Nuala Slim talks about running Kiddiewinks, being extreme, and finding the secret to the work/life balance
Life is busy, always! Especially when you have two small boys under the age of three, and you are six weeks pregnant with your third. Most, sensible people, would be trying to take it easy, right? Not me. I thought it was the perfect time to set up a new business.
My husband, Andy calls me ‘extreme girl’. Apparently I go from one ‘extreme’ to the next - never doing things by half! Not content with running a successful recruitment consultancy, specialising in senior level construction appointments, I decided to ditch the corporate power dressing and get down with the kids, I wanted what every woman wants, the elusive work/life balance! I’d really enjoyed taking the children to lots of different classes and playgroups, and I could see how doing so had benefited their learning and social development, but something was missing. When I look back we never stayed with a class for more than half a term. I wanted more - hence the birth of Kiddiewinks.
The idea was simple, really. Offer a class that’s educational, as well as fun, so the children are learning without realising - whilst also making sure the grown-ups have just as much fun as the kids! I spoke to EVERYONE that would listen: friends, teachers, childminders, mums, dads, grandparents… I realised quite quickly that there are not many children that just like doing one thing! So while appreciating children need an element of repetition and certainty, I wanted my classes to offer a one stop shop, with dancing, singing, puppets, role play, musical instruments, craft activities, as well as elements from the pre-school curriculum; colours, counting, shapes, Jolly Phonics and balance and co-ordination. I also wanted to make sure there were varied, so every week was different and I decided to theme the classes, offering sessions on everything from Space, Food, Friends & Family to Days Out, Sports Days and People That Help Us.
So, that was that. I’m not going to lie, it took hours and hours and hours getting our 40+ lesson plans together. (I remember the milk man tapping on my office window one night to wake me when he’d noticed me slumped over my laptop.) I was sourcing kit, finding suitable class venues and literally running down Wilmslow Road, (and every other local High Street,) essentially stalking anyone with a pushchair, to invite them along. (You might still see me stalking these days, I’m shameless, I just want everyone to come and experience the Kiddiewinks fun!) I
remember many times when one of the venues I used hadn’t cleared the room and my mornings would start by moving 20 to 30 bridge tables and about 80 chairs – all whilst seven months pregnant! But I loved it!
People were soon asking me to run parties. Why not eh? I’ll never forget the first party I did, it was over in Heaton Moor and had been organised by two mum friends I’d met at an NCT group. They welcomed me quite apologetically asking me not to be offended if their kids didn’t join in, apparently they’d been to loads of parties and never had! ‘Perfect, this is going to be fun’ I thought! I needn’t have worried. Both boys were beaming, singing and sitting on my knee within 10 minutes. It was then I knew I’d made the right decision! If I could get two very shy four year old boys not only to join in, but to sing and dance, I knew I’d cracked it! Kiddiewinks was a winning formula.
We’ve now expanded our classes. Mummies were having second and third babies and wanted something specifically for them, hence the birth of Babywinks for babies from four months. We sing, dance, have baby gym, baby sensory and baby signing, musical instruments, bubbles, the giant parachute and much more. Our classes are very welcoming. Being a new mum can often be quite lonely so we make sure we offer an environment that encourages new friendships within the class.
We’ve also had to expand our party range, as mums would keep coming back to us year after year. As the children out-grew Kiddiewinks we needed to grow with them, and now offer Crazy Caper Disco Parties for age seven and up. The parties are great fun, much more than turning on the music and leaving them to it. We have the kids doing all sorts of challenges, team games and dance competitions and - if they fancy being a pop star for the day - X Factor style singing contests!
So, have I achieved my goal? Have I achieved the work/life balance that every mum hopes for? Have I got it right? Kiddiewinks is now a successful, award-winning business offering classes in South Manchester and Trafford, and parties all across the North West. I have a team of fabulous ladies working with me, and I’ve recently taken the next step and franchised the business. Every day is different. I get to sing and dance with the grown-ups, help kids grow in confidence and self-esteem and I’m always there to drop-off and pick-up from school. I’m there to take my boys to and from their gymnastics, swimming, singing, drama, dance, footy and rugby lessons. So I’d say yes, I THINK I have. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still laundry waiting to be done, and there aren’t enough hours in the day, but being an ‘extreme girl’ I wouldn’t have it any other way.