And then there was a pandemic...

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

I learned some balloon modelling during lockdown!
I learned some balloon modelling while in lockdown.

Hello! Zoe here. Hope you're all doing reasonably well and are managing to get out and see a few people in person now that lockdown has been eased. This has been a very tough time for a lot of people, especially those of you with babies and young children who find baby groups and meeting up with other people in the same situation as you so valuable to your mental health. You haven't had this support for the last four months and I hope you're OK. And I hope DLFC can operate baby groups again in the near future for you all.

Before COVID-19 really hit the UK, progress with the play café was looking GOOD – Amy and I had been working for two years building up the idea, running events and meeting a whole tribe of local families who utterly bolstered our belief in what we were working towards.

At the start of March we…

- were about to sign a lease on the old Early Learning Centre shop

behind the Disney Store in town

- had spoken to builders and drawn up a scope of works

(and had learned A LOT about that)

- had met with Tigerplay to measure the space for their brilliant play equipment design

- were developing our menu and looking at food and drink suppliers

- had secured all of the funding we needed to start up - £130k in total

As soon as lockdown hit some of our funding was withdrawn. This was down to those funders being directly affected by the pandemic and needing that money for the emergency at hand.

Thankfully we hadn’t yet signed a lease so weren’t looking at a huge financial commitment without being able to open our doors. Amy and I took the decision in March to park DLFC until there was more certainty on how this would all play out.

The biggest thing to have happened during lockdown to us was that Amy stepped down from her involvement with DLFC. She felt she could no longer give the amount of commitment needed to the business due to a change in her family circumstances. This was a very difficult decision for her, and both of us are still extremely sad about this move. Amy's enthusiasm for opening a play cafe in York was the catalyst for starting Dinosaurs Love Fairy Cakes, her eye for detail and curation of children's play areas are fabulous. I'll miss her involvement in DLFC greatly.

In total DLFC is around £40k down from where we were at the start of March. This part though is the reasonably easy bit. The harder part is deciphering how the business model works if social distancing stays part of our daily lives. As I type, soft play businesses are one of the few things left that are not yet allowed to reopen - precisely because anywhere where there are lots of small children are in the same space, social distancing is impossible to police, and in any case a big part of what DLFC is about is new friendships and nurturing a community - the DLFC Tribe as we've come to know you.

So there is work to be done on the numbers primarily. This is extremely tricky as our spreadsheet is already based on estimations of customer numbers in a specific space that we had planned for. A lot of research into what others are doing in similar sized café spaces is needed to make a good judgement on this, as well as some guidance from Boris and co on how indoor play can operate.

I suspect – if the numbers are workable, that Dinosaurs Love Fairy Cakes could be able to open in 2021.

If at any point we find that there is no longer any way of opening a play café i.e: all the financial options are exhausted / society remains fundamentally changed. Then everyone who pledged money to our Crowdfunder campaign will get their money back. In the meantime, if anyone who has pledged money needs it back NOW because their financial situation has changed due to the pandemic please do get in touch for a refund.

This post has mainly been about set backs. But I remain hopeful and determined about Dinosaurs Love Fairy Cakes despite all this. It is still needed and wanted here in York and with all the work we've put in to this over the last two and a bit years I am still confident that DLFC can open and be a brilliant play café for us all.

Stay safe and well everyone and hopefully see you soon!

Roars and Sprinkles!


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