Spotlight on: Dylan’s Den
Throughout Co-operatives Fortnight 19 June – 3 July, several co-operatives in Wales will be featured on the Radio Wales Jamie and Louise Show 9am to midday. We will also be telling their stories, and others, here on our blog.
When a group of five mothers at Treorchy Primary School found out that the after-school club was closing down, they decided to solve the problem by setting up their own business, Dylan’s Den.
Kathryn Williams, Gina Grimstead, Rhian Kyte, Kelly Dyer and Claire Chick all relied on the Playworks after-school service, as they all have work commitments.
“I was in a state of panic,” says Kathryn, who runs her own virtual assistants business. She had two sons in the after-school club, and was horrified to learn in June 2008 that it would close at the end of the summer term.
One of Kathryn’s contracts was providing secretarial support to the Innovation Network Partnership, a network which includes most of the business support providers in South East Wales. Someone within the group suggested she set up a co-operative social enterprise to tackle the problem, and she got immediately in touch with Jayesh Parmar at the Wales Co-operative Centre.
With Jay’s support for the idea, Kathryn began talking to other Mums at the school. After a few impromptu meetings, five Mums decided to go for it and set up their own business, keeping on the local Playworks staff.
The group had to work hard to get everything in place ready to open on the first day of the Autumn 2008 term. As well as becoming legally registered and putting together a business plan, they did considerable research with other parents at the school. This helped them create a service which meets the needs of their potential customers.
“One of the things which we found was important was flexibility. People can’t always plan weeks ahead – their work patterns vary or they have unforeseen emergencies. So Dylan’s Den offers a flexible service. As long as people have registered their child and paid the £10 joining fee, they can ring up at any time and book a place for that afternoon,” says Kathryn.
More research was done with the young attenders of the club to ensure that the activities on offer met with their approval so it becomes somewhere they want to go to after school. “Someone suggested we run bingo for them, which rather surprised me,” said Kathryn. “But sure enough, when I went to visit, they were all sat around playing bingo together!”
The business provides an essential service for working parents at the school, and is open from 3.20-5.15pm. Gina Grimstead, who works three days a week at a Treorchy gift design factory said, “It’s really important for me to work, there’s no way my boss can let me finish at 3pm to go and pick my son up.”
The group stress that Dylan’s Den is not only for parents in work, but for those who want to return to work or education, or even those who want an afternoon off occasionally!
It has a strong co-operative ethos. The five founding members have all become directors, but there are plans to recruit more parents as members. The six members of staff will also be eligible to become members once their probationary period of employment is over.
Treorchy Primary School is fully supportive of the group. Headteacher Louise Evans said, “It’ll really enhance the ethos of what we are trying to promote in the school. I’m keen to develop positive partnerships with the parents. Dylan’s Den will add to the quality provisions we provide.”
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