Willow Den, an outdoor nature-based early learning and childcare organisation, secured £725,000 of funding from SIS to launch a chain of outdoor nurseries.
Founded in 2020 by Inspiring Scotland, aims to create opportunities for more children in Scotland to experience the benefits of outdoor play-based learning. The social enterprise provides fully outdoor nurseries for children aged 3 years to school age and uses the outdoors as the foundation for high-quality play, education, and learning opportunities.
Willow Den embraces urban, rural, and coastal outdoor play and their carefully selected locations offer unique opportunities for exploring local green space, brown space, beaches, rivers, parks, and canals. Willow Den’s mission is to enable children to thrive outdoors.
To help achieve their ambitious plans to operate across Scotland, Willow Den approached SIS for funding support. Working closely with the team at Willow Den, SIS provided a funding package that included £225,000 loan funding that was matched with a £225,000 grant from the SIS Growth Challenge.
In addition to patient capital from Willow Den’s founder, Inspiring Scotland, and a pool of private investors, the investment aims to help the enterprise expand to eight sites across Scotland, providing services for up to 200 children and creating 30 new jobs by 2026.
In August, Willow Den launched its first site in partnership with Spartans Community Football Academy in Edinburgh, opening an outdoor nursery with a capacity for up to 18 children per day.
“With funded childcare hours doubling from August 2021, and the pandemic continuing to impact children’s health and wellbeing, there is growing demand for increased access to outdoor nurseries across Scotland. Our aim is to help to meet this demand and support the wider outdoor learning movement to gain traction by increasing the number of outdoor early learning and childcare nurseries across the country.”
Deborah Grant, CEO, Willow Den
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