Tuesday, September 28

A diamond dealer lost her job in the pandemic and set up a daycare business from her lounge — here’s why she has no regrets


  • Casmira Nan was made redundant from her role as a diamond valuer at the start of the pandemic.
  • She set up an online childcare business from her lounge, using the platform Tiney.
  • “I’ve never been happier,” Nan told Insider.

No two days were ever the same for Casmira Nan during her career as a diamond dealer in London’s Hatton garden.

Clients would come in with a specific budget and requirement to which Nan would customize pieces, working with her network of suppliers to source the correct stones.

She’d work with as many as 10 clients a week, with budgets ranging from $690 (£500) to $100,000 (£70,000).

“I really liked this idea of ​​being a microscopic engineer,” Nan said. “I know it sounds a bit

OCD
, but I really like that it was very small, very precise, controlled work.”

Growing up in South Africa, she’d always harbored ambitions of working in a creative role, but could never find a way to truly match it up with her other interest — childcare.

After finishing high school, she trained as an early years teacher before completing a Bachelor’s degree in fine art. It led her into a job for an art studio, working with children doing arts and crafts.

She retrained again, studying jewelry design and manufacture, and began producing her own. Eventually, she landed her first UK role working for a boutique jeweler specializing in antiques and restorations based in London’s Burlington Arcade. After three years, she moved on to her job in Hatton Garden as a diamond valuer and dealer.

Diamonds are graded based on their colour, clarity and carat (size). All diamonds have to go through a process called the Kimberley Process to ensure that they’re properly sourced.

Nan was earning more than £30,000 and although she was sometimes working 14 hour-days, she really loved working with and meeting lots of people all around the world. She was also following her ambitions of pursuing a creative career and working towards formal qualifications in gemology.

In September 2019, Nan took maternity leave after the birth of her first child, and returned to her job in March 2020. This happened weeks before non-essential retail shops in England closed under the national COVID-19 lockdown.

Footfall across UK high streets fell by 88% in April 2020, compared with the previous year, according to the High Street Task Force. The business started to struggle and Nan was made redundant.

In some ways, she was glad because she’d missed her daughter so much since returning to work — even if it was quite scary suddenly losing her income.

The family’s circumstances became more uncertain after her husband lost his job as a sound engineer a few days later. He found reemployment as a telecoms engineer, but Nan still needed to find a new role. She didn’t want to go back into an office though.

“I wanted to be at home with my daughter, but I also needed to bring home an income,” Nan said.

That’s when she came across tiney.co, a platform that trains professionals to become childminders and matches them with parents seeking childcare.

Nan interviewed successfully and then began her training, which took six to eight weeks.

The company paid for her to complete safeguarding, pediatric first-aid, and marketing, processes that would have taken her a few years if she was doing it alone.

Nan is now self-employed, Tiney — which operates through an app — takes 10% of any money made on a listing, but pays for any ongoing training.

Her fees start at £6 an hour and in an average week she’ll look after two children a day, mostly under the age of two, three days a week. Some will stay for a few hours, others might join her for up to nine hours a day.

Nearly all her clients are healthcare workers from the nearby hospital, who need childcare during the pandemic.

Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on women’s employment

Nan’s story is reflective of the wider, disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on women’s employment.

In particular, working mothers — who have taken up taking up the bulk of caring responsibilities — felt the strain acutely.

In 2020, one in four women were considering leaving the workforce, compared with one in five men, according to Mckinsey research.

Nan feels the responsibility of her new job, but said it’s a lot of fun too.

Crucially it has enabled her to stay at home with her daughter who will turn two in September, pursue her desire to be creative by making jewelry — while still running a business.

She paused Little Sunflowers nursery for a brief period due to family reasons, but has just reopened and is looking to get more families on board.

“I’ve never been happier in a job,” said Nan. “There’s something so happy and pure about them [children]. It’s taught me to be more appreciative of the small things.”



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