Toddler Zone seeks to fill gap in market
Markez Laws really wanted to throw a special party for his son Zaccheus’ first birthday.
In September 2019, he and his wife Nadia Arandjelovic-Laws, looked online, but could not find anything they felt was safe for children just learning to walk.
They searched, unsuccessfully, for some kind of soft play option. In the end they held a pool party with a lot of toddler flotation devices. Zaccheus and his friends had a great time.
But afterwards, Mr Laws thought more about the gap in the market they had uncovered. Continuing his research he found a company in the United States that sold soft play gyms for toddlers.
He bought two and his new business Toddler Zone was born.
Toddler Zone rents out portable play areas with soft climbing obstacles, building blocks, balls and other items suitable for the under-3 crowd.
“The play gyms have a gate so toddlers are kept in a safe and confined space,“ Mr Laws said. "Although we recommend that an adult always be there to supervise."
His soft play gyms are designed for birthday parties and other events and can contain six or 12 children, depending on the size of the play gym. At the moment the gyms have mainly been rented for birthday parties.
"Everyone we delivered to said they loved it," Mr Laws said. "At one party, there were four or five kids in it at the same time. They were all interacting with each other and playing. Even the older kids have gotten in there and enjoyed it."
Mr Laws thought that when large gatherings are allowed again, the gyms will be good for community events.
The equipment arrived right before the Covid-19 pandemic began in March. That meant Toddler Zone's launch was delayed until August.
In the meantime the soft play gyms helped to entertain Zaccheus during lockdown.
"Zaccheus advanced physically a lot, playing with it," Mr Laws said. "One of the benefits of the soft play is that it allows them to express themselves. It has sensory toys in there for them to play with. It also helps them with major muscle development."
So far, their biggest challenge has been transportation.
"I have to use my car right now," Mr Laws said. “The equipment is bulky and doesn't collapse so it does take up a lot of space. The biggest challenge is all the cleaning that goes into it and the moving of all of it."
The first time he took it to a party he had to take the equipment in two trips and it took him two hours to set up. Now he can transport it in one trip, and he has become faster at unpacking and packing it. He said the bulk of the set-up and break-down time is about cleaning and sanitising things.
"Every item has to be wiped down and packed into the car," he said. "And at every place, people want a different set up."
They have no expansion plans for now. A couple of parties or events a weekend is enough for the Laws. Mr Laws works in information technology at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and Ms Arandjelovic-Laws runs PR firm The Media Maven.
"We haven't got to the point where we are declining people," Mr Laws said. "If people are flexible with their booking we can accommodate most people."
The soft play gyms can be rented through Castlemastersbda.com. Also see them on Facebook and Instagram under Toddler Zone Bermuda.