Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin England.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Erin. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
When I was on maternity leave with my now four-year-old daughter, I was always looking for places to take her to play. She’s a July baby, so I looked for indoor playgrounds especially, since it was so hot outside. I became frustrated because I couldn’t find a reliable source of kids’ play places near me. When I would search online for “things to do in Dallas with kids,” the results were either (1) the same handful of places over and over, which I’d already been to a thousand times, (2) websites and blogs with so many pop-up ads and clutter that I couldn’t quickly get to the information I wanted, or (3) services that required you to pay for the information or to buy tickets in advance.
Without a good resource to turn to, I started to keep a little spiral notebook in my car, where I would list places I wanted to try. If we were driving around town and we passed a new spot, I would add it to the list. That notebook was basically the first version of what is now a Directory of over 1,000 places. At some point, it hit me that this information I was starting to collect could help lots of other parents.
To create the initial version of the website, I worked with a woman named Dominique Thomas (@dominiquemonetmedia), who at the time, had recently graduated from UNT. She helped me design and build out the original version of PlaySource. We started working on the project in the Summer of 2019, and it was slow going because I was juggling work and family obligations too. After a few months of testing and tweaking the site, I officially launched on February 1, 2020. Then COVID hit, and I took a hiatus since nearly every place on my Directory had to shut down. We relaunched on June 1, 2020.
Has it been a smooth road?
A few weeks after our initial launch, COVID-19 hit. Needless to say, there wasn’t much use in telling parents about all the great kid-friendly places in town when all of those places were forced to shut down for several months. We took a formal hiatus from promoting the site in March, and we relaunched on June 1. Our mission today has evolved: initially, the passion behind our project was from the perspective of helping parents; but now we are also focused on promoting local businesses in order to help them survive and thrive during the pandemic. Many of the play places in town are locally-owned small businesses, and they need our support now more than ever.
We’d love to hear more about PlaySource.
I created PlaySource out of sheer frustration. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find a reliable source of kids’ play places near me. When I would search online for “things to do in Dallas with kids,” the results were either (1) the same handful of places over and over, which I’d already been to a thousand times, (2) websites and blogs with so many pop-up ads and clutter that I couldn’t quickly get to the information I wanted, or (3) services that required you to pay for the information or to make a reservation at a place in advance. I saw a need for a user-friendly, accurate resource for parents.
What distinguishes PlaySource from other sources of family-friendly things to do is that our site is a free service, without any ads to distract you. What also sets PlaySource apart from the other sources is that many of the available websites are targeted at just moms, or at just one city. I wanted to make something that was inclusive for all parents and other caregivers and also didn’t want to limit it to just one city. I don’t know about you, but on any given day I can be in Dallas, Richardson, Plano, and Frisco and cross between them seamlessly. Sidenote: the only reason the website has the word “Dallas” in it is that PlaySource.com (sans “Dallas”) wasn’t available 🙂 Also, some of the resources available are so broad in what they cover that the play places are just one aspect of their business. Other sources cover a wide spectrum of parenting topics, but PlaySource is narrowly-focused on just giving you venues to take your kids to play, learn, eat, or be entertained.
I have a full-time job (I’m a Partner at Katten, an AmLaw 100 international law firm that recently opened a Dallas office), I’m a mom, and I’m married to an attorney, so life doesn’t leave a lot of extra time for hobbies. I built out the bulk of the Directory – there are now nearly 1,000 entries! – during my downtime between changing firms earlier this year. Now my day-to-day role is mostly just posting on social media and connecting with people. I love the community engagement part of the project; I feel very connected with the moms and dads of North Texas. And I also add new places to the Directory multiple times a week, which is a quick and easy process. We are constantly looking for new places to add!
The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. I think parents are hungry for information and are frustrated with the lack of reliable and simple resources available to them. Parents with grown children often tell me, “Where was this when my kids were young?!” However, my reach so far has been somewhat limited; this is a passion project for me, so I don’t have an advertising budget or anything like that. The growth has been organic so far, starting with my friends and family and online social network. My goal is to spread the word to every parent and grandparent and caregiver in North Texas. Parenting is hard. Like, really hard. But with parenthood also comes a sense of community with other parents. We’re all in the same boat, and we all know just how tough it can be. PlaySource is just one way to make raising kids a little bit easier.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
My hope is that businesses will start to adapt to the current parent lifestyle. Parents today are more active and mobile with their children than ever before, and with that comes a need for reliable and convenient childcare on the go. I think businesses can differentiate themselves by offering childcare services where you may not expect them. For example, more gyms offering childcare while parents workout, or movie theaters that offer a service where the kids watch a kid-friendly movie (supervised) while the parents watch a different movie in the theater next door. I would pay a premium for that kind of service, and I suspect that others would as well.
There’s also a great opportunity for businesses to steer into the COVID-19 aftermath; think about virtual learning, for example. Many parents are talking about forming “learning pods,” consisting of a handful of kids that all take virtual classes together at the same location. What if some of the indoor play places started offering “Learning Pod Recess” where parents could reserve a time slot for just the kids in their learning pod?
- Website: www.playsourcedallas.com
- Phone: 214-796-3306
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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