Most people probably don't put much value in playparks as an educational facility, but they're more than just a place to let your kids run riot for the afternoon.
This Women's Month, I chatted to the entrepreneurial genius behind Bugz Playpark, Lise Liebenberg, about early childhood development beyond the classroom, and running your own business...
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I am the owner of the largest children’s playpark in the Western Cape with a full blown passion for that one little word called play.
I live with my partner Jadrick Coetzee in Paarl. We do not have any kids of our own but I turn to our eight nieces and nephews for inspiration and advice in our world of play.
My hobbies include travelling and constantly scouring the internet for the latest trends in playparks.
The ethos at Bugz Playpark is all about “play with purpose” and getting the little ones to play naturally and outdoors where possible.
I live by the statement that “When you want to do something you feel passionate about making a success, you will research, budget and fight for it as long as it takes! Any entrepreneurial idea can work but you have to feel it in your veins!”
What inspired you to open Bugz Playpark?
During my travels I came across the magical “Sprokieswêreld” in Efteling, Holland. I fell in love with their magical concept and admired their clever mix of play equipment combined with their building structures that stimulates one’s imagination. The craftsmanship of “Sprokieswereld” was to me, out of this world.
Completely blown away and even more determined to make my dreams a reality, Jadrick and I sold a property in KwaZulu-Natal to act as the start-up cost for the project.
I also decided to try my hand at entrepreneurship instead of settling for the comfort of a steady income in the corporate world.
What do you believe are the most important things children learn from play?
I can watch kids play for hours. I wish parents would spend more time observing their children at play as there is so much to see and learn about one’s child through the way they play. It is through play that children learn and develop essential skills such as problem-solving, social interaction, independence and so forth. It also allows kids a way to express and cope with feelings.
Play is also all important in the development and strengthening of a child's gross and fine motor skills. If these small and large muscles are well developed through play then it assists children in e.g. holding their pencil, comfortably using small objects such as their lego blocks and specifically also enhancing their concentration.
We pay too little attention to the development of these motor skills and I am often fascinated about how many kids struggle with their gross motor skills. If one has to watch the kids on the monkey bars these days, it is clear to see how many struggle to hang and it is very obvious that outdoor play is not being encouraged as much as it should be.
At any playpark, with kids climbing and jumping all over the place, safety is always a concern. How do you address this?
The safety of all equipment is paramount to us and safety checks are conducted all the time. We have a full time maintenance team ensuring that all equipment meets safety standards.
We also ensure that our play professionals only allow kids on rides that are age appropriate.
However, we are also firm believers that a certain amount of risk-taking in play is necessary for a child’s development. We encourage parents to be observant in this regard and to allow kids to test their comfort zone. All under the watchful guidance of the parent, of course.
Where do you see Bugz Playpark in five years (and what can we do to convince you to open a branch in the Southern Suburbs or Deep South)?
We have often toyed with the idea of franchising Bugz as we believe that every main suburb should have a decent place of play for kids. However, many people underestimate the cost of starting such an initiative. The reality of the required infrastructure in terms of ground, groundworks, energy supply, HR etc has been the deterring factor thus far.
Until then we are in the infancy stages of planning an outdoor adventure park on the way to Stellenbosch. We already have the ground which is half the battle won.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do not worry as much because 80% of the things that you worry about do not happen.
It’s the toughest times that are the most significant in honing oneself and honing one’s business, so embrace those times
Write down your goals for each week and do them first otherwise you will find that you have wasted much time on insignificant things.
As we're celebrating Women's Month, what message do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Spending time on setting your goals in writing is the best time that you could possibly spend.
Goal setting assists in clarity of vision and if you have clarity of vision then you can make anything happen. There is a website called livingwellspendingless.com and they have a very specific goal setting workbook that I would highly recommend to all woman entrepreneurs. Completing this goal setting workbook will most probably be one of the best things that you could do for yourself.
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