Renae Donovan – 3 Bears Cottage

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What’s your connection to the Coffs Coast?

My dad moved the family to Coffs Harbour when I was a few months old. Moving to a new town is a huge decision and at the time, Dad had a couple of different work possibilities on offer. However, when breaking these down into work/life opportunities, Coffs Harbour came up as the number one family friendly destination to relocate. In the years to come, it was plain to see that Dad had made the right choice, becoming a successful small business owner spanning more than 30 years, as Peter Booth’s TV & Electronic Services.

Keen to follow my Dad’s success and provide a wonderful childhood for my children, as he did for my brother and I, Coffs Harbour was always going to be my number one spot to establish my own business once returning from university in Sydney with a Teaching Degree in Early Childhood.

Having raised nine children in the local area, my husband, Matt, and I have worn many different hats with many community groups, from little athletics, soccer, football, board riders, basketball, physical culture and the Coffs Harbour Surf Club. It’s safe to say our lives are pretty busy!

You’re the owner of a successful child care business, 3 Bears Cottage. Tell us about it?

We are a family run business and have been locally owned for over 20 years.

Having six children of my own, who at various times have all been enrolled at the service, I worked sometimes 10 hour days in the early years of establishment and of course, had a great understanding of what busy families wanted and needed.

As we focus on the needs of the whole family, we don’t believe in closing over school holidays, as parents still need to work during these times and finding alternative child care arrangements can bring many challenges for busy families. So, we operate 52 weeks a year.

We also have eliminated the morning stress put on families rushing to get ready for work on time, by providing the children with all their necessities for their day at the service. These services include: nappies, bed linen, hats, sunscreen, drinks, and what sets us apart from many other services is our nutritionally designed and cooked meals prepared by qualified chefs from the Surf Club Restaurant and Bar delivered daily to the service. No more need for busy parents to worry about providing their children with healthy lunch box choices. We’ve got that covered!

The whole family is welcomed to our service, by accepting children from six weeks to school age. We eliminate the need for parents to make a number of drop-offs in the mornings to various services. We accommodate this diverse range of ages by having two baby rooms, one toddler room and one preschool room.

How do you create a positive environment for your team?

Great educators are the backbone of my business. I have been consistently reminded that as a successful business owner for more than 20 years, “happy educators make for happier children and happy children means happy families”. I am always reflecting on my staffing practices and continually reinventing these procedures to maintain a passionate team. Some of our initiatives include: granting our educators with additional paid time off to celebrate their birthdays, pursue professional projects and volunteer for local charities.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The energy and enthusiasm of young children is what drew me to the industry in the first place. The knowledge or peace of mind that I can contribute to their growth and make a difference in their lives and their families is what keeps me here. Working to empower families in their roles as parents is the greatest gift I have been given, as parents will always have the greatest impact on the lives of their own children.

In terms of marketing, what activities do you find most successful for your business?

Identifying our unique position in the industry, by offering products and services that others may not and highlighting our long exceptional service to the Coffs Harbour area are the aspects that we chose to market.

We have found the best avenue for this has been through FOCUS, as we are able to convey these messages to potential customers by telling our stories and showcasing the beautiful centre we have.

Our target audience is families of all ages, from those expecting to grandparents, and with FOCUS making its name as a guide to local living for the area, freely distributed to thousands of households, it has made good business sense to partner with them as our prime marketing avenue.

What is the best advice you could give other women looking to succeed in their chosen field?

Firstly, I think the key to running any successful business is to create a team that will genuinely care for all those involved; being driven to make good things happen for other people is extremely important. Values like honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, hard work, harmony, tolerance and courtesy are just some common qualities I admire when looking for staff.

Secondly, setting goals so you have a sense of purpose and direction in your business. Furthermore, when you do set goals, be flexible, because your plans could change as the needs in your community changes, without any warning. Learning to be agile is crucial in running a small business.

Keeping kids and their parents happy would play a key role in your organisation. What’s your approach to getting this right?

My knowledge of children – parenting, along with my qualifications and years of industry experience definitely helps. However, more importantly over the years, my role in early education has taught me to become flexible and to bring a sense of humour to each and every day in the workplace.

Educators employed at 3 Bears have an obvious passion for children and are calm in their ability to deal with every situation. They are trained to create a safe, happy and stimulating environment, where children can play and develop physically, socially, creatively and to encourage communication and listening skills

I treat and run my business like a family. I want our families and employees to feel like they are part of a bigger family and as a result, many of our families have built strong relationships with one another, by lending support through exchange of parenting tips. This has been a very rewarding to experience.

Many BBQs and children’s birthday parties have been planned and shared outside the service over the years. And we look forward to these shared memories continuing well into the future.

Thanks Renae.

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