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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey folks! So I am in the process of starting up a business, and would like your input.

As you all may or may not remember, I have a little 6 month old sprout. I like to get together with other moms to:

a) get out of the house for a bit

b) talk about anything and everything

c) with people who've been there

d) let Sofia socialize a bit

e) get good coffee

However, there really isn't anywhere to go, and as I have scrapbooks FULL of plans for a restaurant/coffee shop, I thought
Hey! why not make a place for parents and kids!

I won't get into the millions of ideas here, but the general idea is somewhere that serves really good coffee and snacks, maybe some light food, in a parent-comfortable environment, with a place for kids to play, and a place for moms and babies. What an idea! holey moley. Anyhoo....

As moms and dads, I'm sure that many of you have been in the situation where you either had to stay home, or you could go out, but have to be all concerned about room for strollers, the noise the pods were making, if they were going to get hurt, breastfeeding, etc. Or, go somewhere that's completely kid oriented, and end up only being able to babble baby speak for the rest of the day.

So as a potential customer, what would you want? And do any of you have a place like this in your area?

THANK YOU!!
 

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Sounds like a GREAT idea! Any business that has a little play area is gold in my book! Train tables or lego duplo tables are always a big hit and keep them entertained for a long time!

We were recently in South Africa and there was a garden center that had a cafe with indoor and outdoor tables. Next to some of the outdoor tables was a little playground - just a couple of baby swings, a small slide, and a small climbing area. I can't tell you how relaxing that meal was! We ordered the food, then the kids played WITHIN our eyesight while grown-ups sat and chatted - then the food came, everyone ate - then the kids played some more while grown-ups chatted some more! If an establishment had an outdoor play area, plus a few toys indoors for rainy weather, that would be just amazing!
 

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That's a great idea! There's a coffee shop in my town that has a play area with tumbling mats for kids. The coffee's not as good as at other places in town, but it's my favorite place for the play area. (If there's no place for my kids to play, they're going to play where they shouldn't.) Your idea takes it a step further though, with the snacks and stuff. Sounds awesome.
 

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Unless you plan to open the place in a city/neigbourhood with a rather high percentage (research the statistics, and compare, check what other child-oriented businesses like clothes/toy shops, music schools, etc. are in the area, and how successful they are) of families with young kids (and with above average income, and many stay-at-home-moms!), you should really consider other folks (from students to middle-aged childless to senior citizens) as an important group of potential customers too - if you want your business to be a success (and nothings ever guaranteed anyway).

Its certainly a good idea to provide special services/facilities attracting kids and parents, like

-\ta small separate room (attached to the restrooms) for changing diapers

-\ta separate room / sight screened (not everybodys comfortable being seen and seeing nursing) corner with a comfortable (rocking) chair for breastfeeding

-\tspecial kid-oriented items on the menu, smaller servings at special prices

-\ta play corner/mats, picture books, crayons and paper

-\tsome kids chairs, definitely comfy sofas

but OTOH, if you get too specialized on kids/parents only (i. e., making the place a small indoor playground with an attached coffee bar), youd depend too much on these customers, which could turn out to be a risk for a café. Like during school breaks when many people with kids are away or during the winter holiday season when lots of money is needed for gifts etc. Of course this is a general problem for most small local businesses, but it might turn out to be even more serious if you narrow down your target group like that.

So the idea to specialize in some way, as making the place family-oriented/child-friendly, is good and recommended, but Id try not to overdo it. Also, some mothers with young kids that I know rather seem to enjoy mingling among all kinds of people (at a coffee shop or elsewhere downtown), not only with other parents. Rather try to attract people of different age groups / family status, for example by giving the place a really interesting interior design, that stands out against the average big chain coffee shop.

Its really tough to find a balance between offering something interesting and specialized enough to attract people, and avoid getting so specialized that you step into a trap or dead end.

