A mum-of-one from Wakefield has followed her business dream of launching a play centre so she can spend more quality time with her young son.
Amber Cooke-Thomas, 33, was previously PA to the director of a Leeds law firm, but after giving birth to son Reuben, now two, she decided office life was not for her.
Along with husband James, 36, who is a sales manager, she set the wheels in motion to defy the economic doom and gloom and start her own business.
In April, the couple launched Happy Days Play Centre, situated at the Bizspace Business Park, Thornes Mill, in Wakefield – and the centre has proved so popular it now has bookings up until December.
“With James’ experience of running a tile business it gave us the confidence to go ahead, but we both saw it as a challenge and an exciting venture and we’re so pleased we went ahead and followed our dream.”
Amber got the idea to launch a soft play centre after visiting similar facilities with Reuben.
“They were all so busy and it got me thinking that I could fill a gap in the market in Wakefield.
“The whole process, from coming up with the idea to launching the business, took about 18 months. We had no experience, so it was a huge learning curve for us, from coming up with the design of the centre, to what equipment would go in the kitchen, to taking on staff. It is fantastic to see our hard work pay off.”
Happy Days provides a bright, welcoming play environment for youngsters aged from babies up to eight years old. The soft play centre features a ball play area, interactive ball shower, wavy slide, straight slide, swinging ball run, baby area and much more. There is also a café providing food and drink for adults as well as children.
Amber chose the Bizspace Business Park for the size and height of the unit, plus the free parking facilities. More than 150 children per day visit the centre at weekends and the increased footfall has also been a bonus for other businesses on-site.
Centre manager, Alice Blackband, said:
“The increased number of visitors to the centre has introduced more potential customers to our other businesses on-site, as well as to the services which Bizspace offers.
“We have a very diverse mix of businesses in our Wakefield centre, including kitchen firms, window companies, a baby products shop and a car garage.
“We welcome businesses of all shapes and sizes and it is fantastic to see Happy Days get off to such a brilliant start. The unit they are in was formerly a tyre warehouse and they have done an amazing job of transforming the space.”