Helen McArdle,
Helen McArdle, courtesy of Newcastle University

Josephine Helen McArdle is a serial entrepreneur who made her fortune by establishing care homes for the elderly and nurseries to look after young children. Her story is not conventional. Raised in County Durham, one of five sisters, she left school without qualifications, married young, started a family and began raising four children. She was blessed, however, with abundant energy and a shrewd eye for business opportunities.

Her first serious venture began when she spotted a rundown pub and persuaded her husband Mark that they should buy it, refurbish it, build up the business and sell it at a good profit. This they did and Helen immediately turned her attention to finding a fresh opportunity. This came in the form of a large, dilapidated vicarage at Beamish that looked ripe for conversion into a care home. The family stretched its finances to make this possible. Success followed and, before long, Helen had built up a small chain of five homes, earning a reputation for excellent care by employing experienced professionals to run the homes. Helen’s talent lay in locating opportunities, managing projects, developing systems, and strategically managing the business. This first chain was sold in 1989. Armed now with capital, knowledge, experience and business contacts, Helen set out on venture number three. This time she built a large chain of homes known to provide first class care, innovating to help establish new standards within the industry. This second chain, with 24 homes and a further 2 under construction, was sold in 2004 for £100 million.

Helen McArdle was now a force to be reckoned with in the business world. With her son Mark, she had already branched out to start venture number four, a chain of nurseries called Kids 1st. This business is still within the family, with Mark serving as managing director. It has 13 nurseries spread across the North East and has won a string of outstanding ratings from OFSTED, the regulator. At this stage, Helen McArdle may justifiably have retired. She did not. Venture number five, another chain of care homes, beckoned in 2008, putting to work experience and professional relationships accumulated over decades. Now Helen had the support of her other sons, Daniel as Director of Estates and Sean as Head of Catering. When sold to HC-One in 2017, it had 1,343 beds in 30 homes and an annual income in excess of £32 million.

Helen’s energy, creativity and business experience are now dedicated to making a positive difference to causes in which she believes. She has donated more than £2 million to local and international charities in recent years, including the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, the Percy Hedley Trust, the Calvert Trust, Maggie’s, Build Africa and the Prince’s Trust. In 2016 she accepted appointment to the Court of Newcastle University. She was awarded the CBE in 2015 in recognition of her “services to the Care Home Business and the community in the North East of England.”


Albert, A. (2017). HC-One buys Helen McArdle's 20 care homes and home care business, Available here (Accessed: 06/09/2018).

Ford, C. (2017). Helen McArdle Care is acquired by national operator HC-One, Available here (Accessed: 06/09/18).

North East Times Magazine. (2017). Celebrating women in philanthropy, Available here (Accessed: 06/09/18).