Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs: All richer than Scrooge McDuck, all self-made and all personifications of the entrepreneur as aspirational figure. The cult of the entrepreneur presents the unfathomably rich as somehow attainable for us mere mortals. It is the American Dream sold as reality to us – the willing consumer – eager to escape the hum-drum and desperate to pay off the mortgage. The representatives of success – those who have ‘made it’, are ubiquitous.
There’s bollock-faced Sid James look-a-like Sir Alan, banging on about the Amstrad while berating foetuses in suits; cottage-quaffed and high-trousered purveyor of sh*t-pop, Simon Cowell; not forgetting the conveyor belt of Dragons and, most relevantly, your omnipresent social media news-feeds, created by baby-faced boffins, all serving as stark reminders of the power of the business magnate.
Yet, sometimes, it isn’t the desire for global domination that drives new business-owners. Sometimes, it is sheer necessity.
The latter appears to be the case for Ramsey-based , Samantha & John Lund, owners of the Island’s brand new children’s nursery – Little Bears. When it became clear that there was no suitable childcare to suit their needs – literally no under 2’s nursery provision in the North of the Island – the married couple decided to create their own. In addition to their day-jobs – Samantha is Health Education Officer at the Department of Education, Sport & Culture; John is a Lecturer in Sport for UCM – the pair have put months of toil, graft, sweat, stress, tears and frustration into ensuring this practical necessity transformed into reality. This was a tough grind but one worth doing, as Samantha states:
“With us both being in education, we are extremely passionate about young people having a positive education experience and that starts at nursery. Why not have influence on this!”.
There have been continual setbacks along the way – most notably, delays due to some residents objections to the building. The building in question is the Lezayre Church Hall – an edifice with a rich history. Over the past half a century, the Hall’s use has been as varied as it has been constant. What once was a rudimentary church hall used for holy purposes, has evolved over the years. It has hosted WI meetings, band practices, youth clubs, birthday parties, table tennis and even dog training. This was a hall to best serve the community in whatever form was most in need at that time. Over the past three years its use had dwindled considerably. Now, after a few years of inactivity, it will serve the Manx community again, as the only children’s nursery in the North of the Island that caters for under and over 2’s.
After additional complications such as a tree root growing through the main water pipe causing not only further delays but a spot of flooding, Samantha and John finally got to the inspection and received approval in December 2018. As with any new business, the owners’ mental fortitude has been tested to the limits.
“There were many times we felt this wasn’t going to happen. The objections, going to planning committee and then a subsequent appeal request. Seeing how happy the children are in the environment we helped create makes it all worth it”, says Samantha.
It’s early days but the feedback thus far has been encouraging. Little Bears already have a waiting list for their under 2’s and adorably named ‘Baby Bears’ section which is, predictable when you consider they are, as aforementioned, the only under 2’s nursery provider in the North. Even so, one look at their Facebook reviews section shows that the genuine testimonials are indicative of the sterling work being done.
Any notion of the motives being about financial gain are sorely mistaken. Samantha confirms they are subsidising the running costs with their own wages – “It will be a long time before we see any financial gain but it’s not about that”.
Little Bears mission states “a child’s early years’ experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure. A safe and secure environment gives a child the best chance to develop and maximise their chances of having a happy, healthy and successful life”.
Sam is keen to stress how much help her and John have had along the way:
“We couldn’t have achieved this without the amazing support of our family and friends. We are so proud of our team who stuck by us during the delays and are doing a wonderful job in the day to day care for the children”
It took over a year from initial conversation to overhaul but now Little Bears has transformed from a somewhat battered but well-loved artefact to a brightly decorative and kaleidoscopic burst of primary coloured life; helping keep the Lezayre Church Hall legacy intact. A venue of community and for the community continues to transcend its origins.