Jessica Wood has crafted a business helping kids get creative.

The former nursery nurse has set up Crafty Kids at Springfield Mills in Denby Dale to provide messy play for children using glue, sand, paint and paper.

Just months into her first business venture, her efforts were recognised with a nomination in the category of Young Achiever Award at the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards.

Jessica joined other finalists at the awards event held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds earlier this month – where she rubbed shoulders with ex-Apprentice star Claire Young, actress Gaynor Faye and broadcasters Stephanie Hirst, Liz Green and Christine Talbot.

And although she didn’t come home with a trophy, enjoying the glittering occasions in the company of some high-flying entrepreneurs provided plenty of encouragement, inspiration and advice for the 25-year-old mother of one.

Jessica grew up in Clayton West, later moving to Denby Dale. She attended Shelley High School and Huddersfeld Technical College, where she took a diploma in childcare and education.

Her first job was at Clayton West Day Care, where she worked for several years and rose form nursery nurse to senior nursery nurse.

“Working with children has always been my passion,” she says. “As a youngster, I always had a lot of younger cousins!”

Running Crafty Kids has enabled her to combine her commitment to childcare and her own love of arts and crafts.

Jessica Wood, Crafty Kids, Springfield Mills, Denby Dale.

“I always wanted to do something for myself and I’m very creative,” she says. “I’ve found a little gap in the market where children can come and play and do lots of creative things.

“Quite often, the parents will stay and work on things with the children. A lot of the parents really like to get stuck in! Others need a little bit of encouragement! I cater for children up to eight years of age, but I’ve also had nine and 10-year-olds who have enjoyed doing creative things just as much as the younger ones.”

Jessica says she set up Crafty Kids as an alternative to the hustle and bustle of the ubiquitous play gyms – and provide a place for kids to get messy without risking any damage to the kitchen table or carpets at home.

“There are lots of craft materials and resources for little ones to get crafty with,” says Jessica.

“Children can take home whatever they make. It is a fun and exciting new environment for families and friends to meet and spend quality time with their children.”

Along with craft activities, there are some free play areas such as sand and water play.

“We try to be different,” says Jessica. “We have healthy snacks and drinks and we try to be flexible about how long youngsters can play.”

Jessica has been pleasantly surprised by the response so far – just months into running the business.

“I spent a good few months working on my business plan, locating the venue and decorating the premises,” she says.

“I wanted to stay in the HD8 postcode area – it’s where I’m from and it’s a good location.

“I did my research and found online that this unit was available at Springfield Mill.

“It was quite appropriate because there’s already a lot of mothers and children coming to the mill on a daily basis.

“There was a two-week period to get the unit decorated and furnished – with lots of help from family and friends.”

Jessica says with some embarrassment that she seriously underestimated how the business would take off.

“I had expected just a handful of people a day, but footfall is very positive and is growing. It’s a lot better than I had hoped at this stage.”

Jessica Wood, Crafty Kids, Springfield Mills, Denby Dale.

Jessica says she also underestimated the positive power of social media. Crafty Kids has hundreds of followers on Facebook and scores more on Twitter and Instagram.

She says: “Ninety per cent of customers have seen us on Facebook. I hadn’t even thought about Facebook reviews – now we have 30 reviews with a five-star rating.

“People have visited Crafty Kids and enjoyed it – and are now telling their friends. We have had quite a few people come to us after hearing about us from their friends.

“We have had people from Leeds and Halifax and even further afield. A lot of people also come to combine a session at Crafty Kids with a visit to the mill shop. Quite a few have never been to the mill before.”

At just 25, Jessica says getting to grips with running a business “has been a massive learning curve”.

She says: “I’m amazed at the amount of time people put into their businesses. When I finish here, I collect my little girl Poppy from nursery and we do all the usual family things.

“Then in the evening it’s down to the bookkeeping and paperwork that I don’t get time for during the day.”

Jessica has also had generous support from award-winning businesswoman Claire Harper, who runs children’s clothing business IndiaCoco, which has a store in Wakefield and also sells online. She’s been a great mentor,” says Jessica. “She’s very positive and has helped me tremendously with the business side of things. She’s very encouraging and very inspiring.”

Role: Founder

Age: 25

Family: Daughter Poppy, four

Car: Ford Ka

Holidays: We have been to Tenerife and Cornwall. We have a couple of weekend breaks planned out – if we can find time to go!

First job: I worked in the cafe at the Kirklees Light Railway in Clayton West

Best thing about the job? Working for myself, being self-employed and being my own boss. I’m a very organised person so I love planning the activities

Worst thing about the job? There aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in. I always have a list on A4 paper of things to do . I’m always thinking about the business

Business tip: Don’t underestimate the power of social media. In the early days, it has been really important to me.

Work: Creative play for children

Site: Springfield Mills, Denby Dale

Phone: 07399 812890


Web: www.