Glo Family: Kerstine Rencourt and Maria Fernandez

The play centre entrepreneurs on their plans for a stock market flotation

Company name:  Glo Family Ltd
Founders: Kerstine Rencourt and Maria Fernandez
Age: 37, 42
Based: Manchester Staff numbers: 10 Date started:  June 2010

Tell us what your business does It's a children's playcentre with a garden combined with a timetable of classes for babies, toddlers, kids and parents.  We have therapists specialising in everything from physio to beauty therapy and a café serving good homemade food – not a nugget or chip in sight.

Where did the idea for your business come from? We both had young children and shared an opinion that facilities for new parents could be greatly improved. After deciding not to return to a stressful corporate job post-baby, an epiphany moment by Kerstine brought us together.

How did you know there was a market for it? Glo Family spent two years running pre and postnatal fitness classes (Maria is a specialist personal trainer) and built up knowledge of the local “mum' market as well as an impressive email database.  Our USP is simple: a venue for mums and young children where you can get good coffee, great food, keep the kids amused and “even get to read Grazia” (a quote from one of our patrons).

What appeals to you about running your own business? Being able to create your own product to your own specification appealed. The creativity involved has been amazing. It's also great to be able to choose your own hours and way of working to a certain extent. However, never being able to switch off has its ups and downs.

How did you raise the money? How easy was it? Did anyone reject you? Mostly self-financing, and an element of working capital financed via our bank.  Our experience is that these are difficult times for new and innovative businesses to raise capital

How did you find suppliers? Initially through recommendations from other businesses. We have learnt lots along the way and tweaked our suppliers accordingly.

What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? Cashflow is always an issue, but Kerstine is incredibly creative! We've made expensive marketing and PR mistakes in the past – this always needs to be creative.  More often than not, partnerships with other businesses which use reciprocal marketing and social networking, combined with personal recommendations, works best.

How have you promoted your business? Promotion has been via our email database, Facebook, Twitter, local baby shows and corporate events as well as Inner Glo, a local mums' networking group.  We have had our fingers burnt buying expensive ad space in glossy local mags. Text marketing was expensive and didn't really work for us either. Word-of-mouth, local cheap publications, such as the NCT, and making contacts with local businesses is most effective.

How much do you charge? We looked at our market and area, as well as research from having run pre and postnatal classes in the area for two years.  We knew what local mums would/wouldn't pay for classes.

What about staff – how many do you have? Is it burdensome? We have 10 but only three full-time. Managing staff is hard work. Both of us come from very different backgrounds: Kerstine is from a corporate and structured background where as Maria is from a more laid back media background. Staff management has been a huge learning curve for both of us.

What has your growth been like? We're predicting turnover for our first year to be in region of £200,000 and we are hovering around the breakeven point on a cumulative basis. We've had a great first quarter, a difficult second but our third quarter has shown steady growth.  Profitability should kick in as we approach our first anniversary. Out main financial challenge involved a very cold winter, resulting in a reduction in trade and a corresponding astronomical heating bill.  You've got to be able to roll with those acts of God.

What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?  Getting planning permission was a huge challenge. Day-to-day it's been staff costs and hard winters – huge heating bills were unavoidable (you can't have members of the public shivering in their coats) and cost us dearly.

What would you do differently? We would have thought through the difficulties in of heating a Victorian church, and looked at environmental grants to achieve this effectively. We overlooked this in our hurry to get open and make some money! Now, virtually all grants which were available last year no longer exist.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Try, try and try again.  If you believe in what you're doing you need to be stubborn, pig-headed and single-minded. Don't rest on your laurels and, most importantly, don't take things too personally.

Where do you want to be in five years' time? Do you have an exit plan?In five years we want at least five strategically placed sites. Our exit plan involves an AIM flotation and a yacht. Hey, you've got to have a dream…you know the rest!


(will not be published)