Even six years on from winning the Start up Business of the Year award for The Treehouse soft play, John and Karen Evans still have their certificate and trophy in pride of place as a reminder of their business success back in 2011.
What’s more, the successful owners of The Treehouse have gone on to more than double their business enterprise by purchasing multi award-winning business, Kiki’s Kabin in North Shields. The awards, they say, act as an official recognition of their continued success.
“Karen and I are from totally different business backgrounds and had no real experience of starting up a business before we built The Treehouse from scratch back in 2010,” explains John, whose previous career had been spent at Sage Software. “Taking on the premises on Whitley Lodge and having to start with an empty shell was both exciting and terrifying. Karen had left her training career with Morrison’s behind and we both ‘learned on the job’ to establish The Treehouse.
“After opening the business and realising what a success it was going to be in the local area, we saw the North Tyneside Business Awards advertised in the local press and took it as a challenge to see if we could win at such an early stage of business.”
John and Karen entered The Treehouse under the Start Up Business category, hoping to win the award to prove to themselves that their plans for the business were sound. “John Fleet, who was then the Town Centres Manager for North Tyneside, came to visit The Treehouse and we had to give him a ten-minute presentation about the business, where we’d started and our plans for the future.
“I still believe that it was the act of having to write and present that ten minutes that truly solidified the business in my own mind and allowed me to really believe that what we were trying to achieve was the right thing for us, and for the families in the local area,” continues John.
Winning the Start Up Business of the Year award in 2011 gave the team at The Treehouse a well-deserved boost in confidence. “Receiving an award at such an early stage of our business was just fabulous. It really does feel like a huge pat on the back from the local business community.”
When, at the start of 2015, an opportunity arose for The Treehouse to buy out another successful soft play business, Kiki’s Kabin, John and Karen jumped at the chance.
“Just about everybody in the local area with young children was aware of Kiki’s Kabin. The previous owner had built the business up from nothing and had won a number of awards on the back of her success. When we got the chance to take Kiki’s over we just couldn’t turn it down,” explains John.
“The Treehouse is perfect for children from birth to around seven years old, but once they get older we were losing our customers because they were just too big for the smaller, intimate space on Whitley Lodge. Buying Kiki’s meant that we could continue to welcome even the bigger customers through the door at Kiki’s until they’re around 13-14 years old. Kiki’s was a natural extension to The Treehouse and has proved to be a fabulous addition to our business.”
John and Karen are so proud of their multi award-winning businesses and would recommend other companies to try their luck at the North Tyneside Business Awards.
“We are very proud of our North Tyneside Business Awards. The very act of applying is a great way of solidifying business ideas and plans, even if you don’t win in the end! Having to become a jack of all trades to run a business like The Treehouse has been worth every second and the application process has played a huge part in that, concludes John. “Winning the Start Up award was a great piece of publicity for our business and even picking up the award in front of 200 plus local businesses, and potential customers, was a real help for us.”