My St Lucia: Entrepreneur Heidi St Clair
St Lucian entrepreneur Heidi St Clair didn’t even know she had a passion for working with children until she left college with plans for a career in fashion and got her first job working at a daycare facility in Gros-Islet.
Heidi’s joy at interacting with the children became the catalyst for her business idea ‘St Clair’s Sitting Services’, which despite some setbacks, has now developed beyond babysitting into providing various other helpful services including elderly care, pet sitting and housekeeping.
Yello spoke to Heidi about her growing company, why she personally chooses the people who work for her, what she likes the most about being an entrepreneur and her proudest achievement so far.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am a resilient and ambitious young woman.
Tell us about your background (where you grew up, went to school etc).
I’m from the town of Gros-Islet and a past student of the Babonneau Secondary School. As a child, I travelled a lot with my father and we lived in various countries including France and Switzerland.
When I moved back to St Lucia I began my journey to the woman I am today.
How / when did you decide to start your own childcare business?
Every time I’m asked this question I smile, because everyone thinks my business is young, but my first attempt to start it was actually eight years ago and I failed miserably.
After that I took a long pause, which lasted a couple of years, and I had further schooling to help me get a better understanding of what I had to do to succeed. I’m still learning as I go along, but I’m here today, so I must be doing something right.
Why did you want to work with children?
I love how children are so unpredictable and with them no two days are the same. Children don’t care how you look, they’re at that stage in life where ignorance is bliss and they just feed off love. I really enjoy socialising with children and being in their atmosphere.
It was an unexpected passion and its only now that I understand how important it is to have passion for your job because it takes up so much of your life.
What was the toughest challenge you faced setting up your business and how did you overcome it?
One of the greatest obstacles I faced was doubt. Although I was trying to be optimistic, my doubt was always more significant, and the negative voices of others rang louder than everything else! They kept telling me that my business was a bad idea and that it wouldn’t work and then my thoughts were “what if I fail?”, and I asked myself that all the time.
Nobody was harder on me than I was on myself, but with time and mental growth I learned how to channel my doubt, and all those negative stepping stones had a positive effect professionally and personally, because they helped me grow into a successful businesswoman.
I cannot say that I am 100 per cent confident with all my decisions and ideas because I am human. But I practice the style of a democratic leader and involve my employees in all my decision making because I believe that learning goes both ways, and I can learn from them the same way they learn from me.
How do you choose the people who work for you?
My business is about serving my clients but it’s also about empowering young ladies who have the zeal to want to work and learn.
I personally select the caregivers because there’s a certain ‘something’ that I’m looking for. They don’t have to have certificates because we will guide them with the information they need to complete an Early Childhood Education course and infant CPR and First Aid with the Red Cross. They also gain experience at a daycare of their choice on the island, where they’re evaluated by staff and the head of the facility.
After all that’s done, they’re given official ‘St. Clair’s Sitting Services’ certificates to show they’ve passed all the requirements and they can use that in whatever they wish to pursue, even beyond our business.
Caregivers must be dependable, friendly and responsible. They are usually creative people who have an extended amount of patience and feel joy in helping others, and if I can see that in a young lady, that makes my task easier.
I want them to see that they have someone who believes in them and who will put time and energy into making them better people because you can never invest too much in what you love.
What is your company’s unique selling point? How do you stand out from other similar businesses?
At St. Clair’s Sitting Services we help connect parents and various family-oriented hotels in St Lucia with the services of professional and qualified caregivers to care for their loved ones while they’re away. Our services include babysitting, nanny services, elderly care, errands, house sitting, pet sitting, and housekeeping.
When I first heard about other entrepreneurs opening businesses like mine, I was a bit irritated, but now I understand that I wasn’t the only one with the idea, yet I had enough guts to do something about it.
Now I see the competition as inspiration. I know I stand out because I genuinely love what I do, and my clients become like family to me because we build unbreakable relationships forged from trust.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the independence, how people value my opinion, the realisation that comes with it, and the self-growth.
Being an entrepreneur has made me wise beyond my years. Not many people my age have received that kind of clarity and it means I don’t want to be anyone other than who I am today.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
In 2017 I was honored to be named one of the OECS’s top 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30.
The OECS is made up of 10-member states and each country has more than 20,000 islanders so it’s easy to get lost in all that, but I was chosen, and I’ve never felt so high because I knew my efforts were seen and my hard work was paying off.
When I win awards I’m always reminded why I started a business and it makes the tears and sleepless nights worth it. The struggle is easier when you’re recognised with a medal or trophy and you feel like a successful businesswoman.
Where do you hope St Clair’s Sitting Services will be 5-10 years from now?
I’d like my business to be operating in as many Caribbean islands as possible.
Locally we have a few secret projects in the making, however, our short-term goals are to provide full-time services to the south of the island and to tap deeper into the tourism industry.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start their own business?
You must ask yourself “do I love this?” because part one is to love what you do, then and only then, will you see the return.
Research is everything so ask questions, put in the time and energy, do your homework into the industry and learn from your failures.
What do you do on your days off?
Sometimes I don’t even get a day off, but when I do, I make the most of my day by doing anything that makes me happy. I meditate, read, or do something spontaneous. My belief is that experiences are enhanced based on inner peace and enjoying the moment.
What makes St Lucia unique?
St Lucia is as beautiful as any other Caribbean island but what makes us stand out is our breathtaking sights which cannot be found anywhere else.