Turning child’s play into serious business

Nursery franchise Monkey Puzzle, has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of Richard Blunden, who tells us why he made the switch from cars to care…

Turning child's play into serious business

When Richard Blunden received a call from a headhunter about an opportunity with nursery franchise Monkey Puzzle, little did he know it would set him on a career path defined by purpose and potential.

Having spent much of his working life in the motor industry, Blunden was searching for more meaning in his professional journey. The chance to apply his skills in business, finance and franchising to the early years education sector felt like the perfect fit.

He recalls: “I recognised the chance to transfer my skills and met with the founders, Mark and Rebecca Crosby, and the connection was instant.” 

Just 18 months after joining as Franchise Director in 2019, Blunden stepped up as CEO.

He adds: “I’ve found my purpose and having moved from Franchise Director to MD and then CEO within 18 months, I recognise that I’m privileged to be able to positively impact the trajectory of our team’s careers and lives.”

Blunden sees his role as so much more than a job, but rather a responsibility he cherishes – leading a talented group united around the goal of inspiring excellence in early years education.

So what is it that attracts others to become part of the Monkey Puzzle franchise? 

“A key driver for our franchisees is the passion for excellence in early years education.”

Starting any business brings challenges. Add in the complex standards and round-the-clock care required of a nursery, and it’s understandable why budding childcare entrepreneurs may seek the support of an established brand like Monkey Puzzle when launching their venture.

Blunden elaborates: “Naturally, franchising helps people start a business with a proven model and systems to follow, but then there’s starting a nursery business. The day-long care of children must meet the standards of independent bodies such as Ofsted, never mind the parents. So, if this is your passion, having the leading nursery franchise support you in launching, operating and growing your business is a huge comfort.”

Franchisees typically start by investing in one Monkey Puzzle nursery, but many go on to become multi-site owners. The company currently has 45 franchisees running 74 locations across the UK, including six company-owned nurseries. Over the next five years, the goal is to open another 30-40 through a mix of new franchisees, supporting existing ones to expand, and expanding the company-owned estate.

Every business comes with unique benefits and challenges. For Monkey Puzzle, an interesting quirk is that one of its main challenges also opens up significant opportunities.

Blunden explains: “Our main challenge is sourcing appropriate properties for our nurseries – but that also translates into one of our benefits. We’re strict on what the property must offer in terms of indoor and outdoor space, so we have a team of experts supporting our franchisees to locate, secure and renovate their locations.”

Finding the ideal home is essential for bringing the company’s vision to life of creating spaces for children to thrive, develop and learn. 

“Creating places for children to play, learn and grow is central to our mission. So a key part of that is finding the right physical space in the first place.”

For budding franchisees considering joining the Monkey Puzzle family, Blunden has some insightful advice: “Becoming a business owner with Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries is not just about creating a profitable business, every stakeholder in our business is passionate about high-quality early years education and the impact that has on our children and communities.”

He highlights the importance of having a robust yet realistic finance and business plan in place from the outset. Tapping into the franchise’s marketing support is also vital for establishing an engaging online presence and attracting families.

In terms of more practical guidance, he advises: “Knowing our property requirements is important too. We have a team of property experts who are essential to locating the perfect nursery setting.”

He also stresses the significance of recruitment and training, stating franchisees should, “prioritise ongoing training for your team and provide opportunities for personal and professional development.”

Creating a nurturing environment through thoughtful nursery design is another tip Blunden shares. He assures franchisees they’ll be in good hands with the company’s expert support on renovating their ideal space.

It’s clear that while Monkey Puzzle provides crucial systems and guidance, franchisees also benefit from a wealth of specialist support – from marketing and recruitment through to refurbishment and design. 

It enables nursery owners to focus on their true passion – caring for children and helping them thrive in those vital early years of development.

Since finding his purpose with Monkey Puzzle three years ago, Blunden has risen rapidly through the ranks. He now feels both privileged and dutiful in his role empowering others to achieve their potential while driving the company’s inspiring vision forward.

For aspiring nursery entrepreneurs who share this passion for early years education, Monkey Puzzle offers the chance to turn a calling into a profitable yet purposeful business. 

With excellence and child development at its core, the company seems set to continue expanding and enriching young lives for generations to come.

For more information on franchise investment opportunities with Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries, visit: https://monkeypuzzlenurseryfranchise.com/

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan