we help them with their contracts and with things like insurance.
‘The fee covers insurance and training. There’s usually a lot of things childminders have to pay for but with Tiney you don’t have to worry about it.’
The fee includes around 50 hours of early years training, the majority of which can be completed online. The whole process to get signed up and clear checks takes between six and 16 weeks.
‘I was invited to 10 Downing Street because of Tiney’
Blerina Cenuka (38) says Tiney helped her launch her Enfield-based childminding business.
‘They help with bills, sending invoices to parents, they help with all the insurances, training and helped me to find clients,’ she says.
‘I was doing childminding before and was registered with Ofsted. I did feel quite lonely, and we only had had some support from the local authority.
Blerina Cenuka (right) launched her childminding business through Tiney and also visited 10 Downing Street to advocate for the early years sector
‘It was difficult to get together with local childminders, but Tiney helped with this and now we can co-ordinate and get together.
‘We’ve got that sense of being there for each other. Last month I had Covid, and I called another childminder and they helped as a backup.
‘It has grown my business financially.’
Blerina was also invited to meet the prime minister and advocate for the early years sector through Tiney.
She adds: ‘I’ve had loads of opportunities through Tiney. I had a visit to 10 Downing Street which was an amazing experience. It was really rewarding after all the hard work in lockdown.’
Selecting the best talent
For Tiney, the timing of starting a business during the pandemic was fortuitous.
Interest spiked during lockdown as people considered leaving their office jobs when they realised the benefits of working from home.
Tiney started accepting applications in May 2019, and had received 4,672 enquiries before lockdown.
But this all changed when Covid hit. In the 12 months from March 2020 onwards the business had 12,346 enquiries from people hoping to become childminders.
Despite the surge in applications, Wigdortz says the business was careful about choosing who they would admit.
He said: ‘Lots wanted to work from home and had renewed interest in educating children from their lockdown experience.
‘We had more than 500 people who met our standards pay to start their training during lockdown.’
‘Tiney helped me financially and emotionally during the pandemic’
Ramisha Kiyani started her Merton-based childminding business with her mom Romana Kiyani through Tiney
Ramisha Kiyani (23) started her Merton-based childminding business, Petite Childcare, with her mum Romana Kiyani (46).
They came across Tiney on through a search engine and they completed their training in December 2019.
Ramisha says: ‘They were training childminders up and the business was new at the time – I was part of their second-ever session.
‘They covered my training fees as well as criminal and DBS checks – all the compulsory stuff you need to get to be a childminder.
‘The ease of getting Ofsted accreditation with them saved me a lot of time and documentation and extra training. I would say the process and the support from Tiney have been great.
‘They do have an app now which links you to a community of other childminders that you can network with. It’s easy and quick.
‘Tiney also helped childminders out during the pandemic with a £500 allowance, so they provided support both financially as well as emotionally.’
Last year the business raised $6.5million (£4.73million) from venture capital companies LocalGlobe and Index Ventures.
And last month, it raised a further £3million from Index Ventures, LocalGlobe, Jam Jar and some new investors.
At present, Tiney is not a profitable business – but Wigdortz says that his backers are comfortable with this as their present focus is seeing the business grow.
His business background may have helped to allay any concerns. Wigdortz is a seasoned entrepreneur and founded the largest graduate recruiter in the UK, Teach First.
Teach First gained over £300million in public funding and raised over £90million from the private sector and individuals. It is now the single biggest employer out of Oxford and Cambridge.
Wigdortz says: ‘Teach First is in 61 countries around the world. With Tiney we have the same ambitions. Currently we are in the South East – we will go Manchester later and will be available throughout the UK in around 12 months.
‘Scotland and Wales have different regulations that we still have to work through.
‘We currently have around 200 childminders up and running and another 300 in training who will open in the next three months.’
Wigdortz says that being an entrepreneur is the most fun job and that he is passionate about creating things from scratch.
He says: ‘I start with the problem. With Teach First it was about there not being enough teachers in low-income schools that need them the most.
‘With Tiney, it’s about parents not being able to find enough good early years childcare. I’m trying to find a solution that helps everyone.
‘This is a for-profit business, but I get excited about the impact as it makes people better off.’
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