A NEW mum from Windmill Hill has launched an innovative toddler-friendly cafe in Bedminster and is hoping to open her second venue in the next three years.
Melody Beard opened Hungry Caterpillar Play Cafe in Cannon Street last November after being frustrated by the lack of venues where she could take her baby.
Speaking to other mothers, the 31-year-old realised there was demand for space which allowed children to play safely while also accommodating their parents, without the constraints of a playgroup.
After support from start-up group BRAVE Enterprise and with financial backing assisted by the South West Investment Group (SWIG), Melody’s business is up and running and already proving to be extremely popular.
Hungry Caterpillar has a safe play area for children up to five years old, games and crafts for all ages alongside workshops, activities and language classes for both adults and children.
For grown-up customers, it also provides free wifi, newspapers and magazines.
Originally planned to be a solo venture, Hungry Caterpillar has developed quickly and turned into a family business, with Melody’s husband Tom leaving his job at Bristol Zoo to work full time at the cafe.
She said: “We are still getting to know the market, finding out what works for our customers. We are having our first supper club on February 14 which has sold out, and are fully booked for birthday parties until May.
“We are planning to keep growing and would like to open our second cafe in the next three years.”
And she said her biggest hurdle has been starting the business while raising her two-year-old daughter: “I sort of idealised running a business alongside having my daughter around and it hasn’t worked out like that at all. I now have my daughter with me three days a week and she has childcare on the other two days.”
John Hector, business mentor at BRAVE Enterprise, has worked closely with Melody on the business. He said: “Melody has worked extremely hard to start up a vibrant play cafe that is already proving to be very popular with the local community in Bedminster. She has shown endless drive and determination, and, perhaps most importantly, had researched the market thoroughly and talked to local parents about their needs. She invested time and energy in developing a robust business plan in order to access start-up finance from SWIG.”
Unable to access traditional finance due to a lack of security, Melody applied to SWIG for funding and was successful in her application for a Government-backed Start-Up Loan as well as a loan through the South West Microcredit Fund, part-financed by the Competitiveness European Regional Development Fund.