SM

We're proud of our story so far and ready to write its future chapters.

Once upon a time,  two childhood friends, Ash Grover and Varun Chanrai longed to develop a love of learning and academic success in the next generation of children.

It didn’t take them long to realise the importance of a child’s early years as the most pivotal period of brain development. They learnt that the foundations laid in these years impact a child’s cognitive and emotional development, not only in their early years, but throughout school and into young adulthood.


They channelled this recognition, passion and experience into building a community of premium nursery schools across the UK. As well as providing high-quality childcare, these nursery schools offer early years education through individualised learning and purposeful play.

2016

Our story begins in 2016 when founders Ash and Varun acquire their very first nursery school, Hemsley House.

2017

A year later, we welcome two more nursery schools to our community, Tiny Tots and Archway.

2018

Our reputation for individualised learning and purposeful play continues to build as we reach 1,000 nursery school places for children across our nursery schools.

Our Story Icon

2019

2019 is a significant year for us. We reach and exceed our goal of welcoming 15 nurseries to SM, parents’ votes make us a daynurseries.co.uk Top 20 Recommended Large Nursery Group in the UK, and we sign the Time to Change pledge to end mental health discrimination in the workplace.

2020

2020 sees parents voting for us again when we receive a Top 20 Large Nursery Group in the UK award by daynurseries.co.uk, for the second year running.

2021

Recognising our commitment to high-quality early years education and care, Nursery World rank us a Top 10 Nursery Group by Ofsted ratings in 2021. SM’s family of nurseries now exceeds twenty, and we open Ashby Pre School in the Midlands.

2022

We start a new chapter of our story in 2022 when Sarah Mackenzie joins us as CEO and we open our first ever own-build nursery schools: The Learning Tree in Romford and Grimsbury Manor in Banbury.

For the third year, we are voted by parents on daynurseries.co.uk as a Top 20 Large Nursery Group and SM is featured in The Sunday Times Hundred, a celebration of the UK’s leading growing businesses.

Award-winning nurseries

We are proud of what we do, but so are other people, which is why we’ve picked up a number of awards since our story began.

Our leadership team

The top brass
SM leadership team
Ashwin Grover
Founder & Managing Director

If there are two things that stood out from Ash's childhood, it was a love of learning and a curiosity to create.

After spending the first decade of his career between his family business in West Africa and at a large US tech company, Ash was ready to start creating again, and was most inspired by the idea of mission-driven entrepreneurship. After discovering that his childhood friend, Varun, shared the same passion, they set out together to build a leading education provider, focused on instilling a love of learning in children from an early age.

With that, SM was born. Even today, Ash hasn’t lost that love of learning, and one of the things that motivates him most is learning from the incredibly talented team across SM.

When not working, you're most likely to catch Ash trying to keep fit by chasing his 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son around the park or attempting to singalong to Disney soundtracks with them. It’s no coincidence that karaoke always ranks high on his preference list for company socials.

Sarah Mackenzie
C.E.O.

Sarah Mackenzie joined the SM family in 2022 as CEO. Her career began as an Early Years Assistant, and it wasn’t long before she fell in love with nursery life and grew passionate about the impact of a child’s early years on the rest of their life. Working directly with children, nurturing their wellbeing and supporting their development became a passion for Sarah, as well as laughing every day and building relationships with families and the nursery team.

Sarah went on to qualify in early education, complete a bachelor’s degree and post-graduate teacher status. Her career developed into nursery management before exploring operations, learning and development, quality assurance, people strategy and business development.

Sarah is a thought leader in the sector, a Nursery World columnist and a member of Ofsted’s Early Education and Curriculum forum. Her many accolades include Nursery World Operations Manager of the Year, Education Investor Global’s 2021 Woman to Watch, and recognition by Nursery Management Today as one of the 5 most inspirational people in the sector.

A Mum to her 6-year-old son and their dog, whom he calls his ‘furry sister’, when not juggling working parent life, Sarah can be found on the yoga mat or enjoying (usually food-related) time with close friends.

Varun Chanrai
Founder & Managing Director

Before his journey with SM began, Varun was well-established in consultancy with a focus on helping companies generate growth and successfully scale. He is highly skilled at investing in businesses with a tenacity for improving customer experience.

Varun first joined forces with Ash, a childhood friend in 2016, and together, they developed the vision of building a leading early years community founded on the belief that things could and should be done differently. With a mission of empowering local teams to be the best they could be and to encourage young children to develop a life-long love of learning, SM was founded.

Varun is a proud father of two young children, a long suffering Arsenal fan, and also a terrible golfer in his spare time.

Culture & values

What makes us SM
nursery usp 1
This is some text inside of a div block.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

nursery usp 2
This is some text inside of a div block.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

nursery usp 3
This is some text inside of a div block.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.