Also, The coffee's not as good as at other places in town, but it's my favorite place for the play area (quoting Glycine Max) will be fine with some people, but there are also lots of moms whod honestly still prefer a place which also sells better coffee than other cafés (and has a play area). Youll really have to invest in the machines (and in the coffee).

And last not least, invest in advertising!

You have a good idea here, just be prepared that translating it into action will require both good research and financing. I probably sound like a real spoilsport now Living in a big city, Ive seen so many small businesses (cafés, pubs, shops, services) go bust after a year or two, and many seemed not even to have checked their prospects in advance (or got bad advice). Ive often felt really sorry for these people, who put so many ideas, money and time into their small business, often one that (using some common sense and getting some advice beforehand) they should not have started in the first place, or at least not at the location they chose.

In any case: Good luck & lots of success!
 

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If you did this in my area, I'd certainly be a regular... I have been known to frequent a McDonalds-type hamburger restaurant near our house (ugh, they do have salads though...) because of the indoor playground area...
 

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I had another idea - you are probably doing this already - but if you get together with other mums anyway, definitely involve them in every step of the process. Form a kind of community in a way that will convince them to be regulars when it opens. I don't just mean asking them what they want from the cafe, although that's definitely a good idea, but 'network' with them, get them involved, hand out flyers and the like before it opens, ask them to spread the word to their friends, perhaps ask them to a "grand opening" with discounted or free drinks/food (depending on what you can afford to do), maybe give the people who are involved before it opens some kind of "membership" that gives them discount or something (just, again, make sure you can afford to do this and you are still making a profit on them
).

Get the kids involved too, at least the older ones. Maybe you could express interest in displaying kid's artwork on the walls and begin collecting it from these families before you open. Or you could ask kids to submit smoothie 'recipes' for things you could sell, or something else that makes kids feel like it's "their place".

Sorry, I know this thread was meant for parents. I guess I'm just enthusiastic about coffee shops
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quinoa - while I appreciate your warnings, I have already thought of all these things. I have done extensive research already, into cost of supplies, start up, lease, location, utilities, insurance, etc. I've also done a lot of looking into what kind of clientele I'm targeting, how prevalent they are in which areas, sensitivity awareness work ups, cost/profit income statements for every amount and/or distribution of client. Don't worry, it's all been very well thought out.

I live in a relatively small city with a disturbing amount of well-off parents (and some poor ones like me
). There are no other businesses catering to this group, so there is no competition for a business like this. I've looked at the financial analysis of similar businesses in other cities, similar cities, and compared that to the numbers I have compiled. I've had a few meetings with government entrepreneurial program directors, had their input on my business plan, as well as received info/advice on different government grant programs. All has been quite well thought out.

To the rest of you - Thanks for answering my question! I appreciate the input, and many of your ideas are already in there!
 

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Alright nookle, I obviously just did not "sense" that from your OP.

Sounds like you've already done your homework quite thoroughly!

I was in no way trying to get you off your plan or anything - guess I sounded very negative about it, sorry. Again, good luck and success, I really do like your idea!
 

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that sounds awesome! unfortunately there's nothing like that around here. there's a Gymboree about 30mins away. I think definately some tumbling mats would be great for the really young ones. or just a soft area where they can practice climbing/jumping without the worry of getting hurt. ball pits are fun too if they're kept really clean.
 

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I think thats an awesome idea as well. I dont have kids but I have friends that do and all the coffeeshops we go to are very non kid friendly and I know they would love a place where they can take them and enjoy themselves.
 

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I would really look into how your building is going to carry sound and let that dictate where you place the play area, loud coffee machines/blender, etc. Putting the kids somewhere their parents can see them but that little yells, etc. aren't going to carry well will help keep other customers from being driven crazy by screaming children.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hello folks,

So I am resurrecting this thread today; I'd like more input. The ball is finally rolling now. I've been accepted into a fantastic program for entrepreneurs, which offers me full support, both financial and entrepreneurial, with classes, workshops, one on one advisory sessions, etc. IT really is an incredible program.

