Little Planets, a Charlottesville business that began by setting up mobile play areas for children at summer music and arts festivals, has opened a permanent space on Water Street.
The storefront also houses the Front Porch Music School, a nonprofit afterschool program. Little Planets is subleasing the space, and it will conclude its business hours before Front Porch opens to children in the afternoons.
Little Planets was founded in July 2015 by Ewa Harr, who saw a lack of good places for children to blow off steam and for parents to play and relax at summer music festivals.
Harr, who also founded and operates ASAP Sitters, a child-care service, came in second place at the Crowdfunded Pitch Night at the Tom Tom Founders Festival in 2016, which granted her a scholarship to the Community Investment Collaborative.
With guidance from mentors at the CIC, Harr said she was able to finalize the business plan and financial model for the playroom.
“They say it is intensive, and they are not kidding,” she said of the program. “Over the 16 weeks, you just go through every single aspect of creating a business and of crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s and figuring it out from a financial standpoint — all of the nuts and bolts.”
With a network of business mentors to fall back on for help, Harr was able to nail down a plan to have Little Planets keep its summer festival and event presence going, as well.
“Having that support and having that education really allowed me to move forward with planning how to continue to do the festivals and events and do the brick-and-mortar and have a playroom that will be open to Charlottesville families all the time,” she said.
The site features organic and natural wood toys and play structures. The space also provides meeting rooms for parent groups, with limited child care during those meeting times.
For now, Little Planets Playroom will not offer general child care, Harr said.
Emily Morrison, Front Porch director, said that sharing building space with the playroom grew out of similar missions and a shared interest in music and festivals.
“There is some overlap because of the music connection … Even though what we both do is quite distinctly different, we target the same market and go for the same vibe,” Morrison said.
The shared space allows the businesses to share resources and reach new customers, Morrison said.
“It’s a benefit to us because it gives us an opportunity to share our space and our mission to families and kids who might not be ready to think about the Front Porch,” she said. “It also gives us windows into how we could potentially work together outside of the physical space.”