Why this Yorkshire cafe caters to clever tots

Danielle Haywood launched Clever Tots Play Centre in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, to provide a safe space for children under five to explore, learn and get messy.

This cafe may not recommend caramel lattes to its regular customers, but it provides a safe space for them to play, learn and get messy. Clever Tots Play Centre, a Grimethorpe-based business, started when Danielle Haywood realised that there aren’t enough play areas for children under five that allows them to be messy and creative. After hosting messy play classes in her neighbourhood, Haywood saw the business potential in her idea and took the leap in November last year. She’s now turning over around £1,000 a week and is looking to scale up from support from Launchpad, a business support programme delivered throughout the Sheffield City Region. Here’s her story.

What does your business do?

Clever Tots Play Centre is a play area and café for the under-fives. It’s a safe, exciting area for children to play in, allowing them to discover the art of play in both soft play and sensory rooms. We also sell quality food at affordable prices, making us accessible to all.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

When I had my daughter four years ago, I organised messy play classes in my local area with the hopes of expanding. I soon realised there wasn’t much else available in my area for the under 5’s and parents, so Clever Tots Play Centre was born, enabling me to earn a living and retaining my independence whilst still spending time with my daughter.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I already had customers from hosting my messy play classes and each and every one of them encouraged me to launch Clever Tots Play Centre and had faith in my business idea. Many of them also expressed a need for more play centres and activities to do in our local area, which was a driving force in my decision to contact The Princes Trust and Launchpad for support.

How did you raise funding, and why?

When I knew I wanted to launch my own business, I started to save up from my part time job in my family’s butchers. My family knew of my decision to become fully self-employed and they also contributed to the funds, alongside a £4000 from the Princes Trust.

Describe your business model in brief

Clever Tots Play Centre is a safe and open environment for Under 5’s and their parents or carers to play, eat and discover. Our aim is to make play dates with babies and toddlers as stress free as possible by providing an environment where parents can see their children at all times.

Your lowest point was…

Working myself to utter exhaustion. I was still working part time at my job to raise funds to launch Clever Tots and putting plans together to get to the point where I could launch the business, whilst caring for my children.

Your highest point was…

Hitting my weekly revenue target for the first time. It made everything worth it and I felt I could really make Clever Tots a success.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

The journey to becoming self-employed is harder than you think it will be, so you need to be dedicated to your business idea and prepare yourself for a lot of hard work. Turning a hobby or passion into a commercial success is the motivation to keep you going.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

My goal is to open another play centre a little further outside of my local area. I also have another business venture in the pipeline which I am looking to work on in the near future.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…

I’ve always had an interest in Criminal Psychology and if I was given the chance I would go to university, study for a degree in Psychology and have a career in therapy and rehabilitation. Now though, my passion lies with my business and the plans I have to expand it.

If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?

In regards to my business journey I would budget, budget and budget again! One thing you can’t afford to get wrong when launching your own business is the finances.

What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?

You can do absolutely anything that you set your mind to. Hard work and dedication gets you far in life.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.