So I am now in the midst of creating the business plan (what fun), and i would love to know what kind of place you guys would like to have. What kind of place would draw you, what kind of products would you want to have available?

The plan is to offer a fully enclosed, fun, safe play area, with a separate area for crawlers up to 4 or so, and then for 4-9 ish. Lots of toys, soft climbing things for toddlers, padded floor, an actual built in playground for the bigger kids. Just completely safe and enclosed, so that the moms&dads can relax and have coffee while their kids play.

We'll have organic, fair trade coffee, teas and herbal teas, fresh fruit smoothies and stuff for kids, with maybe the option of adding flax or wheat germ or whatever. Also locally sourced treats to fit different needs. Gluten free, vegan - which I won't advertise as vegan, because people will think they're dry and made of moss and tofu...
I'll list them as dairy free, or cholesterol free, or whatever, and the vegan folk will see that and know what's going on.

So what do you think? Does this stuff sound good? What else would be good?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
 

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I totally agree with this. Children romping would scare off the usual coffee shop clientèle. Pen them kids off and soundproof the suckers. Most people go to coffee shops to relax/study/get away from it all/have a quiet chat.

But honestly...unless the quality and service was spectacular, I would never enter such a shop. It sounds like a McDonald's play place with less food.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quinoa View Post

Unless you plan to open the place in a city/neigbourhood with a rather high percentage (research the statistics, and compare, check what other child-oriented businesses like clothes/toy shops, music schools, etc. are in the area, and how successful they are) of families with young kids (and with above average income, and many stay-at-home-moms!), you should really consider other folks (from students to middle-aged childless to senior citizens) as an important group of potential customers too - if you want your business to be a success (and nothings ever guaranteed anyway).

Its certainly a good idea to provide special services/facilities attracting kids and parents, like

-\ta small separate room (attached to the restrooms) for changing diapers

-\ta separate room / sight screened (not everybodys comfortable being seen and seeing nursing) corner with a comfortable (rocking) chair for breastfeeding

-\tspecial kid-oriented items on the menu, smaller servings at special prices

-\ta play corner/mats, picture books, crayons and paper

-\tsome kids chairs, definitely comfy sofas

but OTOH, if you get too specialized on kids/parents only (i. e., making the place a small indoor playground with an attached coffee bar), youd depend too much on these customers, which could turn out to be a risk for a café. Like during school breaks when many people with kids are away or during the winter holiday season when lots of money is needed for gifts etc. Of course this is a general problem for most small local businesses, but it might turn out to be even more serious if you narrow down your target group like that.

So the idea to specialize in some way, as making the place family-oriented/child-friendly, is good and recommended, but Id try not to overdo it. Also, some mothers with young kids that I know rather seem to enjoy mingling among all kinds of people (at a coffee shop or elsewhere downtown), not only with other parents. Rather try to attract people of different age groups / family status, for example by giving the place a really interesting interior design, that stands out against the average big chain coffee shop.

Its really tough to find a balance between offering something interesting and specialized enough to attract people, and avoid getting so specialized that you step into a trap or dead end.

Also, The coffee's not as good as at other places in town, but it's my favorite place for the play area (quoting Glycine Max) will be fine with some people, but there are also lots of moms whod honestly still prefer a place which also sells better coffee than other cafés (and has a play area). Youll really have to invest in the machines (and in the coffee).

And last not least, invest in advertising!

You have a good idea here, just be prepared that translating it into action will require both good research and financing. I probably sound like a real spoilsport now Living in a big city, Ive seen so many small businesses (cafés, pubs, shops, services) go bust after a year or two, and many seemed not even to have checked their prospects in advance (or got bad advice). Ive often felt really sorry for these people, who put so many ideas, money and time into their small business, often one that (using some common sense and getting some advice beforehand) they should not have started in the first place, or at least not at the location they chose.

In any case: Good luck & lots of success!
 

