Thanks so much to all of you who've come down to any of our events, regular groups or even Deershed Festival recently - without you we'd just be two sad women in a room full of toys eating too much cake and drinking even more tea than we currently do - seriously - you lot egg us on to keep going with this, so we truly adore you for your support.
In the last six months since assessing how the pop up went we've been busy bees. We got ourselves an accountant and asked them, as well as a few other people who know more about business than we currently do - to review our business plan and numbers. Good news is that they all think the plan and numbers are solid enough to take forward. We've made the plan a little more fancy looking in order to send it to people and we're proud of it!
We had a chat to Nick Collins (in charge of commercial property) at York Council and he loves our idea, but there aren't any council owned premises in York that are big enough for us. He also helped us understand a bit more about commercial property in York, most of the reason there are so many large units empty on streets like Coney St is because they're assets for things like pension funds... and if the people who own those funds reduce the rent to get someone occupying the unit then it loses value for them - so they'd rather it sat empty. A maddening and ludicrous state of affairs... and one that the council sadly don't have much sway over.
The other thing we've learned from enquiring about various properties in the city centre is that some landlords just aren't willing to take a punt on a new business. And those that are want at least six months rent as a deposit upfront. This obviously makes it even harder for us and reduces our (already limited) options.
The other, more urgent barrier that we currently face in terms of getting premises for our play cafe is a lack of unsecured funding. Unsecured loans are available to start ups if you've been trading for two years or if you're a non profit enterprise. We're not either of these things. We're pretty sure we have access to most of the £125k it's going to take to get DLFC off the ground but we need an unsecured loan of £40k to complete the picture and allow us to go ahead. Anyone know any oligarch's interested in play cafe's?????
The funding issue is the thing that ultimately stopped us pursuing 3 Blake St (where the Cocoa House was, opposite Ask Italian). This was a real blow and it took a lot of wind out of our sails.
At the same time all of this was happening we got a first look at some designs we'd commissioned Tigerplay to do for us. These are the guys who designed Goose in Harrogate and lots of amazing play spaces all over the world... Anyway - LOOK AT THIS:
It's still very much a work in progress but it definitely gets across - far better than us trying to describe it to you - the 'playscape' (play landscape) we have in our heads. It's not about sticking our toys in a nice room - lovely as they are, it's about creating a whole environment that YOU want to hang out in and your kids get excited about playing on.
So where does this leave us?
We've got a lovely plan and designs but no venue and let's not forget the £40k - which won't magically drop into our laps. We don't think we could raise that amount through crowdfunding at this stage either, we don't have a big enough following for that yet.
We're exploring a few options and seeking advice on it all. The next real point at which we could open is February 2020, so we'll need premises which are available early in the new year ideally (this is IF the funding stuff gets sorted).
So it's not all sunshine and lollipops right now - but if this stuff was easy then York would have had a kick ass play cafe long ago. We'll keep on plugging away at it.