Getting to know you: Leanna Barrett

What do you currently do?

I am the co-founder of Little Forest Folk, London’s first full time outdoor nursery. I run the nursery which means I do anything and everything that needs to happen for our operations to run smoothly and for us to continue to provide an excellent experience for children. At Little Forest Folk, we encourage children to learn through the wonders of nature and believe anything that can be taught in an indoor classroom can be taught outdoors in more enjoyable and creative ways. I lead a brilliant team of nursery practitioners and educators in helping the children to get the most out of nature play.

While the day-to-day running of the nursery takes up most of my time, it is getting to the stage where I sometimes have a few hours to attend workshops and conferences which give me inspiration on how to further innovate our teaching practice. I also bring up my 7 month old, 3 year old and 5 year old. Luckily I have a husband on paternity leave to help out!

What was the inspiration behind your business? 

My children. I wanted to give them the childhood they deserve and it distressed me that kids were not getting outdoors as much as they should be able to. I wanted to create the best possible experience for my children and use this experience to revolutionise early years’ education in the UK

Who do you admire?

Sugata Mitra, the Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. From his simple but inspired idea to create his ‘hole in the wall project’ and attempt to find a way to offer a better education for children in remote India, he has changed the world of technology education. I’m a big admirer of Sir David Attenborough too – what an inspirational hero of our time.

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think so. It’s been a very challenging process to prepare for, launch, and now constantly innovate and develop Little Forest Folk. But each step of the process has been essential.

What defines your way of doing business? 

Keeping true to our vision – to give children the outdoors experiences they deserve and ultimately revolutionise early years’ learning. I would never want to do something that I felt compromises our passion and our reasons behind starting up Little Forest Folk. Everything we do is done with that vision in the back of our minds.

I believe that the way to improve our business is by constantly evaluating it. That way, we can identify areas that need improving or innovating and work to turn this around.

I’m not one for resting on my laurels. I’m always pushing forward to grow and perform better. I want to work with the most incredible staff to provide the ultimate experience for children.

I also believe in keeping it simple. A child, a forest, some mud and a stick. The simple things are often the most effective – we use this mantra for our business operations too.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Just do it. Jump right in and start swimming. Be prepared for everything to take longer than you had forecast and be flexible. It’s only through trial and error that you learn what makes your business work so hang on and enjoy the ride. It can be extremely busy sometimes but you are creating something special. It’s worth it.