Clare Brewer credits toddler daughter Gracie with being the inspiration behind her new story telling business.
It was during their early baby classes together in North Devon that primary school teacher Clare started to wonder if she could lead her own fun and educational sessions.
She could see the potential for a series of regular parent and pre-schooler groups that would encourage babies and children to learn through play, stories and songs.
Story Bears was officially launched in September, with help from a £6,480 loan from British Business Bank’s Start-Up Loans programme.
Now, both Gracie and her mum are enjoying filling church and village halls across their local area with singing, dancing, playing and puppet-led adventures.
The Story Bears classes are a chance for parents, babies and pre-schoolers to get-together and have fun, all while boosting little ones’ language development, as well as cognitive and physical skills.
“I’m really enjoying it,” says Clare. “It’s everything I liked about teaching a class. I love seeing the kids’ reactions through the songs and seeing them be successful with things like bashing two rhythm sticks together or challenging them to think about their understanding of the vocabulary using the puppets and stories.
“And I just love chatting to the parents.”
Gracie was just 10 weeks old when Clare’s idea of starting her own story telling business began ‘bubbling away’ in her mind.
After building a successful career as a primary school teacher, Clare had come to realise that balancing the demands of the job with a young baby was tough.
“I just thought, I can’t do this and be a mum,” said Clare. “I love teaching and I wanted to do that well, but at the same time, I only get so many years with Gracie being this small.”
Clare looked at becoming part of a storytelling group franchise but decided she’d be better off in the long run if she started her own business.
To do that, she would need an early injection of cash to help towards the costs of equipment and hiring venues.
“When I looked at getting a bank loan, they all wanted an existing business where they could look at the turnover to decide if they would give you any money or not,” said Clare, who then found out about the Start Up Loans programme. She was given some guidance on her application and the money came through in July.
“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t got the loan from British Business Bank,” added Clare. “I’ve used the money to buy puppets, mats and instruments and also for covering the hire of village and church halls for the first eight weeks. It’s also helped towards the cost of my website software and buying a music licence – basically all the resources I needed.
“Applying for the loan is such a good option for start-up businesses. I would certainly recommend looking into it.”
Clare (with a little help from Gracie) is now building up her audiences across villages and towns in north Devon, including Kilkhampton, Hartland and Barnstaple.
She’s also planning to run taster sessions in local pre-schools and nurseries.
To find out more, see storybears.co.uk
Start Up Loans is a government-backed scheme from the British Business Bank, available to people looking to start or grow a business in the UK. It offers unsecured loans of up to £25,000 with a fixed interest rate of 6 per cent, repayable over one to five years. Successful applicants also receive 12 months of free mentoring to help them succeed. Find out more at startuploans.co.uk