A new business is rapidly growing from its small beginnings as a drop-in at a shopping centre.
The Family Hub, in Bedford Street, North Shields, opened three months ago and has already become a big hit with parents and children.
It offers a venue for children aged new-born to eight to play and have fun, while their parents can relax and make new friends.
The brainchild of Jill Santonastaso and Amanda Sherriff, it features a soft play area, UV sensory den, cafe, baby area, discovery village, messy play area, hair salon, sensory room and more.
It also holds activities including movie nights, messy play, pregnancy yoga, pilates, sensory, first aid, baby dance classes and photography workshops.
And it prides itself on helping children with additional needs and learning difficulties.
After purchasing the unit at an auction, Jill and Amanda set about running trial sessions in the nearby Beacon Centre to gauge interest and collect feedback while renovations were being carried out.
Jill said: “We were basically letting people know what we were about. The whole thing grew from that time. We had 2,000 followers on our Facebook page before we opened.
“We’ve been open three months now and it’s going from strength to strength.
“It’s good to have it here in North Shields, people are very impressed by it. It’s still growing, there are still bits that need adding and new ideas we can do.
“People who come for the first time instantly become regulars. They are really impressed and it exceeds their expectations.
“This is a learning environment. Children are playing, learning and developing. Parents are happy it is aimed at younger children, they feel safe and relaxed here while their children play. There is so much to keep them occupied.
“We also push the little personal touches for our customers, like giving water to breastfeeding mums, washing clothes if children have an accident, or giving hugs to mums. We’re all parents.
“It’s The Family Hub, we want to keep it small and personal.”
The Family Hub, which has created 13 jobs, is open 9.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday; 9.30am to 2pm on Saturday; and hosts private parties on Sundays. It is free for babies under six months, £2 for six to 12 months, and £3.50 for over ones.
There are plans to expand in the future and open more centres.
Jill said: “Our five-year plan includes opening a second Family Hub. It’s all running really smoothly, we’re over our teething problems and we’ve got our dream team in place.
“We’re thinking the second one will include the provision of childcare as well.”
All the toys are sourced from reputable organisations, while they have secured authentic mascots and costumes.
Jill added: “It’s all about caring for our customers. It’s not just about the little ones, we’re here for the grown-ups as well. We are finding more and more grandparents are coming here.”
The cafe caters for all dietary requirements, including dairy free, gluten free and vegan, with the menu being created following feedback from customers.
For more visit www.thefamilyhubne.co.uk