Eleven years ago at the age of 35, Wendy Petersen had a lightbulb moment when her youngest child started showing an interest in her computer at the age of two. She had a good friend working in a nursery and when she asked her what they were doing about IT in nurseries – the friend said nothing. That was enough to plant the seed for Wendy’s business, Click IT! – a company providing IT tuition to preschool children aged two to five. It is now a franchise and Workingmums.co.uk spoke to Wendy’s husband David about the business.
Eleven years ago at the age of 35, Wendy Petersen had a lightbulb moment when her youngest child started showing an interest in her computer at the age of two. She had a good friend working in a nursery and when she asked her what they were doing about IT in nurseries – the friend said nothing. That was enough to plant the seed for Wendy’s business, Click IT! – a company providing IT tuition to preschool children aged two to five.
Wendy was a graphic designer and had been working freelance after her first child was born, but gave up work when her second came along. She did a lot of computer-based work and was fascinated by IT. She wanted a business that could work around her family in the long term and fit in with school term terms.
Click IT! fits in perfectly with Wendy’s family life. Over the years she has built up the company in her local area of Harrow and covers North West London and out as far as Watford. She became aware that there was a greater demand for Click IT!’s services. “The phone would ring from people all over the country,” says her husband David, who is director of Click IT! Kids Ltd – the Click IT! franchise operation.
People had got to hear about it, but they were too far away. Wendy always knew that the interest in her business was not just confined to the local area.”
Click IT!’s programme is based on the demands of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum. The curriculum specifies that nurseries should teach children computer skills, but David says this can create problems for nurseries. “Every nursery has a computer, but it tends to be tucked away on a table and many do not have the best software,” says David. “A nursery assistant may be dealing with six to eight children. This many children around a computer does not lend itself to structured learning. Quite often the computer tends to be monopolised by the more dominant children.”
Wendy thought that when all nurseries had their own computers it would be the end of Click IT!, but in fact it has accelerated its growth. David says this is because parents are extremely keen for specialist IT lessons in order to give their child a head start in this technological age. Also it solves a big headache for the nursery as they can concentrate on what they do best – caring for children.
Click IT! provides carefully planned lessons for children of all ages and abilities. Tutors take groups of no more than three children. The lessons last for 25 minutes which gives enough time for each child to have time in the driving seat! They learn mouse and cursor skills such as clicking and dragging and double clicking as well as using other ICT equipment such as graphics tablets. The children learn to have respect for the computer – such as not to put lots of CDs in the computer at the same time. The lessons also help with their literacy and numeracy skills together with learning to communicate and share with their friends.
Click IT! lessons are generally offered to parents of nursery-age children as an extra activity, although some offer the lessons inclusively within their fee structure. Click IT! staff take in their own IT equipment, including a children’s keyboard made up of only lower case letters. Ideally, the lessons are taught in a separate area from the main nursery room.
In January 2010 Click IT! launched as a franchise. By then Wendy’s business was delivering lessons in over 30 nurseries in the North West London area and had 15 members of staff, all of them working mums, and teaching more than 500 children each week.
Typically the tutors cover about four nurseries each and work three to four days a week for about 2-3 hours a day. Wendy still teaches at one nursery so she can keep her hand in, but a lot of her work now is managing her business and team of tutors.
David’s area of expertise is in business management and by the end of 2009 his work situation had changed. He and Wendy realised that they were sitting on a business with great potential for expansion so David took charge of franchising the business, with Wendy helping with training support. There are now six franchisees and they mainly cover London and some of the Home Counties. Two of the current franchisees used to be tutors for Wendy.
David says franchisees do not need to be IT experts, but it helps to have experience of having gained a responsible position in a previous career. Passion and commitment are the two most important qualities.
The licensee fee, including training, costs £7.5K plus VAT and then it costs around £2.5K for the hardware and software so the total start-up cost is around £10K plus VAT. That includes 56 hours training in Click IT!’s office in Pinner and at a local nursery, a web-based administration system, ongoing support and advice, including face to face support, and the cost of the operations manual.
David says it absolutely suits working mums who want to work term time only and fit their work around their children. “If you want work life balance and to manage your own business, this is a great business to be involved in,” he says.