A Hawick couple’s new business venture has proved to be a hit with kids this festive season.
Keith and Charlotte Graham, of Wilton Hill, have invested their life’s savings in transforming an old joiner’s workshop in the town’s Commercial Road into a soft-play complex for children.
The pair were inspired to launch the venture, including its own café, by a visit to a soft-play facility in Galashiels with their two youngest children Ruby, seven, and Lachlan, four.
“When we arrived, we realised the majority of people there were also from Hawick and that got me thinking,” recalled Charlotte.
“I’m Hawick-born and bred and have been wanting a soft-play here since my oldest two children, who are now in their 20s, were young.
“With Lachlan due to start school next year, I’ve also been considering returning to work, and this looked like a brilliant business opportunity.”
Having identified the Commercial Road unit as premises, the Grahams turned to Business Gateway Scottish Borders for advice, and now, having invested £20,000 of their own money, the pair have received a £20,000 business loan and a £3,500 grant from the Scottish Borders business fund to turn their dream into a reality.
“Our Business Gateway adviser Wilma Norris was brilliant, pointing us in the direction of who we needed to talk to for support and ideas,” said Charlotte.
“Her input to the business plan and her advice on financial projections also meant we were able to secure the additional finance we needed.
“It’s not been easy, but we’ve had so much help from local businesses, as well as from our local councillor Stuart Marshall. The whole town seems to be behind us, and that’s fantastic.”
One full-time job has already been created, and the couple hope to take on more staff as the enterprise gets busier.
Ms Norris added: “By connecting Charlotte and Keith to the right people, we were able to save them time, money and stress, and our guidance on funding applications helped them get the financial support they needed to start a business which will not only provide locals with a much-needed soft-play but will also attract people from further afield.”
The Enchanted Hollow offers three play areas – one for children up to two; a larger one with a ball pit, slides, cargo netting, and obstacles to clamber over, under, and around for those aged three to 10; and a creative play area with tents and dress-up facilities.
Entry for a 90-minute play at peak times is £2 for the baby area and £4 for older children.