To start my ZOOM on Motivational Mountain Mummies – MMM’s, I decided to interview Tessera Swallow, owner and founder of T4 nannies – an award winning, specialist nanny company, based in the French Alps -“T4’s nannies are the loveliest in the Alps.” Tessera is not only a good friend of mine, but a muli tasking, fabulous business woman, athlete, mother & wife! Tessera reveals how and why she set up her business, the ingredients to it’s success, her top things to do in different resorts with children and the challenges she faces as a business owner in France.
Tessera grew up in West Sussex with her Father sharing his love for all things skiing, snow and mountains. His Father (her Grandfather) was also a very keen skier in the 1930s. For as long as she can remember she dreamed of living in the mountains and being able to ski to school! She turned her ambition in to becoming a ski instructor. At 18 she went to Whistler, Canada for her first season as a waitress and never looked back.
Tessera now lives in Seez,, at the heart of the resorts her company operates in with her lovely little family. Tessera met her husband Ant in her very first season in Val d’Isere… he offered to “show her around the mountain” and the rest as they say is history. They have been married for 7 years and have 2 wonderful children. Ant is also a ski instructor and works in the oil industry offshore on rigs. This means he is away nearly 50% of the time – which makes Tessera even more impressive.
So then Tess tell us why you decided to set up T4 nannies ?
I arrived in Val d’Isere 13 years ago as a trainee ski instructor and the following year started t4 Nanny, totally by accident. I noticed a gap in the market as my ski clients were telling me how hard it was to find childcare and kept asking me if I would look after the children or if I had any friends who would like to do it. I thought I could probably find and employ some people. That summer I bought a company off the internet for £2 and named it t4 Private Nanny Service Ltd and my company was born.
I set up t4 knowing that to survive in the Alps you need a summer job or you need to create one. I wanted flexibility and something I could really get involved with. To be perfectly honest I never thought it would last this long or get this big but I love working for myself and knowing the more I put in the more I get out is amazing. Ant and I did several years of winters in France and summers in the UK. I did office temp jobs and ran t4 Nanny on the side, as I couldn’t afford to pay myself for the first 2 years. Once I could draw a salary we decided to try France for 18 months and we both loved it and stayed.
I believe you made your dream of becoming a ski instructor a reality too ?
Yes! It took me 6 years in total to become a fully qualified BASI Level 4 Ski Instructor with Eurotest and French Equivalence. I am now also a BASI Trainer which means I train and examine up and coming ski instructors.
So…Back to T4 nannies. Why did you call your company T4 nanny?
My full name is Tessera, which is Greek for number 4 as I am the 4th child. My Father would call me T4 so not thinking much about it I called my company t4 Nanny.
Which resort did you start off with and why? Is this still your biggest resort today?
We started in Val d’isere because it was where I was based and the resort I knew best. This is still our flagship resort.
How many staff and how many resorts are you present in now?
We now have 22 staff across 6 resorts, Val d’Isere, Tignes, La Plagne, Meribel, Courchevel and La Tania. We employ an office manager, 2 head nannies to keep everything and everyone running smoothly.
Wow! Pretty impressive. What was the key to growing the business?
It has taken us 12 years to get here and I am still passionate about the service we provide. We have been organically growing as our families tell us which resort they would like to see t4 nanny in next.
The key to our business is knowing that we are only as good as our nannies. This is why we take such care recruiting only the very best to join the team. All our nannies are qualified with at least 1 year’s experience, first aid certificate, DBS check (criminal record) and hold 2 written references in childcare, both of which are checked by us. The applicant goes through 2 rounds of interviews and then a week of training in resort.
If the nanny is unhappy or tired the children and parents pick up on this straight away which is why we love building the team. We make sure throughout the season we organise, ski days, lunches out, après drinks or big fondu nights out with the girls to create a really special relationship and to ensure everyone has the most amazing season.
What kind of activities do your nannies do with the children?
Everyday our nannies will take the children out for a breath of fresh air. This could involve sledging, ice skating, swimming, rock climbing, soft play or trip to the farm to name but a few.
We also make a craft everyday, we have yet to find a child that doesn’t love cutting and sticking, so instead of toys we come armed with everything artsy and crafty, making everything from snowflakes and paper chains to masks and magic wands.
How do you differentiate yourselves from other similar services in resort?
Most other companies are agents and hold nannies on their books. We are very different from other services around because we employ all of our nannies. The t4 team is trained and supported in resort by our Head Nannies, which means we are able to give the best possible service and provide the best possible nannies, an agency simply can not do this.
Do you have any partnerships in place?
Our uniforms have been Jack Wills for 10 years. They have been a great support and their brand fits perfectly with ours. Not to mention their clothes are beautiful and super warm. It is always a good idea to get a uniform your staff are happy to wear!
Tell us your secrets!!! Can you give us one favourite place or activity to do with children in each resort you are present in?
Tignes – Tignes espace with free trampolining for under 5’s
Val d’Isere – Great child friendly restaurant Sur La Montagne with a huge playroom downstairs.
Meribel – 10 pin bowling
Courchevel – Amazing new Aquatic centre
La Tania – Brill safe sledging area in the centre of the snowfront
La Plagne – Ice Skating
How has/will Brexit affect you and your buisness?
The frustrating thing about Brexit is that we just do not know what if any impact it will have on us. I have no idea if I will ever be able to trade in 2 years time. We just have to hold tight and hang on for the ride, we do know that for as long as we can we will continue to provide the best possible children care to families coming on holiday to the French Alps.
How are sales looking for this winter?
Sales are slightly down this winter however this could be due to a number of things, poor early snow conditions over the last couple of years, Christmas on a weekend and of course Brexit. On the up side, the early season snow is already amazing so it is well worth booking a sneaky December trip!
How do we book?!
It has never been easier to book a t4 Nanny, simply visit our website www.t4nanny.com and click Book Now. You can then select your dates and resort and the website will tell you how many nannies we have available, which products are available and how much it will cost.
Alternatively if you would like something bespoke please call us on 0044(0) 2081441054 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @t4nanny
Thank you very much to Tessera for her time. We loved interviewing you & you are definitely a Motivational Mountain Mummy 😉