The Story of Laughing Ducks Soft Play
This is a long story as it has been a very long journey, but it is worth your time, I promise.
Once upon a time, sometime around 2010, in the small town of Coldstream in the Scottish Borders a dream was born.
2 parents to a very active toddler Aleks, who was always on the move since he learned how to walk, came across a soft play centre! It was a miracle, as the tot ran himself tired at last and slept through the night that night for the first time ever! The parents were so happy they continued to take their kids to the same place again and again.
But being a rather adventurous toddler he got bored very quickly of the same setting, so they had to look further and travelled all the way up and down the country, always on a look out for new soft play to visit to let their son run that never ending energy off.
Those parents were us.
We used to sit there watching Aleks have so much fun while having our coffees and wonder how amazing it would have been to have one on our doorstep. We had this little black notebook of ideas that would go everywhere with us and while Aleks would play we would make notes on what our ideal soft play centre would be like. We joked that if we ever won the Lottery we would open one in our home town!
Fast forward to Christmas 2011 and our wish came true!
Now we could take our dream of opening the best soft play centre a reality! We had some other things to get out the way first though, like getting married and having few holidays and spending as much time with Aleks as we could before he started Primary school. But come August and we were back from our honeymoon, Aleks went off to primary school and the business planning started.
We spent weeks number crunching and researching the industry, hours and hours of research with countless e-mails and phone calls. We made up our minds; we were going to go for it! Now, time to pick a name.
Just like anything else on this journey, picking a name that would stand out and was unique wasn’t easy. We left it to our now 5 year old Aleks in the end to pick the final one out of a list longer than one can imagine. His choice was Laughing Ducks Soft Play.
Next we had to find a supplier. We had researched all of the major soft play suppliers in the UK and Europe, and one from Canada, and picked the best one out there; SPI Global Play! Their designs are one of a kind and the quality of product was the best. We got in touch and had a meeting with a sales man. It was looking so positive and exciting!
Next we had to find a building. This part turned out a bit trickier, but after weeks of searching and asking around one day on our way from the school-run we noticed a ‘for sale’ sign on one of the buildings up at the trading estate. Perfect!
So we had a name, a supplier and now we had a perfect building too. Next off to the local Council for planning permission. We submitted our application for change of use of the building and planning permission to set up a children’s soft play centre in March 2013. And this is where it all turned messy. Our initial application was rejected. We knew it was likely to be the outcome, so prepared for the Local Review Body appeal. To our huge disappointment the review body threw us out without even giving it a good look. Devastated but determined not to give up we went back to the drawing board.
We made some changes, purchased extra land for a new access road, petitioned at our Primary school and gained a huge amount of support from our followers on Social Media. We went back and submitted a new proposal. But again, it was rejected by the planning authority. By this point (November 2014) we had spent over 2 years on this. We were tired and ready to give up. We put it through for another appeal but didn’t hold much hope this time. To our great surprise in March 2015 the Local Review Body upheld our appeal and gave us a green light to go ahead!! The joy (and the shock) of that moment will stay with us forever! We had so much work to do and boy were we ready for it!
Except we weren’t. We thought we had won the battle, but it was only just starting. Our next step was to get a building warrant and make a deal with the bank.
I think you are getting where this is going too. Building warrant was rejected the first time round and bank refused to work with us. It was one thing after another, you couldn’t make this up. We changed a architect and submitted another application in January 2018. By this point we already had builders picked for the job, all of the plans drawn up, play structure designs ready to go and all the other bits sorted – we were eager to get going. It turned out to be one of the more challenging years, but in December just 10 days before Christmas we finally received the good news that our building warrant was approved!
2019 flew by! We had even more obstacles to overcome but in May the old building was taken down, in just 10 days, and by the end of the year the new one was up and we had a team of builders, joiners and other trades fitting it out. December 2nd our play structures were delivered and the installation started! It was all finally coming together!
Although the journey was hard and twisted and we’ve come so close to giving up on more occasions than we are happy to admit, we are so glad we persevered. We have managed to squeeze almost all of our ideas from our little idea book to deliver what in our opinion is the ultimate Soft Play centre experience and are so proud of our achievement.
We thought about everything: from safety to birthday parties, the fun and interactive toddlers area, the castle themed structure for older kids, electric go karts for more adventurous and thrill seeking kids, a magical sensory room for those who need a quieter environment, delicious snacks and food options, amazing coffee and cakes! We hired the best team to look after our visitors. We were determined to tick all boxes.
On Friday 7th February 2020, after 7½ years of fighting and hard work (and some tears along the way too) we opened our doors at last! It has been absolutely amazing to see the place full of happy smiling kiddies (both old and young) all having a great time, and seeing our dream finally become reality!
We hope that you and your families enjoy your visits and our mission is to keep getting better to ensure your enjoyment continues.
Here’s to many years of helping you and your families making memories!