Friends and former teachers Heidi Franklin and Denise Winder run the award-winning Wild Play in Suffolk – and now Essex, thanks to support from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. Heidi explains how social, emotional and mental wellbeing is at the heart at what they do.
Denise Winder and Heidi Franklin first met at antenatal classes when they were expecting their first children, and have remained firm friends ever since. And being outdoors has become a way of life for them, as they endeavoured to get their own children outdoors as much as possible from when they were tiny babies.
With more than 20 years experience in teaching, each – and Heidi having been a head teacher for 13 years – they put their heads together to set up Wild Play in Suffolk, an education, health and wellness company in Suffolk. Although they have both taught age Reception to Year 6, their outdoor business encourages people of ALL ages to spend more time in the fresh air and embrace the benefits to mental and physical wellbeing that it brings.
Wild Play runs sessions for children, families, schools and businesses at Gallowsfield Wood, Haughley, and is about to add an additional branch in Suffolk and its first in Essex as part of its expansion plans.
Covid hit the company hard, and it was ineligible for the initial funding announced by the Government, although it eventually received a discretionary grant. Heidi and Denise have had to work fast to adapt the business and build in resilience, but the isolation of lockdown and the subsequent impact to people’s mental wellbeing has made its experiences more relevant than ever.
Heidi says: ‘As experienced teachers, we have used all our knowledge and expertise to support social, emotional and mental wellbeing – as the impact of lockdown has been significant.
‘For many children, attending our sessions following the initial lockdown was the first time they had left their parents. Understandably this was an anxious time for both the parents and children. We work with people of all ages, including corporate businesses and there has never been a more important time to support employee wellbeing through practical experiences in the natural environment.’
Heidi and Denise received fully funded support for their growth plans and recruitment strategy after applying to the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme launched by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
They were put in touch with consultant Karen Saunders, from Menta, who was able to give her perspective on the business and help with forward planning as they prepared to reopen following the latest lockdown. As well as providing grants of between £25,000 and £50,000, the LEP scheme has also been able to support businesses with fully funded consultancy.
Heidi adds: ‘The consultancy has been extremely helpful. Karen was very approachable and understood what our business was all about. After emerging from lockdown, our focus has been on forward planning, developing our growth strategy and recruitment processes. We used the time effectively and we were really happy with the way it worked.’
Visit Wild Play. For more information about the LEP scheme, go to https://newanglia.co.uk/grant/business-resilience-and-recovery-scheme/
(Picture credit: Wild Play Ltd)