This week we are speaking to social entrepreneur Lindsey Nathan, mum to Oliver (7) and Sophie (5) and the founder of Close to Hand - an online service that connects people to local helpers. ‘Close to Hand’ offers people the choice and flexibility of arranging a helping hand as and when they need it. We think this is such a brilliant service and can be used by anyone – whether you’ve just had a baby, following surgery or for elderly relatives. It also provides local, flexible meaningful work for people. To find out more about how Lindsey set up her business, whilst raising two small children, take a read below…
What time did you wake up this morning? 6:10am. My son replaced our alarm clock at the age of three; he’s never let us down!
What was your very first thought of the day? Is it Sunday? Please let it be Sunday.
What are your 3 essentials for getting up, out and at 'em?
1) Symprove shot and Coffee –I have recently started taking Symprove in the mornings so will have a shot of that first thing followed by a coffee.
2) Being organised – if I have sorted myself and the children’s bags and uniform out the night before then it makes for a much nicer mummy and happier house in the morning. Needless to say, this doesn’t always happen!
3) Straighteners – every morning, without fail.
Describe a typical working morning? Our alarm clock comes in to greet us at 6am. I will usually spend five minutes checking emails and social media before heading downstairs. The children have a running competition at the moment to see who can get ready for school the quickest; it’s genius! We appreciate this won’t last long but are very encouraging of it while it lasts and we revert back to the repetitive chant of ‘just go and put your uniform on’. Then it’s off to school for drop-off before heading into my office in Tunbridge Wells for the day. I work with my mum and sister so the first order of the day is coffee and catch-up, followed by planning the day or week ahead.
Why did you decide to set up your business? In 2010 my mum and I quit our jobs and set up a care agency specialising in providing live-in care for the elderly, which we still operate today. We noticed in recent years that we were having so many conversations with people who weren’t necessarily looking for care but just needed someone who could pop in every so often and lend a hand with practical things – shopping, companionship, trips out, laundry, a bit of gardening, meal preparation etc. So, the idea of Close to Hand was borne – a self service approach to search for local help and companionship. Close to Hand isn’t an agency but a platform for people to connect – it offers choice and flexibility for people to source their own help by searching through local home helper profiles and connecting directly. The online community originally launched to connect older people with local helpers but we have naturally evolved to provide an extra helping hand to people at every stage of their life as and when they need it; following surgery, hospital treatment or a fall, living with a chronic condition, or the birth of a new baby.
Also, as a mum to two young children I was constantly hearing from friends how hard it was to find local, flexible work that was meaningful. Close to Hand offers just that. As a local home helper you register, set up an online profile and detail your availability and charges. When a job is posted in your area you are automatically notified and if it’s of interest you can message the job holder directly via our secure message service.
What's the best part of your job? Hearing about all the successful connections that have taken place as a result of people joining Close to Hand and of the difference it is making to people – both for those who have sourced help but also those who have successfully found local work. People can often see websites as faceless entities, but I can assure you that after putting so much into building Close to Hand I genuinely beam with pride and happiness each time I hear stories from our members.
#1 tip for juggling work and family life? List making! I’m not going to pretend I am on top of things all the time because I think that’s impossible but if I plan out my week, I am more likely to survive it.
The happiest moment in your day? Picking up the children from school each day. For a while I wasn’t able to and that was hard. Now, even if they do an after-school club, I am the one to collect them and the first to hear of their day – the things that made them happy or sad, although usually it’s just about what was on the lunch menu! That to me is hugely important and although it does mean me flying about and working extra hours in the evening, it is worth it.
The hardest moment in your day? Deciding what to have for dinner.
Most overused word of the day? Absolutely
Once the kids are in bed I... spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing dinner options with my husband via Whataspp. Then a load of washing goes in, laptop comes out and I’ll try and spend an hour or so working either side of dinner. We do try to finish work stuff by 9pm – this is easier if we are into a new series on TV. We recently binge-watched every series of Luther, then sped through After Life which we loved and now we’ve just moved on to Fleabag!
Best piece of advice for fellow Parents... I would never offer advice as that implies I know what I’m doing! However, I would say don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Parenthood can be lonely, isolating and exhausting but rest assured even if things look good from the outside, everyone struggles at times, and you’re not alone. This is another reason why I have opened up Close to Hand to offer help to new mums. It allows people access to a community where they can build up a network of local contacts because if you don’t have family living nearby who you can call upon to help out with all the little things and make you a hot cup of tea, then those first few weeks and months can be all the harder.