KiddiCity – ‘You can’t build a city on your own’
Keeping children entertained is not an easy job, but for entrepreneur and mum of three Anna Anderson, she saw an opportunity to offer her community something different.
KiddiCity is an interactive Children’s Role Play Centre that will be opening in the Langney Shopping Centre in Eastbourne, giving children from under 8-year-olds and their families the opportunity to explore their very own town, as well as weekly classes, clubs, and parties
Launching on 11 December with Santa as a special guest, we talked to Anna about how Locate East Sussex helped to take a pop-up mobile play experience and put KiddiCity on the map.
Building a KiddiCity
‘We are literally creating the city as we speak,’ Anna told us as she took time out to speak to us, ‘and it has been great that we have been able to get local support, with so many trades going above and beyond to make KiddiCity a reality.’
While there are similar play towns operating throughout the UK, KiddiCity is newest in East Sussex. As a mum of three with a background in childcare, Anna saw that there was a gap in the market from her own personal experience:
‘One of the things that always went down well with my and my friends’ children was pretend play. You would buy microwaves or playhouses, adopt new identities and just have fun, but many soft play centres do not have the resources or time to allow the variety and some parents don’t have the space or the resources… and certainly not an all-weather indoor option.’
‘When children are allowed to explore and experiment, it helps to have a positive, safe space for them shape their personalities. One of the things that came up in our research is that parents and children are looking for stable, regular sessions, and allow them to explore their world’
From a supermarket (‘our most popular theme!’) to a local café, and a park, KiddiCity captures what children really enjoy with a very natural style allowing for flexibility and for seasonality. Here children can reflect and adapt their own playing style, but in an environment that is easily adaptable with new toys and activities to match.
‘We also worked with the parents,’ Anna said, ‘finding out what their children enjoy, but also making the space inclusive for all children, such as choosing calming colours and not focusing on too bright a light so that we can welcome children on the SEN spectrum as well.’
‘I’ve learnt from the kids that for my business, that sometimes you need to keep it simple, and not sweat the small things. It’s about the joy and the children just want the time to explore.’
KiddiCity’s Home Is Eastbourne
Anna started KiddiCity as a mobile pop-up play experience across Eastbourne and the surrounding area, testing out the concept of the role-play over 1-2 days per week, collaborating with venues and other local businesses. For Anna, it was important that KiddiCity was going to be known in the local area and successfully grow a local following.
‘I looked around, but I always knew KiddiCity would have its home in Eastbourne.
‘Langney Shopping Centre is perfect for our needs, I thought this was a really good location to start out in long term premises. The centre is a natural catchment area for so many new families moving into Eastbourne and is accessible with lots of free parking and frequent buses. For parents, taking your child out can be a mission, but the centre makes accessibility easy.’
As new shops take residence and renewed investment attracts larger businesses, KiddiCity has received a lot of support even before opening, being adopted by the Eastbourne business community as much as families. ‘There is a strong and diverse community in the centre, it’s lovely, and what we strive KiddiCity to be as well.’
Share your dream
For Anna, the journey as an entrepreneur has not been a lonely one. Being referred by EDEAL, Locate East Sussex could provide free 12 hours of business support from Business Managers Adam Berger and Jim Fletcher, helping Anna shape her financial forecast and apply for East Sussex Invest funding.
‘It was an easy decision. Their support has helped me to maintain full autonomy of my business, and maintain my standards and the ethos of KiddiCity, and we could go full steam ahead.’
Following a successful application, East Sussex Invest was able to give KiddiCity a match-funded loan of £12,500, enabling them to fit out a business unit in Langney shopping centre, with improved electrical and plumbing works, carpentry, and materials for the build of themed play space, additional play equipment and initial promotional activities.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to grow their business?
‘Share your dream – don’t be afraid to tell people what you want to achieve. You will get more people on board, share commonalities and be open. You have to be patient but fortunately, I have had a lot of people who wanted to support, and you can’t build a city on your own.’
‘My husband says that I’ve literally made up a way to play all day! Great, it’s everyone’s dream to do that.’
Their future plans will focus on developing and adapting their offer to the seasons and expand into a comprehensive class schedule across the different age groups, collaborating with businesses locally to provide dance lessons and children first aid sessions in their lounge space, as well as launching a creche in January 2022.
Children can visit KiddiCity and Santa from the 11th of December, and to find out more visit their website.
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