If you are one of the brave souls considering play-cafe ownership, congratulations! The time for diving in and implementing this business model is NOW. With many retail spaces closing, real-estate vacancies are on the rise causing rent (on average) to experience a simultaneous decline and therefore the barriers-to-entry in the brick-and-mortar space are lower than ever.
One of the reasons for these vacancies is the increasing demand for convenience. In the age of “Amazon Prime”, consumers are less likely to go into a physical store when they can have the products they need delivered to their door, for free, in 2 days or less.
Meal delivery services, on-demand online workouts, and e-readers are just a few more examples of products and services that can all be consumed without leaving one’s home (and, I think I speak for most busy parents when I say, “thank goodness for that”)!
These shifting preferences are all red-flags that prospective retail owners should be wary of prior to entering the brick-and-mortar space. However, there is (at least) one group of consumers that still craves in-person connection and service and is willing to pay for it- parents of small children. Parents, especially those that work-from-home or are stay-at-home parents can often feel isolated in their roles and left with a void that only outside human interaction can fill.
The children of these parents who spend most of their time at home may similarly get stir-crazy in their space and many times a change of scenery and interaction with their peers is the best remedy. This can be especially true of places who have seasons of weather (either extreme hot or cold, for example) where outdoor play isn’t practical or realistic.
There is no Mom’s Facebook group in the world that can replace how it feels for parents to get up and out of the house and sip a hot cup of coffee (prepared by someone else!) that they haven’t already microwaved four times. There is no YouTube channel that can replace the feeling a parent gets watching their child share a toy with another little one and improve their communication skills through play.
Many of these modern parents who are looking to reduce clutter will look also to these play spaces as learning and social experiences they can enjoy with their child without purchasing a new toy that will collect dust after a few days of enthusiastic use.
It’s for all of these reasons that you’ll begin to see even more family-entertainment centers pop up around you. So, if this is a dream you’ve been contemplating- now is the time to get serious about a plan. Because if you don’t someone else will.
It’s important to note, though, that operating a play cafe is NO easy task. No one (except someone who has lived it!) can prepare you for the experience and the mental, physical, and financial hardships that can come along with following your dream.
It’s one thing to fail to plan your space properly or miscalculate your expenses- but it’s another to enter into the world of entrepreneurship without preparing for its impact on both your work and personal family life. So, I’m here to ask you the exact 10 questions I WISH someone would have posed to me prior to my ribbon-cutting day.
These questions aren’t meant to scare or intimidate or discourage you from opening your own play cafe. In fact, had someone asked me these 10 questions before I signed my lease, I still would have seen my opening day. However, I may have avoided the major culture-shock that I had experienced my entire first year in business and helped me to set realistic expectations of the time commitment that would be involved, what my days would look like, and what my long-term plan might look like.
So, please- give these questions some serious thought, discuss them openly with your family, and resist the urge to pass over the hard stuff. Even if you have business experience, have researched like CRAZY, or feel like you have your ideal customers all figured out- I promise you that every business owner who has posted a “closing” notice was once in your shoes feeling that same optimism. That is just the reality so use these questions to help lift the veil on what you will encounter should you choose to embark on this journey.
Now, each question has some sub-questions, but try not to get overwhelmed. These are simply meant to be thought-provoking and to leave no stone unturned. Remember, it’s much easier to lay all your cards out on the table NOW than when you’re facing tough business decisions down the road.