Serial Entrepreneur Frances Preston greeted me warmly in the crypt of St James Church in Marylebone. She was full of energy showing me around the Marylebone Village Nursery School that she and her husband saved from closure in July 2011. As a parent with 2 daughters at the nursery, Frances cancelled their 2011 summer holiday, and spent the time contacting other parents, liaising with Westminster Council and Ofsted, negotiating the nursery lease, sorting out staff and renovating the hall – ready for the first day of term.
Frances now owns another nursery and plans to grow to 10 nurseries in London with the emphasis on providing a secure and happy learning environment for children aged 6 months to five years. Frances is passionate about giving children a strong foundation to their education and making it affordable for local parents. I was bowled over by her passion, energy and enthusiasm…truly inspirational.
Frances moved from England to South Africa when she was 5. Her Mum has cerebral palsy so she spent much of her time with her Grandfather who challenged her both physically and mentally; exposing her to different ideas. At an early age, she took full responsibility for her future and actively sought out opportunities. This resulted in varied jobs from data capture to travelling Europe reclaiming VAT from companies before spending a year living in Munich working with a music teacher from the conservatoir.
A woman of many talents, Frances is proud to be a professional Opera Singer, Joint Owner of a property company, Owner / Manager of Nursery schools, a whizz at product design and development, and a qualified Aroma-therapist and Homeopath to boot. She has many entrepreneurial ideas – which, I am sure, she will bring to fruition – however I am sworn to secrecy!
Why I agree with Joanna Goodwin’s nomination of Frances as a #leadinglight:
- Frances has no fear and risks everything if she believes she can create change for the better. Everything she does has a selfless element; she puts the needs of others, the community or the bigger picture first. The property project she co-ran invested in improving people’s homes so that they could sell at a higher price. She invested time and money to save Marylebone Village Nursery School and then to create other nursery schools when she realised the extent to which children from disadvantaged backgrounds have difficulty in accessing education.
- Her own education had a great influence on her, from the conversations with her Grandfather, to her exposure to different cultures and differing needs; her mother’s cerebral palsy made her realise that not everyone has the same opportunities or ability to achieve, and that “if you can, you should…”.
- Frances believes that we are all here for a purpose and have unique gifts. At the nursery she empowers and encourages her staff to notice what is special about each child. I wondered where her opera singing fits until Frances said she felt that her voice is her gift for herself. When her battery is full she is able to follow her bigger visions and create positive change.
- Delegating is key to Frances’ success as an entrepreneur. By delegating she empowers her staff so they develop and learn new skills. Through networking, Frances finds people with complementary skills, enabling her projects (like the nursery) to take shape quickly. Delegating gives her space to reflect and visualise, have balance, and be at her best.
Books / events that have influenced Frances: The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho… your life is your choice; Anthony Robbins – Date with Destiny 2003, “you all brought a bag of past events and experiences that shaped you, some conscious and some not. Let’s have a look and see what actually serves you. And leave the rest.”
Frances’s nominations for career attributes: You know in your gut; Patience is for losers; Delegate the stuff others can do so you leave space for the stuff only you want to do.
Nominated by Joanna Goodwin and modelled by Lindsey Reed