Hobnobbing with Natalie Stevens from Coffeetots

posted by 4 years ago in Hobnobbing

How did the idea for the business come about?

Before having our little boy, we used to love wandering around the city centre going to independent cafes for good coffee and leisurely lunches. All that suddenly changed when our son Seb arrived, and we quickly realised how hard it was to enjoy a meal or a coffee out! We wanted to create a place where the grown-ups feel well looked after, but where the little ones can also have fun. With this in mind we made sure the eating and drinking area itself was designed more for the parents, with a stylish and subtle colour scheme, but with a walled and gated play area for the under 5s.

When was the company first established?

The idea itself came to us early 2015, but we didn’t officially register as a company until March 2016. We opened our doors at the end of October 2016.

How is the business doing?

It’s going really well! We’re still working out the ‘pattern’ of the week, but it’s been really interesting to see when our customers tend to come in. It could be a mum looking for a nice hot drink and piece of cake after the school run with a younger baby with her, or a tired dad desperate for good strong coffee after a sleepless night. Sometimes we have groups of mum-friends coming in with their little ones, some of whom met at NCT classes or just live locally. We’re constantly thinking up new ideas and advertising them on our Facebook page, so our customers know what events or promotions we’re doing. We’re on Instagram and Twitter too – social media is an absolute God-send for new independent businesses!

Since the company began, what has been the biggest challenge?

Learning that we can’t please everyone! We’re both perfectionists by nature, and it really bothers us if we know a customer hasn’t had the perfect experience at our play cafe. It’s been very few and far between, but the odd negative comment here and there does knock us a bit. We’ve learnt to shake it off, deal with it, and make sure we continually look to improve things as we go along and grow as a business. 

What makes you stand out from your competitors?

The fact that we’re just so family friendly! Even if your toddler is having an absolute meltdown and throwing a tantrum on the floor, it doesn’t matter. (Our own son has done this a few times!). There’s absolutely no judgement made in our play cafe and we try to make sure everyone is comfortable and enjoying themselves, especially new mums who might be breastfeeding or trying to soothe a crying baby. We’re also really proud of our fantastic coffee – lots of places geared towards children have mediocre quality food and drinks for the grown ups, which means they don’t really have a great experience themselves, but we’ve made sure we’re different.

What’s been your best business decision?

To have our cakes made locally. We really wanted to try and support local businesses wherever possible, so we get our loose leaf tea from The Cheshire Tea Company, and our coffee from a Cheshire based company who roast their own beans. When it came to the cakes we knew they had to be good, and they had to be homemade. We couldn’t make them ourselves, due to the size and type of premises we wanted, so we found a lady in Handbridge who makes the best cakes ever. Her brownies fly off the display in a matter of hours! We think choosing locally-made cakes has really a difference, and our customers appreciate us going to that extra effort and cost of sourcing them locally.

What is next for Coffeetots Play Cafe?

Well we’ve just introduced children’s birthday parties to Sundays, so people can book a morning or afternoon party with us. We’re also introducing some new baby and toddler groups, such as our new ‘What’s in the bag?’ Songtime session on Monday mornings. We’re really looking forward to our new coffee morning which will be on Fridays, led by a breastfeeding counsellor from One To One Midwives. We had our little boy with One To One, so we’ve worked closely with them since we opened to create a weekly event together.

If you could help one business now with a single piece of advice, what would it be?

Have faith in your idea – if you believe there’s a niche that needs to be filled, then let it be you that fills it!

Finally, what is your favourite biscuit?

It’s got to be a good old chocolate digestive. Or a jaffa cake. Or choc chip shortbread. Can we choose them all?!