Mum-of-one Louise Gibbs set up a baby signing business earlier this year and has seen such a phenomenal growth she is now setting up a training package to create more teachers for classes. Here, she tells Workingmums.co.uk. how she established her venture and outlines her plans for the future.
Mum-of-one Louise Gibbs founded a baby signing business earlier this year and has seen such a phenomenal growth she is now setting up a training package to create more teachers for classes. Here, she tells Workingmums.co.uk. how she established her venture and outlines her plans for the future.
Why Louise founded her business
Louise Gibbs is mum to Isabella, now four, and she credits her daughter with providing the inspiration behind her business start-up. Although Louise had seen the benefits of baby signing when she’d worked as a paediatric nurse, she took the big step of establishing her own business when she saw at first hand how well it worked for her daughter when she was a baby.
Baby sign language is the use of simple hand gestures to facilitiate communication between parent and baby in the pre-verbal stage. The gestures give a vocabulary of signs to enhance understanding between babies and parents and allow the child to express their thoughts and needs more easily to their parent before they learn to speak.
”Isabella was a baby who cried a lot,” explained Louise, 31. ”I found it difficult to know what to do with her. Having your own child is very different to looking after somebody else’s. I had used signing language for children with special needs when I worked as a nurse, so I decided to use sign language to Isabella. It has made such a difference to her speaking skills. By the age of three she was writing her own name and talking in long sentences.”
Louise’s use of baby signing coincided with a growing interest among other parents in this country, and the demand for classes has risen rapidly. Baby signing has been popular in the United States for the past 30 years, but the British interest in the subject is relatively recent.
Best way forward
Founded in February this year, Baby Signing Mummy started out as a simple website (designed by Louise’s fiance Kevin, who is a software engineer) and led to classes held by Louise in Sure Start children’s centres and baby groups around Hampshire and West Sussex.
”The project was initially born of the frustration of not being able to find information about baby groups that didn’t contain outlandish and unprecedented claims, or was specifically tailored to support certain products the author was selling,” said Louise, who is currently studying for an MA in paediatric nursing. She does not back one specific method of baby signing. ”I’m not aligned to one particular method. I know from working with children that one child might do better with one way, but that won’t always work for another child. You need to be able to adapt because every child is an individual. I encourage the parents to use a mix.”
Louise thought about a franchise business, but is aware that many mums who may be short of income after having a child won’t have the financial means to buy into a franchise operation. Now she has taken her business one step further by introducing training courses for others to learn how to teach baby signing. ”I will teach them everything they need to know about baby signing language and child development,” said Louise. ”This is a major business expansion for me. I’ve been running my business for less than a year and it has grown phenomenally. I can’t teach everybody, and the next business step is to teach other teachers. Parents need an approved class and need to know they are getting the same quality of teaching as they would get from me.”
Louise will hold a two-day training package in various locations around the country next year. In January she will hold her first training days in Reading – there have been bookings already. At the end of the first day there will be an assessment to make sure they understand what they’ve been taught and are able to hold a class by themselves. More training days are to be scheduled in the Midlands, the north, and Scotland. Those enrolling will receive a licensed agreement to teach the Baby Signing Mummy Method and Qualification. If they book up before December 10th, the cost will be £800. If they book afterwards, it’s £1,000.
Louise’s ambitions don’t end with the training package – eventually she aims to write a book.
”Baby Signing Mummy has always been about making baby signing accessible to as many parents as possible, no matter what their economic background,” said Louise. ”With this course, what I am really excited about is that it enables parents to start their own baby signing businesses and be trailblazers for baby signing in areas that it otherwise would not have reached. With 2011 being the National Year of Talking and Communication, it’s important now more than ever than children from all backgrounds should be given the best possible start in developing their speech and language.”