Neera Sharma, CEO at Gifts for Little Hands & The Learning Club

The founder of an online retail business supplying educational toys to B2B/B2C, as well as a subscription box service for preschool children

It was December 2015 and I’d just attended my eldest son’s first parents’ evening. His reception teacher explained that things were fine in general, but he was slightly below expectations in one or two key areas. I was mortified.

The nursery I’d sent him to was outstanding, with amazing reports from Ofsted, so I couldn’t understand why I’d received that feedback from the teacher; then it hit me like a tonne of bricks: I hadn’t been there for my son at the time when he needed me most, and that it was nothing to do with the nursery.

Living in Birmingham but working in London, my job in corporate affairs – not to mention the daily four-hour commute – was one of the many reasons why I wasn’t spending enough time teaching my boy the basics. I started to research what educational toys were out there, but all I could find was commercialised stuff. The impact this gap in the market had on me was so significant that I quit my job and, by early 2016, had founded my own business with the intention of sourcing toys from suppliers which were purely educational.

Today, the toys we stock are sourced from around the world and comply with the seven key learning areas comprising the Government’s Early Years Foundation Stage. Whilst it’s important for our toys to have some element of fun to keep the children entertained as they learn, they must be aligned to those developmental milestones.

The Learning Club, which is the second business I created in April 2018, operates in tandem with Gifts for Little Hands – providing a service where parents can subscribe to receive 12 boxes containing activities to facilitate learning.

My youngest son, who’s a little bit younger than his big brother, was better prepared when he started at the same nursery because I’d recognised what needed to happen. As a parent, I know only too well the difficulties we face when it comes to giving our children our full attention (life’s full of so many responsibilities!), and that all of our little ones have different needs and interests, but I like to think my businesses can make things that little bit easier.

Gifts for Little Hands