A NURSERY which has launched pioneering baby massage, yoga and meditation classes to help reduce anxiety and stress in children has won a top Manchester business award.
Fleximinder, based at Stretford Mall, offers a unique childcare service and has been rewarded by being named Small Business of the Year at The Manchester Awards 2019 during a ceremony at the city centre’s Crown Plaza hotel.
It caps a successful couple of months for proprietor and early years practitioner Haylea Osbourne after the nursery, which has 15 staff and 65 children on the roll, was also rated ‘Good’ following a recent Ofsted inspection.
The 39-year-old, who lives in Stretford, gave up a high-flying career in women’s fashion four years ago to start up Fleximinder at the busy shopping centre so she could strike the perfect work-life balance having had her daughter Tallulah through IVF.
She launched the baby massage, yoga and meditation classes at no extra cost to parents and the sessions, which are run by nursery nurse Andrea Gray, and have proven to be a big hit with both the children and their parents.
Andrea, a mum-of-six who is a qualified massage, yoga and meditation teacher and has previously delivered similar sessions in schools, said: “We do two a week and it helps give the children a healthy and happy life.
“It reduces stress and anxiety. Some people may be surprised but there are so many children these days with stress and anxiety. That’s why I’m so passionate about doing it.
“It’s all about emotional regulation. Getting the children to understand their feelings and how to deal with them. We’ve had a very positive response from parents.
“We can tell them what we do and they can use those tools themselves. For instance, if a child feels worked up we get them to do a breathing technique.
“What we do soothes and calms them. There are so many health benefits. It gives them better sleep and concentration, increases self-esteem, improves digestion and circulation, and helps with colic and constipation.
“It’s giving them the perfect start in life.
“We start with baby massage and as the children get older we gradually introduce yoga and meditation. Even just a few minutes of calm benefits them.
“Mindfulness is also a big part of what we do. It’s about getting children aware of their surroundings – what can you hear and smell? It’s something we do when we go out on walks. Getting them to learn it now will help them when they’re older.”
Andrea, 43, who lives in Stretford, started working at Fleximinder last year because unlike other nurseries they were able to offer her a flexible work pattern so she could drop off and collect her children from school.
She said: “I worked in a nursery for a bit before I was a stay at home mum. When my kids were a bit older I started a little business doing head massages.
“I got into meditation and became a qualified teacher and then I did baby massage and yoga qualifications. I used to do sessions in schools and once a week at a nursery but I wanted something more stable.
“I really enjoyed the nursery environment and when I saw the job advertised at Fleximinder it was perfect. With six kids it would have been hard to work at other nurseries.
“The hours here work really well and Haylea really liked the fact I did baby massage and yoga, and that I could provide classes in the nursery.”
The way in which parents are able to use the childcare service on offer at Fleximinder and the recruitment process put in place by Haylea, which provides a number of benefits to staff members such as being able to take their children along to work, is what makes the nursery stand out from the crowd.
Haylea said: “We market it as flexible, pay as you go. There is no contract or a minimum amount of hours you need to commit to. You access the service for as many hours as you need it.
“We don’t charge if your child is sick or you go on holiday. Usually nurseries charge for half or full days but we found that 80% of our parents needed eight hours or less rather than 11.
“We have about 70% of parents who we class as regular whose child attends for similar hours each week but they can add or take away as needed.
“We found there is a big workforce out there who can’t access this kind of service anywhere else so we get a lot of freelancers and people who work for the emergency services for instance.”
She added: “We’ve gone from five staff to 15 since we started and the core team bar one or two is still there. In the last two years we’ve had 100% retention for our team.
“When I started I wanted people who were open minded so recruited from outside the industry. I’ve got teachers and I took on a number of stay at home mums as apprentices who we have trained up.
“They’ve bought into the Fleximinder culture from day one and deliver it. We’ve got a quality pool of people.
“Andrea is a yoga teacher and does baby yoga and baby massage classes as part of her daily role. We’ve looked at her skill set and utilised it without passing the cost onto parents by bringing someone in.
“Our staff can bring their children in with them which is unusual for a nursery but I wanted to be parent friendly. I also offer staff the choice to take off their birthday or their child’s birthday, fully paid. Businesses will say that’s difficult to manage but I think it’s all about being flexible and making adjustments.”
The rapid growth of the business has culminated in Fleximinder receiving its first ever accolade at The Manchester Awards, which is an exclusive celebration of the individuals and institutions that make Manchester a great place to visit or call home, with all winners being voted for by the people of the city.
Haylea said: “I was shocked when our name was announced and my speech was completely unrehearsed. It’s our first award and I’m very proud.
“It’s a reflection of the whole team and the hard work they’ve put in. To do something different to support parents in an industry I knew nothing about, it’s not been an easy journey.
“We’ve not long had our Ofsted inspection where the majority of the questions centred around how we do it, how do we staff it, how do we manage drop off and pick up, things like that.
“To come away with a ‘Good’ rating was validation for me that we can do something different. That’s a big deal for me as people say it can’t be done how we do it.
“I have to say Gareth, the shopping centre manager, has always been supportive. He took a risk. It was a start-up business with no track record in an industry that can be tricky.
“But he believed in us and in our four years here at Stretford Mall we’ve relocated to a bigger premises with minimal disruption.”
She added: “The diversity of the children we have, from different backgrounds and different religious backgrounds, for me is a very proud thing.
“When the children leave nursery they have a very broad view of the world ready to go into school.
“I also feel like we’re a real part of the community and that we’re making the children feel like they’re roots are in the community.
“We don’t have an outdoor space so will walk the children down to the park and when we’re walking through the mall people always stop and say hello.
“We also take them to Aldi so they can buy their snack. It’s exercise and a way for them to get out and about. We find it’s something members of the public like to see.”
Gareth Wilkins, Stretford Mall centre manager, said: “I’m absolutely overjoyed that Fleximinder has won an award at The Manchester Awards 2019. It’s richly deserved.
“I have worked with Haylea and the team at Fleximinder over the past four and a half years and watched it grow from a small home-based business to an occupier of a medium sized unit in the Shopping Centre.
“Fleximinder have been a pleasure to have as a tenant and this award reflects all the hard work, time and money Haylea has invested in her business.”