When parents are looking for a great place to take their kids, they usually have to choose who is going to have the fun – themselves or the kids.
Tera Goldblatt came up with an idea to satisfy both kids and parents while at the same time, cornering a potentially profitable market.
Along with her partner, Davina Cheung-Brown, Goldblatt opened Playful Grounds, an elegant “café/restaurant that is kid friendly” in Toronto at 605 College St.
It’s a carefully chosen location because of its proximity to the College Montrose Children’s Place, the drop-in centre where Goldblatt and Cheung-Brown first connected and came up with their brainchild.
Goldblatt is banking on differentiating Playful Grounds from other restaurants or cafés that double as indoor play gyms.
“Playful Grounds isn’t for the kids; it’s for the parents,” she said, adding that she understands how much parents need a place for themselves.
“We’re our own market. We know how wonderful it feels to just sit down and have a cup of coffee. And when your kid wakes up from a nap and starts screaming, you won’t wish you were anywhere else.”
Every new business faces some healthy competition, but Playful Grounds is unique.
“Other independently-owned cafés might have stairs or lack the stroller space, and play gyms aren’t restaurants so it depends on how our audience views us. But we see ourselves as a really good restaurant that provides parents with a place to relax [with their kids],” Goldblatt said.
Playful Grounds also sets itself apart from other kid-friendly spots because they don’t charge a fee for their play area.
“We don’t want people to pay for their kids to play. We want an affordable way for parents to eat, meet people and spend time interacting with their kids in a warm, safe environment,” she said.
With seating capacity for 30, the café includes a large open area for numerous strollers, runaway toddlers and a small but interactive play area. A large train table, books, a play kitchen plus a lot of other toys entertain kids ages up to age five, so parents can enjoy rare moments of uninterrupted conversation, coffee and good food.
Playful Grounds offers an ever-changing menu that caters to both adults and children.
Being a mom herself, Goldblatt knows parents are always looking for resources to make their lives easier.
“We offer workshops in financial planning for your child’s future, child care options, infant massage, baby sign language, getting your body back with baby, Dr. Sears workshops, mental health postpartum, secondary infertility and how to maintain your [marriage] postpartum,” she said.
These have proven a hit with parents and all are free of charge.
So, with all of the free perks, does Goldblatt make any money? With loans from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, Business Development Corporation, Jewish Free Loan Toronto and generous family members, more than $100,000 was raised to open Playful Grounds.
In only four months since opening, “we pay our bills and rent every month, food costs and hundreds [of dollars] in loans. We even managed to pay ourselves once,” Goldblatt boasted.
By offering affordable kids’ parties, Goldblatt and Cheung-Brown hope the next six months will be more lucrative.
“Parties will be where the profit will come from,” Goldblatt said.
In addition to kids’ birthday parties, “we also focus on working with corporate events. We can do book and magazine launches, adult parties, like birthdays, weddings and baby showers and corporate catering.”
Goldblatt admits there are challenges to opening a new business.
“Cash flow is an issue,” she said.
And she expects business to slow down during the summer months.
“Our original business plan accounted for summer being slower because more parents are in the park,” she said.
They’re trying to address that by offering a “picnic in the park” takeout menu. They’ve obtained a liquor license for their patio, which seats eight, and Goldblatt hopes that will encourage parents to stop by later in the day.
Currently, Goldblatt and Cheung-Brown single-handedly do it all – the ordering, cooking, organizing, and maintaining their website.
Eventually, they would like to hire staff and delegate the responsibilities, but for now, “we share a brain and naturally do the stuff we’re best at. Davina does the financial work, and I do the blogging and marketing.”
Goldblatt believes they’re onto something big. Parents are desperate for adult conversation and a community of like-minded people. Apparently, their clientele agrees.
“People thank us every day, and we’re so happy to make parents’ lives easier,” she said.