Childcare is something all parents and guardians need to think about at the right times for their children. In recent times, this has been highlighted and the importance of great quality childcare, both for children’s education and overall learning and development has been pushed into the spotlight. TechRound caught up with Assaf Ben Ezra, Co-Founder and Director of Keren’s Nursery to see how their nursery is developing since we last caught up to discuss Keren’s Nursery an Ofsted Outstanding Rated nursery, proving itself to be one of the best nursery chains in London.
What is the Story of Keren’s Nursery…How Was it Founded?
Keren is Keren Ben Ezra, my wife, who started the nursery with me, Assaf Ben Ezra, as a childminding business in our garden flat with three children in Sep 2004. Back then we had only our oldest daughter Gaya and we wanted to create a childcare environment where we would have liked our own daughter to grow up in. Nothing would prepare us for the fast growth in demand for our education philosophy. By 2008, I made the decision to completely move away from my legal career as a Solicitor and concentrate in building the nursery as a business and the rest is history. Kerens Nursery is an Ofsted Outstanding chain of three nurseries caring for 180 children.
Who Are the Brains Behind the Running of the Business and Nursery?
Initially it was me and Keren making all the decisions and putting in the endless hours into developing the unique teaching environment and writing the “bible” and manual of what Keren’s Nursery is and how we do things. Later on, with our development from a single 60 places nursery to three locations with 60 places each, we had the good fortune of recruiting like-minded and passionate childcare professional who later on became nursery managers and deputy managers. Today we are all the brains behind the Keren’s Nursery and we work together on a daily basis, supporting each other and making sure we constantly improve and develop what we provide the children of Keren’s nurseries.
When, Why and How Did You Start the Nursery Business?
We started in Sep 2004 as a childminding business with three children. We had to gradually move into bigger and bigger houses to accommodate the ever increasing number of children. At the highest point of our childminding era, we were caring for 25 children in a massive detached house in North West London. It was in Sep 2010 that we stopped being Keren’s the childminder and became Keren’s Nursery when we moved the nursery out of the house and into a large park pavilion in Lyttelton Playing Fields (in London, N2).
The Pavilion was in a very poor state and we had to invest everything we had saved for 6 years including getting some help from family to create the magical environment that we have today. Within a matter of a few months we filled all our places at the nursery, from 25 children at home to 60 children at the pavilion. Of course since 2010 we invested many more thousands into the nursery. Soon enough, with our reputation and good will developing further, by mid-2011, we were invited to open another Keren’s Nursery in the Belsize Square Synagogue.
We opened our doors to our new second branch in January 2012 and much faster than we could have imagined we became full with 60 places and again over-subscribed. By 2016 we felt it was good time to expand once more and in Sep 2016 we opened our third branch where we care for 60 children within the Holland Park Synagogue (W11 4RB).
Why Nurseries and Childcare?
I would risk sounding like a cliché, but It is an emotional decision, one that is born out of passion and conviction. We love children, we are passionate about education and we are proud and feel privileged to be able to take part in fulfilling their potential and providing them with the best possible start to life. We feel that it is what every parent wants for their child as it is what we want for ours. Being emotional about what is essentially a business has its contradictions and challenges. We have always treated Keren’s Nursery more like a charity or a social endeavour then a business in the pure sense.
What are the Specific Challenges of Running a Successful Childcare Business?
The first thing that comes to mind is that this business takes a massive emotional toll. It is different from a bank or a shop, we are for good or bad, emotionally invested in the nursery with the children, their parents and our dedicated team of childcare professional, teachers, support staff, chefs and security guards.
We look after each other and as a community we thrive, remembering that our goal is always the children. Once your heart is in the right place, everything else falls into place. Our clients, the parents sense our passion for childcare immediately and it is an emotional decision that they are making when they register onto our waiting list. Similarly, our teachers, when they arrive for an interview and a trial day, know very early that it is nothing like any nursery they have worked before, they fell home.
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What Challenges are Nurseries and Nursery Businesses Facing for the Future?
The pandemic has really changed the world and we are so fortunate that in the UK we have only been ordered to shut down from March to May of 2020. Effectively, we are open since June 2020 and we hope to continue being there for our children their parents and out staff. Outside of the pandemic challenge, the jury are still out on the impact the Brexit will have on us.
Is it Particularly Challenging Running a Business Where Children are Your Patrons?
It is very challenging but in that sense it is also the best part of running the nursery. Very young children do not hide their emotions, they have not developed the ability to mask what they feel to make the other feel nicer. In that regards, our children are the best critics of us. We look at them and constantly evolve and improve based on the natural and honest feedback we get from the children. Their interests and passions, their likes and dislikes and their individual developmental stage are the building blocks we use to plan our curriculum and the overall environment.
What is the Most Rewarding Part of Running a Business That Helps Children in Their Early Years?
We have been here long enough now to see our graduate or alumni develop into happy and successful individuals. Our first group in 2004 are now 17 years old and we keep in touch with them and their families from time to time and feel an immense sense of pride of their achievements. The hardest day in any given year is the day where we say goodbye to our pre-school children who move up to reception school, a lot of tears are shed on that day, by the parents, the teachers and us.
What Does the Future Hold for Keren’s Nursery?
We are constantly evolving and improving what we do. Our teachers are now more professional than ever before and our children receive what we know is the best start to life. Unfortunately, we have a lot of disappointed families whose children could not get a place in the nursery for lack of space. We are planning on increasing our capacity and we hope that by Sep 2021 we will have another 60 places we can offer our waiting list families.
Where and How Can We Find You?
Parents can send a contact request via our website (www.kerensnursery.com). They can also phone directly to the branch they wish to enquire about, contact details for the branches are also on our website. To best see what we are up to on a daily basis, parents are invited to our Facebook and Instagram accounts.