Maria from Fun Net Café talks to Sue Edwards
What is your background?
I have a managerial background including working with young offenders, child care and child psychology.
Is this a new venture and what inspired you to start this business?
I have always wanted to start my own business, with something related to child care and soft play, that fitted in with my family and was based on the High Street. Adam, my partner and I lived in Guildford before, with my daughter Esmae who is 2 years old and Jake, 7, my partner’s son.
When my daughter was little there was nowhere in Guildford that I could take her, so I had the idea to start my own business. I looked for premises in Guildford, however it’s a very expensive area, and since my partner rents a property in Uckfield, we decided to look there instead. I spoke to Oldfield and Smith who suggested I look at this shop. We did and the rest is history.
Once we had decided on the shop it took us 2 months to do the building work – my partner runs his own building company – and of course we had to apply for permission and comply with building regulations and health and safety. Now we have been open for 6 months and already doing well.
What makes your business different from others in the area?
I did lots of research and saw other businesses on the industrial estate and Manor Close Centre. When I saw the empty premises available on the High Street, I could see its potential – it is very conveniently located, particularly for a shopping break for parents. It is small, with a homely and very welcoming atmosphere, where children can play safely while Mum, Dad or child minder can watch on and relax just a few feet away. Refreshments and snacks are also available to purchase. We also welcome parties and the complete shop is available for hire if required. Our prices are very competitive at only £1.50 per child.
No other business we have seen offers the same facilities that we do.
What products/services do you offer?
We have 2 rooms currently – the café/play area upstairs, which has a monitor showing the room downstairs and stairs with a stair gate, leading to the soft play area downstairs, with sofas and tables for Mums and Dads.
The idea is that the space provides a place where parents or child minders can come for a break with their children.
Where do your clients come from?
Parents come from all over – Lewes, Crowborough and Heathfield as well as Uckfield.
What technology or apps are most useful to your business?
We are currently having a website constructed and we are on Facebook, which attracts a lot of interest.
Do you have ideas for expansion?
Yes, we are thinking of having a bouncy castle to hire out and we are hopefully going to try CV workshops for Mums wanting to return to work.