Over the course of 18 years, Leighanne Burns worked her way up from student to the acting manager of a nursery on the Wirral in Merseyside. When the centre closed, staff and parents were left devastated. But in every tragedy lies opportunity and Leighanne quickly identified that the closure would leave behind an urgent need for subsidised childcare in the area – which Leighanne describes as a close-knit community with some pockets of deprivation.

Leighann began to set about a plan to fill the gap, and set up her own accessible early years education business. It meant that not only could she create and safeguard a job for herself, but also provide a crucial community service. Like so often when setting up in business, Leighanne initially had moments of self-doubt. She had all the industry training and knowledge – but knew little to nothing about setting up a business. Thankfully, someone put her in touch with Enterprise Hub and Leighanne was able to procure business advice and training to support her on the road to being self-employed.

Here, we ask Leighanne to tell us about her journey.

Hi Leighanne – tell us a bit about yourself and your business? 

I’m Leighanne Burns and I’m the director of Autumn Glades CIC – an early years education business offering care for children aged up to five years old on the Beechwood Estate on the Wirral. Our business is unique because it is set up as a CIC to keep the costs as low as possible for the families within the area. Our area is community-centered, with not just the children at the core, but their extended families also.

What stage are you at now in your business journey? 

We already have six staff on the payroll and 32 children under our care. Some of those are children of the children I used to look after when I first started out in my career 18 years ago. We are also currently exploring additional funding opportunities for the centre and planning fundraisers.

Tell us about the personal challenges you have faced around managing your business? 

I am a mother of two and I have a stepson, so I juggle everything around the school runs and the children’s needs. I’m so lucky though, as the children have wanted to be involved in the whole process. They often come over to the nursery after school and have helped with the painting and decorating. But my journey hasn’t always been easy, and I have suffered with phases of depression and anxiety brought on by self-doubt. But the support around me has given me the confidence to push forward.

Leighanne with business advisor Heidi on site in the Wirral nursery

How has working with Enterprise hub helped you with your business goals?

I started on a ‘Be Your Own Boss’ workshop and I’ve had lots of support since. It’s really helped me to help gain clarification, hone my ideas, and further my knowledge in all aspects of enhancing my business and my role within it. Working with Heidi has been amazing. She is able to answer any questions I have and if she doesn’t have the answers straight away, she will point me in the right direction. I genuinely think that I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support offered to me by the Enterprise Hub programme. The support and advice is consistent and readily available. It’s been invaluable to me.

How do you feel about what you have achieved so far? 

I am really proud of myself. There was so much more work to do than I initially anticipated, but here we are – ready to go and keen to open our doors again. The best thing is seeing it come full circle and having the nursery back open again. Seeing the community so interested and involved has been really rewarding too.

What advice would you give someone who is starting their own business? 

On a very practical note, I would advise people to make sure they have a paper trail for everything they do – get everything in writing. But on a more general note, I have learned that hard work pays off. I would advise anyone starting a business to commit to their vision and believe in themselves. Enjoy the journey – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do what you really believe in and want to do. And I would one hundred percent recommend enlisting the help and advice available from programs like Enterprise Hub.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As a CIC we will constantly be looking for support and funds to ensure we can offer the very best to our little learners, so please bare us in mind if you are aware of any opportunities that we can get involved with. The acceptance and support from the community and help from local organisations like Bee Wirral, Beechwood Chapel, Beechwood Little Centre and Social Club and collaborations with Tranmere Rovers and The Sensory Shack have really strengthened our offering and contributed greatly to our journey.

If you are looking for childcare in the Wirral you can contact Autumn Glades CIC through one of the avenues below.

Facebook – Autumn Glades CIC
Tel: 01244 726 157
WhatsApp no: 07513 492 584
Email: info@autumnglades.co.uk

If you would like to make an enquiry for our business start up support, you can email enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8113