LAUREN AINSWORTH, 37, of Havertown, is director of operations and co-founder of the Play Cafe in Bryn Mawr. Scheduled to open later this month, the 4,000-square-foot space will be geared to kids up to 5 years old. It will offer a Lego loft, a play stage, a drawing wall, an area for pre-walkers, and plenty of durable and naturally constructed toys. It also will feature a cafe/lounge for adults to keep an eye on the toddlers.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the business?
A: I realized there was no place to take little kids other than outdoor playgrounds. I have two children [ages 1 and 3] and felt there were few options for families to hang out with their friends and kids. I talked to people who had a similar business, about what it would take to get this started.
Q: And what was that?
A: About $300,000. I knew that a [real-estate] broker and insurance company wouldn't take me seriously unless I had a business plan.
Q: What's your background?
A: I grew up in Wynnewood and worked in sales and marketing, and most recently was a fundraising-and-development consultant for nonprofits.
Q: Where did you get the startup money?
A: My personal savings, loans from friends and family, pretty much around $300,000. My mom [Jane Dellheim, a Lower Merion commissioner] is also a partner and investor. Mostly she'll work from home and handle the books and payroll.
Q: How will the biz model work?
A: It's like an indoor playground. It's focused not only on the needs of kids, but adults. We have a membership program, but we also have a daily rate, $10 per day for first child and $5 for other siblings. A month-to-month is $45 per month per family, no limit per child, or $360 a year for a family.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: Main Line families, but we want all families to feel welcome and I think the daily rate is affordable.
Q: What's your role?
A: Chief operating officer. I've hired a general manager who has a background in fine arts and art therapy.
Q: What differentiates the Play Cafe from similar places?
A: For others, you have to belong to a club or sign up for classes. We also will have birthday parties here, where you can rent a room for $250 or the whole space for $400. There also will be enrichment classes and parenting workshops.
Q: What about financial goals?
A: We're hoping to be profitable after 2 1/2 years. We hope to do $200,000 in revenue the first year. The bulk of the investment went to build out the space. It used to be a showroom for condominium sales.
Q: How many employees?
A: Four, including myself.
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