Katie’s House: Katie Sayles
A professional musician who's preformed alongside the likes of Lana del Ray and Beyoncé - Katie Sayles talks about her new pre-school members’ club
Tell us what your business does:
Katie’s House is a members’ club for families with pre-school children, and was launched in response to a lack of facilities available in West London for young families to spend quality time together in a beautiful and stimulating environment.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My working background includes nannying, babysitting, leading ‘Tiny Maestros’ live music making sessions and specialising in early years education, so I have always been interested in businesses which support the parenting community.
My desire to launch Katie’s House also partly stemmed from my mother sharing the difficulties she had when experiencing post-natal depression after having me as a baby. This made me want to set up a business which offers a welcoming environment where parents and children can go to enjoy each other’s company and to feel supported.
How did you know there was a market for it?
While studying, I was a nanny for three families in Chiswick and experienced first-hand the lack of facilities available for anybody trying to entertain and keep little ones busy.
I then moved on to delivering classes and realised that the mums would have loved to be able to stay and socialise after/before the class so they could relax while their little one’s play
And so, it became apparent to me that there wasn't anywhere parents or carers could go where both they and their little ones could go together to be stimulated and to relax. This was the main driving force behind my vision for Katie’s House.
What were you doing before starting up?
In addition to nannying, babysittng and leading ‘Tiny Maestros’ I am also a professional musician and have been lucky enough to perform as a cellist and as a singer with many world renowned artists, including Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, Katherine Jenkins, Beyoncé and Lana del Ray.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, always. I guess that game I played as a child where I owned my own cafe never quite went away! I like the challenge, responsibility and opportunity for change and creativity that comes with being at the forefront of a business.
How did you raise the money?
I recently raised £129,000 on Crowdcube, and have also secured an overseas investor who wants to invest £200,000 in Katie’s House. This money will go towards creating the first permanent Katie’s House site, due to open in Chiswick in September 2016!
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We have two different club profiles at Katie’s House – ‘Destination' sites and ‘High Street' sites. Our destination sites are mainly driven by membership revenue, and our high street by food and beverage.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Raising funds is difficult, especially at an early stage when the concept is yet to be proven lucrative.
However, my business partner, Marc, and I have refined the business plan time and time again, taking on board all constructive opinions and observations to make sure we have really created the most robust business proposition we possibly could, while still maintaining the vision at the heart of the project at all times.
It is sometimes difficult not to be too perfectionist with a business plan, as technically you could pick at it forever, but we certainly got to a point where we felt it was robust enough to overcome any objections.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Honestly, it was probably meeting my business partner Marc. After weeks of me dreaming about the concept of Katie's House (and not quite knowing how to start to make it a reality) it was a big moment to not only meet someone who knew how to take the idea forward, but who also wanted to be involved in the project.
Another highlight was when Trotters Childrenswear requested to go into association with us after we first founded Katie's Club (initially pop-up clubs). They are a huge and really well respected brand in this space, so it was incredible to have their support at such an early stage. We continue to work with them closely and look forward to collaborating as part of Katie's House in the future.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Be relentless, and know that persistence beats resistance! Be passionate and know your market. Be prepared to change and adapt your idea, without losing its core. Always love what you are trying to offer, and know its value.
Remember – people believe people who believe in what they are trying to sell! You have to be the number one advocate of your business, making sure you surround yourself with people that fuel your creativity and rigorously question your ideas. Take strength from people who take the time to give opinions, and celebrate the good when it comes your way.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I want to have five Katie’s House sites in the UK, and be looking at destinations internationally where we can find new homes for the business to grow!