Executive Profile: “I am a firm believer in trusting your instincts”

Sue Lockey, co-founder and director of The Puppet Company, on placing purpose over profit, creating products that are as accessible as possible to all and the power that puppets hold.

How long have you been working in the nursery/preschool industry and how did you arrive at your current role?

My whole background and career has been based around education, from my early years training through to my career in teaching. I left my role as a teacher when I had my children, and then started The Puppet Company with my late husband Peter in 2000. Our experience as teachers has shaped our business throughout and from our founding roots in education we continue to champion the importance of learning through play.

What would you say is your greatest achievement since you have been working in the nursery/preschool industry?

Designing puppets that both children and adults value and enjoy using, alongside knowing that our puppets can actually help people and give joy. We have been able to use our puppets to help children and adults around the world and seeing the impact they can have, for example on the children in the schools and nurseries we support in the Gambia and seeing how they can help children develop, is our greatest achievement and what we set out to do. Since we started we have always vowed to place purpose over profit wherever possible, offering the best value and creating products that are as accessible as possible to all.

Favourite part of your current role?

Feedback – I love hearing from people how our puppets have helped children learn to speak, learn to communicate and helped them have a friend. This to us is the most important and gratifying part of what we do and why we do it. I also love the creativity involved and designing new things; we always have different projects on the go and I love how different ideas spark off one another.

Who is the unsung hero of the company?

I honestly couldn’t say – we are lucky to work with some brilliant people, our family business is supported by a wider team who are our extended family and everyone has a really important part to play in what we do and how we do it.

What is the biggest change within the nursery/preschool industry that you have seen since you have worked in it?

The climate as a whole. Everything comes down to funding; we know so many teachers that would love to do more, but their schools just don’t have the funding available which is more apparent in recent years.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Follow your heart. I am a firm believer in trusting your instincts – they may not always work out, but you don’t know until you try.

Biggest lesson you’ve taken away from the last year?

Don’t take anything for granted. Life can be short and you never know what’s around the corner, make the most of what you’ve got and try and do whatever you can to help others.

If you could change one thing about the nursery/preschool industry, what would it be and why?

More people to accept that a puppet has a power, especially with regards to emotional behaviour and wellbeing where there’s now even more demand than ever. Children will often talk to a puppet when they won’t or can’t always talk to an adult. Puppets can help children to discuss their feelings more, this needs to start at an early age and is hugely important for their development and wellbeing.

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