“ART has been out to see us a few times since we’ve had the loan and taken a real interest in how we are getting on. There is a relationship there now.”
Bibs Berry started working with children at the age of 11. By the age of 14 she had her first business plan and had started to win awards for her work in the local community. Aged 16 she began gaining qualifications in childcare and youth work. At 23 her dream of running her own nursery, youth den, after school and holiday clubs had come true. Bibsy Bananas, with the engaging strapline ‘where fun is at the core of learning’, was established in Castle Vale, Birmingham in 2012. A year later it moved to the Bromford area of Birmingham and Bibs began winning awards for her impressive skills as an entrepreneur.
At the outset the business was run on more of a pop-up than a permanent basis, with space being hired as needed. When a lease at the local swimming baths expired, Bibs was offered a long term lease on a retail unit for the nursery, and a lease from the same landlord for a property a few streets away that was suitable for the ‘youth den’. Both properties needed work to turn them into facilities that were fit for purpose. Bibs began looking around for funding and came across ART. “They made the lending process understandable,” she says. “There was no jargon.”
It was not just funding that got the renovation work done, it was the contribution of staff, their partners and families, parents and the local community. “Everyone pulled together to do the painting, cleaning and as many of the other necessary jobs as possible,” says Bibs. “It was fantastic. We showed the children where we were moving to and how much work needed to be done then asked them what facilities they would like and what colour schemes. We had to discard a few of the more impractical ideas, but included all those that were realistic.”
The nursery can now take up to 50 children and the premises for older children can take up to 90, although Bibs prefers to keep it at 60. A visit shows just how much the children enjoy being in the stimulating environment, using the facilities and making new friends. The staff team of 16 is clearly well trained, dedicated, and able to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere.
Looking to the future, Bibs is full of ideas for expansion and extension of Bibsy Bananas’ services. “We work quickly and are growing rapidly,” she says. “ART enabled us to keep up the pace. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.”