The Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) works continually with local communities to identify and encourage investment in underserved markets; an amenity that is often requested by residents is a safe, indoor, play area for kids.
The SCEDC and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Green Bay has been assisting like-minded entrepreneurs to create those safe play spaces for Sheboygan County families, and Stephanie Rakun is one such entrepreneur who has stepped up to take on the challenge.
Rakun, who graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in middle childhood-early adolescence, is poised to open Mini Mocha Play Café at 815 New York Ave. in Sheboygan in late April.
“Mini Mocha Play Café is a shoe-free imagination-inspired play space where young kids can have fun, socialize and most importantly, play creatively,” Rakun said.
“While the kids play, grown-ups can relax, socialize, and enjoy our complimentary Colectivo coffee/tea and Wi-Fi. Snacks, specialty drinks, and Melissa & Doug products are also available for purchase.”
According to Rakun, a strong focus on active, creative play lies at the core of Mini Mocha Play Café.
“We are committed to nurturing play, imagination and early learning in children while providing a clean, safe environment for children to explore, be creative and have fun,” she said.
“Our play space is designed for children ages 6 years old and younger. There is one open room so that you can keep your eye on your children from all areas of the space.
“Grown-ups are required to be in the play space with their children at all times. We have staff to help maintain the space and help kiddos, as needed, but grown-ups are responsible for their children.
“Our play space is focused on imaginary, dramatic play. Think dress up, house, restaurant, puppet shows, train table and much more.”
Rakun developed the concept for Mini Mocha Play Café based on her experiences as an elementary school teacher and as a stay-at-home mother.
“I taught first grade at Random Lake Elementary School for five years,” Rakun said.
“Once I had my second daughter, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. I have currently been a stay-at-home mom for three years and have three daughters, ages 6, 3 and 21 months. As a stay-at-home mom, I have continuously looked for places I could take my girls for fun.
“We have explored places in nearby cities, as well as Sheboygan, but most places are geared more for school-age children, which isn’t ideal for my youngest two.
“I leave exhausted because I had just spent the last couple of hours following my two littles around making sure they didn’t get hurt from big kids or the play equipment and making sure I could always see where they were.”
“Last fall I visited a similar space to Mini Mocha Play Café in Milwaukee and knew that was the place I had been searching for to take my girls,” she said. “Since ending my teaching career, I knew I always wanted to have a career again where my main focus is children. That’s when I decided I wanted to bring an imagination-inspired play space to Sheboygan for other families to enjoy an environment where they can relax while their kids play.”
Rakun was grateful to receive assistance from the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation and the Small Business Development Center in formulating her business plan.
“SCEDC/SBDC helped me with writing my business plan by providing me with examples similar to my concept, Sheboygan family demographics, references to accountants and marketing companies, and any other questions I had along the way of opening my business,” Rakun said.
SCEDC and SBDC Business Counselor Ray York believes Rakun has put together a winning business plan for Mini Mocha Play Café, which fills an often-expressed need in Sheboygan County for safe, indoor play areas for children.
“Stephanie has a solid background in educating kids and knows that playing is a huge part of a child’s growth and development,” York said. “It was exciting to see Stephanie’s idea come to life through her strong planning and her drive to bring creativity and fun to children.”
Mini Mocha Play Café’s grand opening will be April 24th, and regular hours are planned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We will adjust hours as we see fit that best accommodates our customers,” Rakun said. “We also offer birthday parties, baby showers and other special events during business hours and outside our normal hours too.”
For more information on Mini Mocha Play Café, call 920-395-6878, email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website www.minimochaplaycafe.com, Facebook page www.facebook.com/minimochaplaycafe and Instagram page www.instagram.com/minimochaplaycafe/