In the final update of The Diary of a Start Up Entrepreneur, Marnie brings us up to speed with the official opening of her business Wonder – a World of Imagination.

Barriers & Challenges

As the days crept towards opening on 4th November we had various setbacks with our carpenter, sourcing building materials and equipment arriving.

We spent all day and night in the unit for 2 weeks straight, home was a distant memory. Kids were loving the excitement of it all, but it was very full-on and tiring for everyone.

In the final build week, our till programmer arrived ready to install our till systems, but the Wi-Fi engineer didn’t install our cables properly, so we were 2 days away from opening with no Wi-Fi, tills or booking system access!

Fortunately, after some tense phone calls, we got it sorted. Everyone was really accommodating, and it was literally “all hands on deck” with people tripping over each other working on various areas.

With a rocket still requiring building, floors laying, painting and 10 picnic benches needing putting together, we made the decision to delay opening by one day to the 5th – which meant rescheduling all the customers booked for that day.

Food was a very difficult one to gauge at first; we had no idea how much we’d sell, or how busy we’d be. Every day was different from the other, so we had a lot of wastage, but we’ve since found our rhythm and have the quantities right. We’re introducing authentic Italian wood-fired Pizzas in the new year.

 

Actions Taken

We cancelled our launch weekend plans to have a soft opening and give ourselves some grace.

Our shop fitting team worked day and night for 3 days straight, until the very morning of the opening.

Our new staff team all came together to meet for the first time and were thrown straight into building play equipment, decorating and cleaning. Our Coffee Brewery came in and the Barista- trained the team, and we found our new catering and cake suppliers for the coffee shop – so it was now coming together.

At 7am we still had tools everywhere, dust everywhere, and things were half built. It was chaos but somehow we did it.

We prioritised the front of the house, so we had to install signage to apologise for the temporary conditions of the back of house and access to toilets. We have continued to work on and improve as we go.

Open 7 days a week, it’s an operational challenge, and we’ve often had to close a few sessions or book contractors at night to continue work.

End of November into December the new opening flurry steadied off as people concentrated on Christmas shopping and preserving money, and we’re probably seeing more of a realistic trend.

We booked in some Santa sessions and built a new Christmas workshop role-play area which has been popular. We will take this down again in the new year.

Wins For The Period

The next two weeks that followed from opening on 5th November blew us away.

We were booked out to capacity all day, every day and the feedback was incredible. Word quickly spread and we’ve established ourselves locally as a high-quality Role Play centre with parents often comparing us to ‘the places in America that their kids watch on YouTube’.

We have private and shared birthday parties booked until September 2023 with lots of requests to open more elsewhere as lots of customers travelled quite far to visit.

Operationally, we hadn’t had a chance to find ourselves (or breathe), and we took a hammering.

We frantically opened up recruitment for more staff, I was already ordering replacing props and equipment. Having 1,000 families through the door in two weeks, we and our equipment took a hit! The staff were fantastic given it was new for everyone, so we all got stuck in and learnt as we went.

We were achieving numbers beyond our expectations in both ticket sales and food and beverage spend.

SWIG Finance Afterthought: Tracking Marnie’s journey has been fascinating. The journey has undoubtedly not been without its challenges but having the insight into how these challenges were navigated has been an incredible story and certainly eye-opening for any entrepreneurs considering similar ventures.

We often hear from our entrepreneurs that, despite very careful planning to avoid and mitigate risks, there is always more to consider than initially meets the eye.

We hope that Marnie’s honest and detailed account of starting her business will not only inspire more people to start their own ventures but to think more strategically about the challenges they face – and more importantly – how to persevere in the face of disruption.

About SWIG Finance

SWIG Finance is a non-profit company which supports viable Southwest businesses that can’t secure sufficient funding from their bank. By empowering underserved SMEs to overcome their financial barriers, we are working to create a more balanced financial eco-system.

We’re growing every year. In 2021/22, we lent £10.8m to 502 businesses, helping to create and secure over 1,000 jobs and generate £32.3m. For more information visit https://www.swigfinance.co.uk/social-impact-report-2022/

If you’d like an informal chat about your funding requirements, get in touch with our friendly and professional team to see how we can help: info@swigfinance.co.uk / 01872 227 930.

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