Owner of GIGIL
We'd love to know your story! briefly walk us through your story. how you got started, how you got to where you are today, what are you most proud of?
I am a Long Beach local with a professional background in Marketing. My husband Cory and I have been married for 7 years and we have 3 incredible children: Kaleo 5 yrs (next month), Meleana 2 yrs and Kanoa 7 months. I currently own and manage GIGIL and I am a full time freelancer doing social media marketing.
When the idea for GIGIL was born in 2016, there were very limited indoor play facilities in Long Beach. Parents in our community were commuting as far as South Orange County or even Pasadena to visit indoor play spaces. The idea was to fill this void by providing an indoor playground locally. Then the business concept grew from there. It was important to me that GIGIL be different from other indoor playgrounds and that GIGIL also be a resource for our community. So, I began identifying my own personal needs as a parent and tried to figure out how to incorporate this into my business model. I needed a place where I could meet other moms (my mommy friends are a life-saver most days!), where I could get some work done at the last minute, where my child could interact with other kids while using his imagination and a place where I could get a good work-out in or take a yoga class to help me BREATHE! Because let's face it, being a parent is hard sometimes! I've been a work-from-home mom since 2015.
I STRUGGLED to find child care at times when I seemed to need it most. And trying to work from home WITHOUT a nanny or babysitter was next to impossible! (Little fingers, love to tap on keyboards!) I figured that I couldn't be the only parent in Long Beach with this struggle, so why not open a space where parents can get some work done while their children get to play? And better yet- a place where you can drop-in as needed! GIGIL's Collaborative Workspace has become the answer to many parents' child care needs on a daily basis. It provides a guilt-free approach to working with a toddler! Parents are so much more productive when they get a few solid work hours in while their kiddo enjoys playing under our staff's supervision.
Parents are always there, so they can check-in on their children as they choose, and still be involved with feedings, diapering and potty training as needed. Pre-children I really enjoyed going to a local pilates studio on a regular basis. I loved the quality, studio-level classes. Fast forward to life with children- you can't go to a pilates studio unless you have a babysitter. So again, I wanted to be able to offer a studio-level experience for parents at GIGIL that included a child care option. All of the classes we offer for adults are led by accredited professionals to give that studio-level experience. Included with every class is supervised play for the kiddos in the main play area. As my son got a little older and we started looking for fun activity options for toddlers I found that most places required a long-term commitment, a membership, or were geared towards pre-school/ older aged children only. I never felt comfortable having to commit to something long-term before I knew he would enjoy it.
It was important to me that GIGIL offer classes for toddlers that gave the option to drop-in. I also wanted to offer classes that appealed to a wide range of interests because every child is different! So, we created art classes, story times as well as Sensory + Motor Skill Exploration Labs and even STEM classes!
I also feel that mindfulness practices are extremely important for children. Young kiddos are presented with so many challenges in being able to express and control their emotions and energy (oh so much energy!). Kid's Yoga classes give children the opportunity to focus, breathe and direct some of that energy into a positive experience. The path that has led to GIGIL as it stands today has been a challenging one. GIGIL opened its doors at our first location in California Heights October 31, 2017. Three weeks after opening the City of Long Beach came to us and said they had issued us the wrong business license. After a long and hard fight, the city determined that they would not issue a corrected business license as they felt we did not have enough parking spaces at that particular location. As a business owner this is your worst nightmare. I was in a 3 year lease, invested so much time and money to open a business to have it ripped out from under me. It was a huge loss, however I was determined to see this vision play out. Fast forward to Dec. 2018, and I had found a new location for GIGIL (city-approved) and was back on my feet to begin operations again. Although this part of my story is well behind me, I still tell it because I hope that it will inspire another business owner to keep moving forward no matter what. If you're passionate about something, there is always a way to make it happen!
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
In anything that you do, there must be passion. Being a business owner is not easy. It is a lot of work and requires a lot of commitment- more than you might realize in the beginning. Make sure you REALLY love and believe in your business and that you are starting it for the right reasons (not just to be profitable). I also recommend working with a business advisor that can help you with business and financial planning before opening.
What are the best resources that have helped you along the way? My business advisors through the Small Business Development Center have been on this journey with me from the start. I am so grateful to have had a team of seasoned professionals to assist me.
GIGL is celebrating it's one year anniversary on March 14th. It's been 1 year since their Grand Opening (at the new location). They are having an Anniversary Party and will be offering deals and giveaways starting March 9th. Visit https://www.gigilplay.com/1year for more info.