Prima : ‘Our Fresh Starts’
Posted on 16.01.2018

Redundancy led Tracey Blake, 42, from Princes Risborough, Bucks, down a different but fulfilling path.

Two years ago, I was a stressed-out mum working long hours in a demanding newspaper job. Every day, I’d wave goodbye to my children, Minnie, now eight, and Monty, now five, before catching the 8.18 train to London, often not returning until late in the evening.

While my partner James and I shared our parental responsibilities the best we could, we were both struggling to keep all the plates
spinning. Childcare was expensive, or else impossible to find. It felt like a constant juggling act of favours, play dates and help from my mum.


Desperate and exhausted, I asked friends of friends, posted on childcare websites and even put up an advert
in my local newsagents. Then one day at my train station, I overheard two students talking. As I listened to them discussing courses and accommodation, inspiration hit me.

Thinking they could use some money to balance the financial pressure of their studies, I asked if they’d be interested in babysitting. One of them, Louise, said yes, and I invited her to my house for an interview. She was studying a foundation art course at the local uni. She was friendly, kind and able to be flexible with hours. She soon slotted perfectly into our lives. What’s more, she used her skills to do art with the children, and I’d often come to find amazing craft projects spread out across the table. Minnie and Monty adored spending time with her.

When Louise went off to university in Falmouth to study art, I wanted to hire another student but didn’t know how to find one. Then I had my second light-bulb moment: what if there was a website where working parents could hire students for flexible babysitting jobs?
I called my site Student Nannies, with the idea that the students could transfer their skills – languages, art, music or science – to the children, just as Louise had. In return, the parents offer financial support and career advice.

I was still working full-time, so I couldn’t devote that much time to the website. Then, in September 2017, I was made redundant. I had an inkling it was coming, but it was still a shock. However, I refused to feel down and decided to throw everything into Student Nannies. My redundancy money would cover my mortgage and start-up costs for six months, so it was a golden opportunity.
We now have people signing up from all over the UK. I’ve enrolled in two start-up support schemes and am about to pitch for investment for expansion. I’ve taught myself how to use Excel and have learnt about web design and management. In the past few months, 300 more students have joined.

I set my own hours, so I see more of my children, and it’s refreshing to be learning new skills. For me, redundancy was a turning point. I’m growing as a person and I’m happier than ever.’

Prima : ‘Our Fresh Starts’