Female Entrepreneurs Expand Children’s Entertainment Centre with £50,000 Virgin StartUp Loan

Two enterprising Durham mums are expanding their children’s entertainment centre in Durham following a £50,000 Virgin StartUp loan to grow their business and create seven new jobs after just 12 months of trading.

Kathrynn Fraser (37) and Kate Horner (33) launched Dragonflies Durham in July 2016 after spotting a gap in the local market for a more one-to-one led play centre to cater for mums, babies, toddlers and pre-school children in need of interaction, play and educational activities. 

After a busy year, the pair are now moving to bigger premises at the Belmont Industrial Estate in Durham to launch a new 2700 sq ft soft play centre with additional role play rooms and café facilities.

The new facilities have been funded by a government-backed, low-cost business loan of £50,000 from Virgin StartUp following additional help and guidance from TEDCO Business Support.  

The children’s centre will continue to offer a wide range of scheduled classes and activities designed to entertain children in a fun and sociable environment but will be expanding to offer role-play and soft-play facilities following feedback from parents keen to entertain children beyond pre-school age. The centre now caters for children from birth up to aged eight with the brand new soft play facilities available.

Commenting on the business expansion, co-owner Kathryn said: 

“We have been absolutely overwhelmed with the support for Dragonflies in the local area.  We did have hopes when we first started the business that one day, we would perhaps look at expanding our space and our offering but never dreamed it would be so soon after launching.”

“TEDCO Business Support and our business advisor, Mark Johnston, have been fantastic in helping us understand just what options were available to us to capitalise on the success of the business over the past year and expand our premises and services to meet the needs of our customers looking to entertain older siblings in a larger, less-restrictive space.”

Kathryn and Kate worked with TEDCO business advisor Mark Johnston to get Dragonflies investment ready as they looked at sources of funding and investment to meet the level of capital needed to expand.  They worked with Mark to successfully apply for £50,000 from Virgin StartUp, the low-cost business loans backed by the government for new and growing enterprises.  Virgin StartUp is exclusively delivered in the North East by TEDCO Business Support.

Kate Horner, co-owner of Dragonflies commented: 

“We know from our experiences over the past year that there is a real market for our type of structured play sessions and soft play centre which offer social and educational opportunities for both parents and children alike.  Our plan is to now encourage greater numbers of customers to the Dragonflies centre within our new and expanded premises and can’t wait to welcome more children to enjoy the sessions we have on offer.”

Dragonflies has now extended their opening hours to seven days a week from 9.30am to 6pm daily.

Kate and Kathryn were initially given business support via the Start and Grow programme, which is delivered by TEDCO Business Support in the North East and supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).  The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are lower levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.

Mark Johnston, TEDCO Business Advisor comments: 

“Neither Kathryn nor Kate had been self-employed before starting Dragonflies, an idea they came up with whilst on maternity leave.  Initially we worked together through the Start and Grow programme designed to help support businesses develop and expand in the region with one-to-one mentoring and guidance.  To be in a position to grow the business to such a degree is really quite wonderful and it has been a pleasure to work with them both as their business has really taken off over the past 12 months.  Expansion was always in their minds but we just needed to get their business plan refined enough to seek the financial investment necessary.  The Virgin Start-Up loan has now helped create the business they always wanted after growing the Dragonflies brand and their customer following organically.  I wish them both the best of luck and look forward to continuing to support the business.”