Funding boost for Sensory Café

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A start-up play café based in Dorset has received a funding package of £80k to fit out its new premises. 

Nikki’s Little Play Café, on Pope Street in Dorchester, offers an inclusive sensory space where families can enjoy soft play, host birthday parties and attend classes. It has received glowing feedback from children and their parents since opening to the public in January 2024.  

Husband and wife team, Russell and Nikki Skinner, are advocates for supporting children with special needs and the play café has been designed with care to provide a sensory sympathetic experience.  

The funding package includes a £30k loan from the British Business Bank’s South West Investment Fund and two loans totalling £50k from the Bank’s Start Up Loans programme, both via SWIG Finance. 

The £200m South West Investment Fund covers the entire South West region and provides loans from £25k to £2m and equity investment up to £5m to help a range of small and medium sized businesses to start up, scale up or stay ahead. 

The Bank’s Start Up Loans programme is a government-backed scheme available to people looking to start or grow a business in the UK. It offers unsecured loans of up to £25,000 with 12 months of free mentoring to help them succeed. 

Since opening its doors, the business has created three new jobs for local people. 

Nikki and Russell were referred to SWIG Finance by Colin Chastey at EFT Finance Ltd

Of the funding, business owner Russell said “The funding we have received has been vital in enabling us to fit out the new premises, and ultimately helped us to open our doors to the public. Our business manager, Nicki, was supportive throughout the process”.  

SWIG’s Business Manager, Nicki Kimberley, commented “Nikki is a passionate advocate for neurodiverse children and has a wealth of experience in the childcare sector. We were impressed with the way Nikki integrates her ethos throughout the business. From the design of the play space through to staff recruitment, Nikki’s ensures that all children’s needs will be catered for”. 

The purpose of the South West Investment Fund is to drive sustainable economic growth by supporting innovation and creating local opportunity for new and growing businesses across the South West. The South West Investment Fund will increase the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for South West smaller businesses, providing funds to firms that might otherwise not receive investment and help to break down barriers in access to finance.