The Entrepreneur: Brett Widgortz, tiney

The brainchild of Teach First founder Brett Wigdortz, tiney trains up prospective childminders to give children access to early years education that is a crucial launchpad for their development. We speak to Wigdortz as part of our entrepreneur series.

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Company: tiney
Founder: Brett Wigdortz
Website: tiney.co

tiney was founded back in 2019, after Wigdortz’s extensive experience leading Teach First led him to become concerned that a lack of early years education was leaving children underprepared for school. In order to fill this education gap, and ensure thousands of families across the UK have access to the care and support they need, Wigdortz went about creating tiney.

The concept of this childminder service is simple but incredibly effective. The organisation helps train childminders through online and in person education, giving them tools to help make their business a success. With this tailored selection and training process, tiney allows childminders to market their services on its platform whilst giving parents access to childcarers of the highest standard, meaning everyone is happy.

We speak to Brett Wigdortz, founder and CEO of tiney, about his vision to provide high quality childcare to all families across the country, the challenges the pandemic had on the industry, and his favourite business books.

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What Does Your Business Need Help With?

The Business

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique

At tiney, we’re training up a new wave of fantastic early years educators to give more children a great start in life – and reinventing childcare in the process. We believe that great early years education can be life-changing.

Our goal is to make the highest quality childcare accessible to more families, and to empower a generation of micro-entrepreneurs to deliver amazing care from their own homes. And all of this – from the training to keeping in touch with parents – is underpinned by technology.

Prospective childminders train with us through a combination of online and in-person training. We support them with everything from first-aid training to background checks, helping them become registered childminders. Tiney then supports them to set up their home nurseries and connect with families looking for fantastic childcare. Through our app, we help our childminders handle all the payments, insurance, lesson plans, contact with parents, and everything in between!

What is your greatest business achievement?

It was incredible to see our first cohort of tiney childminders open their doors. We put so much hard work into designing a best-in-class training programme and seeing little ones start to benefit from these brilliant early years educators was incredible.

How did you fund your business?

We have brilliant investors, including Index Ventures, LocalGlobe and JamJar Ventures who provided the Seed funding we needed to scale and build out our technology, as well as a great group of angels including Ian Davis, the former Managing Director of McKinsey, Justin King and Kim Morrish from Ground Control.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

We look at how many people are starting their training with us, how many are being registered and licensed to open their businesses, and how many children are being supported. We’re also always looking at how satisfied our parents and childminders are and how engaged our childminding community is with our app and figuring out ways to make that better or easier for them.

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

We’re UK-based for now, but watch this space. My previous organisation, Teach for All, grew to 60 countries and I’m expecting the same for tiney. Great early years education and care is a global problem that needs a global solution.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?

We want a tiney home nursery on every UK street and in countries around the world! Access to affordable, high quality childcare should be a right, not a parental pipe dream. We’re very focused on attracting new people into the early years space and rehabilitating the concept of what it means to care for our youngest children.

Childminders are important educators and the work they do has a major impact on the fortunes of the next generation. In 5 years I hope that tiney has raised their status and, in doing so, ensured more children can benefit from incredible early years education that sets them up for a lifetime of success.

What software or technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Building our business on a tech foundation has been critical. It’s enabled our community to stay connected, made starting a business as easy as possible for childminders, and allowed parents to stay involved. From day one, we were clear that tech would play a big role in creating tiney.


Growth Challenges

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in business?

There’s no question that COVID has been a major challenge. We had just started to get some great traction in early 2020 when suddenly the world went into lockdown, our nurseries had to close and we weren’t able to do any in person training.

We then started to open new nurseries that summer after the first lockdown ended and just as they started to open again there was a second lockdown. That was brutal for our business. However, through the hard work and creativity of our team, we’ve been able to keep things moving and we are hopeful that the worst is behind us now!

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

How long do you have? The main mistakes I’ve made over the past twenty years have been around lack of focus and lack of clarity in hiring and management. I’ve often made the mistake of hiring the right folks for the wrong roles. Entrepreneurship is a constant learning process.

The main mistakes I’ve made over the past twenty years have been around lack of focus and lack of clarity in hiring and management. I’ve often made the mistake of hiring the right folks for the wrong roles. Entrepreneurship is a constant learning process.

What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you started on your business journey?

Focus, focus, focus.

How has the pandemic affected the market you operate in?

The pandemic has had a brutal effect on the early year's industry. Thousands of nurseries have closed and many nursery workers are leaving too. This makes it more important than ever to create new, sustainable childcare offerings. While childminding numbers are dropping nationally, tiney is actually one of the only areas of early years that’s growing. Last quarter, tiney childminders made up a third of all new childminders in London.


Personal growth

Did you study business or learn on the job?

I learnt on the job. I studied economics but worked as a journalist before I joined McKinsey as a consultant. It was there that I came up with the idea for Teach First. I ended up taking a sabbatical to explore the concept and it just went from strength to strength. Eventually we became the biggest graduate recruiter in the UK. Teach First was a charity, so the move to launch tiney, which is a VC-funded tech start-up, was another learning curve. But I’m a big believer in jumping in with both feet and getting your hands dirty – it’s the best way to learn.

I’m a big believer in jumping in with both feet and getting your hands dirty - it’s the best way to learn.

What would make you a better leader?

Being a better listener, I think my wife would say!

One business app and one personal app you can't do without?

We are heavy Slack users at tiney – the company would struggle without it now and I use it all the time on my phone! My most used personal apps are probably the Peloton app as I like to stream workouts onto my TV at home and newspaper apps like The Times, Guardian and NY Times. Also the PocketCasts app to listen to Podcasts.

A business book or podcast that you think is great:

I really enjoy listening to Freakanomics Radio and World/Life with Adam Grant. Some of the business books I’ve enjoyed are ‘Thinking Fast & Slow‘ by Daniel Kahneman which is literally genius and ‘Creativity Inc‘ by Edwin Camull. However, the business book that had the greatest impact on me was probably ‘Good to Great‘ by Jim Collins – there’s nothing like a great BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to work towards!

Finally, what's the most important piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting a business?

I think it’s less about having the perfect idea and more about never giving up. Being an entrepreneur is difficult and there are a lot of ‘valleys of death’ along the way, but the most important thing is to keep your eyes on the end goal and keep moving forwards.

I think it’s less about having the perfect idea and more about never giving up.

Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website.

Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism.

Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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