Landscapes for Learning Ltd
Craig Hill set up Landscapes for Learning Ltd (formerly known as Mud Kitchens Wales Ltd.) in November 2016 as a sole trader before incorporating the business in April 2017. Prior to setting up, Craig spent 13 years as a primary and secondary teacher, specialising in assisting children with behavioural issues.
Run by Craig and his wife Gwenllian, Landscapes for Learning provides a whole variety of different learning opportunities for children, including sensory, imaginative, creative and exploratory play through the creation of outdoor play materials such as small “kitchens”, play huts and performance stages.
What they did
“We started Landscapes for Learning after a chance conversation with a friend of ours, a teacher working within a primary school based in Cardiff. She told us that her school recently had a disappointing inspection due to the lack of ‘outdoor, messy, exploratory play opportunities’.
This result, however, was somewhat out of their control as the resources designed to cater for this aspect of essential early-years learning and mandatory inspection processes were way beyond their school’s very modest budget.
We researched the market and found lots of ‘pallet projects’ that were constructed to turn over a quick quid, but with no consideration for longevity, safety or suitable ergonomic design. At the other end of the scale, we found large companies charging exorbitant prices, way beyond the budgets of cash-strapped primary schools, nurseries and day-care centres. This limited them to just one piece of equipment between two or three classes and parents wanting to support their children’s learning at home.
Having a background working with children with additional learning needs, we were aware of the educational benefits of sensory play. I was sure I could design and build an outdoor exploratory learning station to a high standard and at an affordable price.”
Having retrained as a carpenter a few years ago and having worked on a few domestic projects, Craig saw this as an opportunity to launch Landscapes for Learning.
What would they do differently
“I think, in hindsight, I wish I had sought business advice much earlier than I did. In the end, the business growth and demand rose so quickly, it was hard to catch up with it at times! I think being better informed about the way a business is run, especially with getting our VAT registration, would have been beneficial. This is quite a change to the way the business was run up until that point.” – Craig Hill, Owner at Landscapes for Learning Ltd.
Their proudest moment in business
“The proudest moment to date has to be appearing on Dragons’ Den and securing an investment with Peter Jones. That really has been life changing. I only applied to appear on the show one evening, at the spur of the moment, in early 2018. I didn’t expect for anything to come out of it at the time, so I feel very lucky to now have such a great investor on board.”
Do they use Welsh in their business
“I am a Welsh learner, and my wife Gwenllian, who also runs the business with me, is a fluent Welsh speaker. We find that being able to run the business bilingually has been a huge advantage and benefit to the business, as well as supporting the Welsh language in general. We find that customers feel a lot more comfortable speaking to us in Welsh if they wish to do so. We are very proud to be able to operate Landscapes for Learning in both Welsh and English.”
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
As the business had around 140 schools and play centres/nurseries on their client list and operated from a small lock-up garage in Llandaff North, Craig and Gwenllian were looking to expand into bigger premises, take on a couple of new employees and expand their product range and client list.
The pair got in touch with the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service to enquire about available business support with growing the business. Their Business Adviser Evan Williams assisted with business planning and financial projections and referred them to further specialist skills support to explore apprenticeships and recruitment schemes.
As Craig had concerns about the ease of someone else copying their designs, Evan provided advice on IP and trademarking. The adviser was instrumental during the negotiations with BBC’s Dragons’ Den where Craig pitched and successfully secured a £50,000 investment from Peter Jones.
Craig said: “We met with Evan at Business Wales before the Dragons’ Den appearance. We went and sought advice about all aspects of our business, from managing our taxes and accounts, to sourcing new local suppliers who could be beneficial to work with in the future. It was the perfect opportunity to ask the questions we had always wanted to ask! Evan has been very good to us, so a huge thank you to him!”
Here are Landscapes for Learning’s top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- ask for advice along the way, people who have been there before you can really help you on your own journey
- don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake, that’s how you learn and go on to improve
- know your limits
- always keep your customers well informed about developments, letting them know about any delays etc. in good time
- learn to take time out to relax, and to switch off at the end of the day!