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while in new zealand, i went to a cool cafe that all the families with younger children went to (typically, 10 and under or so). i went because so many of my friends there have small children.

anyway, it was really neat. they had a small bar in the back for coffee, goodies, etc (btw, their foods were not made in house, but ordered through a local restaurant and bakery), and then they had tables and room for strollers (they had a room where you could fold and store your strollers, coats, etc, too in big lockers), and the room had a big play area in the center that was "fenced off" with a cute white picket fence and it had a bunch of all natural toys (blocks, etc).

then, there was the best part--the garden! they had this big outdoor garden that had tables/chairs around the edges and an awesome children's garden in the center (sort of maze like, with lots of flowers, herbs, etc (all edible stuff), a small water fountain (press a button and it shot out water), little nooks and crannies for them to play in, etc. it was awesome.

the garden is closed in winter (no one wants to go out there anyway), so you have to make reservations for the inside in the winter, but otherwise, it was a crazy busy place and really simple and beautiful.
 

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I wish there was something like that around here. I always feel like everyone is staring at me when I go into Starbucks with my over sized stroller. There is barely any room at the table to park the stroller, so I usually just get my drink to go.

What always catches my eye when I go to the mall (and I often take my food over there) is a play area in the middle of the food court. The kids can play and crawl around in there, and the parents can watch them from the table. Ares really loves crawling around in there during school days when it isn't so busy. I like it because I can eat my lunch without having to hold him. I'd suggest putting a smaller version of this in the store. It has a small wall around it (about 2-3ft tall) and it's safer than a ball pit for toddlers.

Oh, I'd suggest not getting wooden high chairs either. A lot of babies can just climb right out (including mine) and they aren't very supportive for younger babies.

As to everyone worrying about her scaring off customers without kids, I don't think the OP cares about that crowd. They'd rather go to Starbucks where they can get WiFI anyways :p. I think she is more concerned with catering to the parent crowd.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by vigilant20 View Post

I totally agree with this. Children romping would scare off the usual coffee shop clientèle. Pen them kids off and soundproof the suckers. Most people go to coffee shops to relax/study/get away from it all/have a quiet chat.

But honestly...unless the quality and service was spectacular, I would never enter such a shop. It sounds like a McDonald's play place with less food.
First - did you read my response to quinoa? Do not worry, the market research is intense, and the planning is heavy duty.

I agree about the McDonald's aspect. I have plans to counter that. For one, it will be a lot smaller. I do not plan to have it kitchy or Disney - ish. or winnie the pooh-ish or whatever. The idea is that places for kids to play already exist, but they suck for parents. Like McD's. So It's largely about making it good for parents. I also plan to have a separate area, somewhat walled off, separated by plants and other sound - absorbing things where you could go without kids, and you'd never have to see the kids.

The actual coffee and food will be really high quality. There is a place in town that has a playground inside - but it really does feel like McD's, just different colors. It's got high ceilings, is loud, there's no music, the atmosphere sucks, and the food/drink sucks. But it's still packed all the time.

As to most people going to coffee shops to relax, get away, etc. I agree. But. When you're a stay-at home, or a nanny, or whatever, you have no time away from the kids, so trying to go somewhere where your kids are occupied and you can relax is the next best thing. And I have a lot of market research to support this. Coffee shops around town are filled with groups of new moms trying to get out away from the risk of cabin fever, but regular coffee shops just don't cut it once your kid can crawl, and even more so once they can walk.

One last point. These types of businesses are popping up everywhere recently, and are all doing ridiculously well. Until I had a kid, I didn't even realize how many parents and little kids there are around. It's nuts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fritemare View Post

I..

As to everyone worrying about her scaring off customers without kids, I don't think the OP cares about that crowd. They'd rather go to Starbucks where they can get WiFI anyways :p. I think she is more concerned with catering to the parent crowd.


Although - I will have wifi, as I plan to create some kind of a feeling of a local resource spot for parents, and single parents, with books, magazines, community events calendars, bulletin board, etc. As many of you know, parenting, particularly at the beginning is surprisingly isolating work. I want to make the spot where people can come together within a community that gets it, them, and all of the issues.
 
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