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Sustainability leads to business success

October 25, 2022

Sustainability has led to business success for Cheryl Hadland, managing director and founder of Tops Day Nurseries and recent winner of the Queen’s Enterprise Award for Sustainable Development 2022.  She has grown her business and now owns multiple day nurseries across the south and runs a training programme for Early Years workers.

Cheryl Hadland
Cheryl Hadland MD of Tops Day Nurseries

Cheryl’s aim is to maintain her business success at Tops and the focus on sustainability. Sustainability is close to Cheryl’s heart. Her interest started through her scuba diving hobby and working with fellow diver David Jones of Just One Ocean (based in Portsmouth) and is an important part of her hope for her three grandchildren to have a “prosperous, healthy life.” Not only has she made changes in her personal life (veganism and owning an electric car) she’s brought these changes into her business.

Her approach to change has been to ensure that sustainable alternatives were used whenever practical

Her approach to change has been to ensure that sustainable alternatives were used whenever practical, for example, swapping plastic bottles for recyclable or reusable metal and glass bottles, replacing glitter with hole punched flower petals and leaves, swapping cling film for lids in the kitchen, washable nappies for one-use plastic nappies and LED lights instead of halogens. Some things that were common practice were just stopped, such as wearing plastic aprons to serve food and gloves to change nappies. She would love to be able to add more solar panels and insulation to the nurseries that don’t have them yet, but in the absence of any grants for day nurseries, this is on hold currently in order to support pay, conditions and wellness of her staff in these current extremely challenging economic circumstances.

Cheryl is enthusiastic about supporting staff who work in Early Years, ensuring they get the training they need and nurturing their passion for teaching. She aims to work around the low wages that are notorious in Early Years and to solve the current under-staffing issues by working with politicians and the DfE as well as public perception of the vital role of educating and caring for our youngest citizens.

The pandemic had a massive impact on the business, reducing occupancy to 30% for a while, however at least one nursery remained open in every area, and furlough and business grants supplied through the council helped prevent total closure.

Cheryl said:

“Portsmouth is more supportive than others [councils], for example and we didn’t have to pay business rates in the main pandemic.”

She described the team at Portsmouth as having a good attitude when it comes to business and education. She said that they are “engaged, the fact that they’re interested, and listening is encouraging. Of course, I don’t think we should be paying business rates at all, it’s a tax that takes away a large chunk what we receive for children and staff, which is already an inadequate funding rate to pay staff even the average wage”

To share her success and her journey to sustainability, Cheryl has written a book Creating Eco-friends Early Years Setting to help implement more sustainable protocols in Early Years education, the proceeds of which go to her charity GECCO – champions for change  set up to share best sustainability practice in early years.

She’s now in the third year of her doctorate at the University of Portsmouth, which she is doing to help inform her passion for providing sustainable early years education.

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