monkeypuzzlebillericaySUKI BIRAK & JAY RAI, MONKEY PUZZLE BILLERICAY

Established in 2009, Billericay has become a prime example of the great success which enterprising Monkey Puzzle Franchisees can achieve.

With 55 child places mostly fully subscribed – plus a waiting list for some days of the week – many would feel justifiably satisfied with their endeavours. But Suki Birak and Jay Rai are not men to rest on their laurels!

Far from it, they are about to triple the size of their business by opening a second nursery with a capacity of 100 places. Located in Kingston-on-Thames and due to open in March, this will be the largest in the Monkey Puzzle network.

Suki and Jay, incidentally among the youngest of our Franchisees who came aboard in their early thirties, have known each other for many years. They are both graduates with good degrees in business-related subjects, but their backgrounds are quite different.

After university Jay became a data analyst with a major plc, before moving into a specialist wood-flooring business which he continues to own. Suki first recognised the potential of franchising from his early days working in Canada and following his initial career with NatWest Bank, where he became an assistant manager, he went on to become a highly successful Subway franchisee, expanding to three outlets in east London and Essex (two of which have since been sold in order to concentrate on Monkey Puzzle).

Suki and Jay came to be Monkey Puzzle Franchisees through interesting circumstances. Each of their wives gave birth at about the same time and because neither wanted to relinquish promising careers in the City of London, they carefully examined the childcare options. Having discovered that the best nurseries were able to command quite high fees, their husbands decided to consider the possibilities of setting up in this sector themselves.

Given Suki’s preference for franchising, the franchise media was duly explored. Monkey Puzzle was recognised as the leading player with a sound “package” and effective training programme, and after meetings with Mark & Rebecca Crosby it was decided to go ahead.

As ever, premises were the main issue and the lease was secured on an old Quaker House near the centre of Billericay in a very good position adjacent to the Waitrose supermarket. Because the property is Grade II listed, strict rules had to be observed in preparing the nursery, but the results are impressive, extending to three floors plus a basement where the office and staff room are situated.

Visitors to Monkey Puzzle Billericay cannot fail to be impressed by the enthusiasm and ability of the staff, headed by manager Katy Hurst who brought a wealth of practical nursery experience. Under her tutelage team members are not only employed, they have opportunities for career progression within the business and some who started as trainees have been promoted to supervisory positions, having gained appropriate N.V.Q.’s.

Interestingly, an apprenticeship scheme is also now in place with two apprentices already appointed. Food is another area of key importance and wherever possible locally sourced and organic food is featured on the menus. The kitchen – recently awarded 5 stars by the local authority – is in the capable hands of Debbie who has earned quite a reputation for her skill in creating meals the children enjoy.

The two co-directors bring complementary strengths to their business, Suki concentrating on marketing and Jay on administration. The ongoing programme of promotional and charitable events (Great Ormond Street Hospital being the beneficiary) includes weekend Open Days, Summer Fetes, Bouncy Castles and so on, and certainly succeeds in creating strong appeal with parents and their children.

Such experience is obviously extremely valuable with regard to the marketing task to launch and develop Kingston. As Management Franchisees in the process of major expansion, Suki and Jay believe that competent staff are a key element of their business plan, coupled with the strong and healthy relationship which exists with their franchisor.