We last spoke with Rachel Carrell, founder of SEIS and EIS funded childcare provider and marketplace Koru Kids, in 2019. We caught up with her to discuss the business’s trajectory and growth since then.
What has been the trajectory for Koru Kids since 2019?
There are a lot of different ways of thinking about it! But by any metric, we’ve grown many times over.
What was the impact of COVID?
COVID has been hugely challenging. Going into 2020 we were growing at a really strong 2X, 3X, 4X growth path – and while we still grew in 2020, about every three to six months our user needs dramatically changed due to lockdown and home-schooling. A lot of our carers from abroad – Italy, Portugal, and elsewhere – also went back home.
But despite that, we’ve managed to navigate it really well – still managing to grow while the industry as a whole contracted in 2020.
2021 was a welcome return to a strong growth path.
How has the Koru Kids service offering grown since 2019?
We were London-only for the first three or four years of the service, but we’re now in 15 different centres – Oxford, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, and Sheffield, to mention a few. And that has been a huge success. The ‘outside London’ part of our business has grown really quickly. Much quicker than London grew back in the day, possibly because our product is much more developed now. We’re expecting London to be only about 30% of our overall business by the end of this year.
We’re looking to expand further from here, but we try not to plan that too far in advance. We expand place-by-place, in waves – we’ll do a wave, then take stock and work out what the next move will be.
So that’s one part of the growth story. But there’s also a whole new service that we’re now offering, that we’re expecting to be about ten times bigger than our current main service.
Tell us more about the new service.
Our main service that we grew the business on is basically part-time nannies. We’ve got thousands that we’ve trained that are out there working, and that has been really good.
Our new service is called Home Nursery, and it works differently. It’s childminders looking after children from their own home. And it’s a great form of childcare – I used it for my firstborn for the first three years of her life.
It’s not only brilliant childcare for children, but it’s the most affordable form of childcare for parents – most childcare is still far too expensive, and needs more Government funding – and it also provides great jobs for childcarers, with excellent money and, with Koru Kids, the best support they’ve ever had.
That means training, community registration, paperwork, contracts, all the support they need in a box. They earn more with us than any other form of childcare. And if they’ve got their own children, they can spend time with them at home while they’re working.
Every one of our childminders is also trained in the Koru Ethos. We’ve developed this, and it takes the best of modern childcare research and modern neuroscience. It really refreshes the notion of childcare as a whole. It’s built on two pillars – mental wellbeing, and outdoors. Those are both very complementary to one another. We find with parents there’s a lot of acknowledgement that kids have spent too much time indoors and with screens and not enough time getting messy and playing with other kids.
What are the plans for headcount growth?
In terms of headcount, we distinguish between the Koru Kids team – who are now about 70-strong – and our nannies, which are in the thousands.
We’re looking to set up thousands of Home Nurseries with childminders, and recruit thousands of nannies for our nanny service as well.
We’re also hiring engineers and marketing staff for our Koru Kids team.
How did EIS and SEIS support Koru Kids’ growth?
It’s been incredibly helpful. We’ve raised from lots of EIS investors – and anything that has encouraged investment, like EIS and SEIS, has helped us.
We couldn’t have built without investment, and almost all of our initial investment was EIS and SEIS.
Learn more about Koru Kids at their website.