Reading Fairy’s first year of success
We’re celebrating the first birthday of Reading Fairy’s classes for 0-5s. We have created a venture that has the power to give every child the best start for reading for life. And I have learnt so much on the way that I wanted to not only thank everyone who has supported Reading Fairy’s early work but to offer my support to anyone thinking of setting up their own business or social enterprise – however big or small. With that in mind, here are some tips based on what I have learned along the way:
What problem are you solving?
The vision for Reading Fairy was cemented after the birth of my first son. Friends wanted advice and support on what they could do to help prepare their babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers for learning to read and developing a love of books. I knew from my own experience that parents are time poor and the latest advice and research findings often don’t reach them. Confusion reigns in the media about how to help children read – especially surrounding phonics. New books are published at record rates – how could I help parents to find the best new writers and illustrators? We have lost the art of oral storytelling and sharing traditional nursery rhymes, which are essential for a child’s early reading toolkit. My own knowledge and research amongst friends helped me to shape my business to meet needs I knew existed.
Be clear about your purpose
… and if you can sum it up in one sentence, that’s even better; Reading Fairy’s mission is to give every child the best start for learning to read and loving books for life. Learning to read has the power to change lives and we know that the years from birth to five are critical in a child’s early development and future success. Everything we do at Reading Fairy is shaped by our belief in this mission. It helps us decide what we do, who we work with and how we do it. We are enthusiastic about our mission and proud to shout about what we do. Do you feel the same about your idea or business?
Have confidence in your expertise but be open to creating partnerships
The early success of Reading Fairy is down to our experience, expertise and connections from the publishing and education industries. You don’t have to set up a business on this basis – but it has certainly helped us.
The quality of our classes, events and advice is the best because of our prior experience. We have created content for world-leading reading programmes from Oxford Reading Tree with Biff Chip and Kipper to Ruth Muskin’s Read Write Inc and Ladybird’s Read It Yourself. We have worked with the best educationalists in early literacy, such as Nikki Gamble, Pie Corbett and Debbie Hepplewhite. We know the importance of nurturing a love of books and have been lucky enough to work with some of the best children’s authors and illustrators, including Julia Donaldson and Anthony Browne. Working with individuals and organisation who share our passion makes us both stronger.
Since our launch, Reading Fairy has reached over 1500 children through Reading Fairy classes and events. And through commissions such as those from Kent Libraries and the Book Trust we have
made local and national news. We are helping to shape the future of children’s early learning through our work with the Children’s Activities Association. And juggling a startup with family life has been rewarded by Reading Fairy becoming finalists for “Startup of the Year” in the Mum and Working Awards 2015.
Learn from failure – at work and home
Setting up a business is an adventure. The highs are monumental and the lows are hellish. Be resilient. Be robust. And stick to your mission. I think becoming a parent is great preparation for setting up a business. You learn how to function on hardly any sleep. You get plenty of critical feedback (“Yuck! That tastes disgusting!”). You learn quickly from your mistakes (Why did I buy sew- in labels for school uniform when everyone else bought iron-in or a pen?). You become an expert at when and how to say “No”. Your negotiation skills are second to none – and tested in regular quick- fire rounds. You have to be organised and a great multi-tasker. (The latter I’m still working on!).
So much more to share …
I am grateful to all the people and organisations who have offered support and advice to Reading Fairy in our early days. Without our customers (especially our Book Babies, Story Stars and Reading Recruits) Reading Fairy would still just be a dream. Thank you for helping to make our dream a reality and helping me to reach the first stage of our mission – to help every child get the best start for learning to read and loving books for life.
If you ever need advice on your startup, please get in touch @ReadingFairyLtd @EastKentMum or on Facebook /ReadingFairy.