Fiona Crawford runs Helter Skelter in Broadstairs which has recently won Britain’s Friendliest Business Award. She is a single mother of a 15 year old and provides a safe haven for all the parents of toddlers in Broadstairs…
Beachwalkmuse finds out more about Fiona…
Tell us about yourself?
I have Helter Skelter which is a children’s play cafe and toddler party venue which runs a range of activities like baby sensory, toddler time, arts and crafts etc. We also have very good food. We’ve been going on for about four years now. We are also very much involved in the community and do our best to promote the area through here and by joining the Broadstairs & St.Peter’s Chambers of Commerce and now Broadstairs Town Team.
What kind of community work?
When I opened – I think most businesses will have similar stories. Broadstairs is promoted as a very prosperous town. But when you start a business here you find out that it’s not. After a few months of opening Helter Skelter, some of the shops were closed down. And that’s when I realised that we need to get involved. So I started a group on facebook called Save Broadstairs High Street. It was a small group of us who decided to then join the Chambers and really since then we’ve been working on how to attract people to use the town.
We do loads of events. We do a lot to support local businesses. We put together the Big Broadstairs Weekend where we put a film on a big screen on the beach. The first year’s turnaround won us a Guinness World Record. There were well over a thousand people who tuned up. But after a while it got so busy we couldn’t count them all so we only accounted for 882. But that was great.
This year it won’t happen as TDC (Thanet District Council) has decided to not fund it. It is a shame but we won’t be able to do it this year.
We also do Christmas Events, we have started doing the Halloween party etc. So we do come up with ideas that involve everyone from around the town.
When the Portas thing came up, I thought let’s get a town team together. And through that we have started up something called Brush-Up Broadstairs where we get people together and do litter picks and things like that; we are also starting up a gardening group, we do painting projects – we painted the harbour wall down the bottom and there’s also a mural down there.
You have recently won an award. Tell us about that?
Britain’s Friendliest Business!
It is a wonderful feeling. It is a brand new award set up by a company called Liberis. What is wonderful about it is that it is recognising the unsung heroes of customer service and business that go beyond in delivering everything from customer service to businesses that are very much involved in the community. So we had to get our customers to vote for us and we have received some really wonderful comments form our customers.
I used to come here with my little ones and it seems like there is an incredible sense of community right here?
That is true. We see different people coming here and we have had many of our customers saying that they’ve made some really good friends here. Some people come here to simply enjoy food with their children who might be a bit older or have out grown the activities here but still like to come and enjoy the energy. So there is definitely a sense of community and that is what we have being trying to achieve where mummy’s and daddy’s can come and enjoy as well as their children.
How did you come up with the idea of Helter Skelter?
I originally used to work in London. I used to be a headhunter. Then I got poorly, I had meningitis so I quite my job and decided to live by the coast. When I started recovering I realised I will have to earn a living and really didn’t want to go back to London. Then someone told me that there was a gap for kids play. So I started off Play Bay in Ramsgate with a friend. And several years later the Methodist Church was looking for an alternative use for the place, they needed to find other sources of income and we were approached to open up here in Broadstairs. But it took such a long time to set up that we decided to separate the two businesses and the business partners at Play Bay stayed in Ramsgate and we started off on our own here in Broadstairs.
What are you going to do with the reward money?
I am going to throw a BIG party for all my helpers, customers and people who have helped us get here.
You are also a mother?
Yes I am a single mother. I have a 15 year old son. A teenager – he is great. He is absolutely brilliant, apart from the fact that he is very lazy and he won’t do his homework!
Do you have a favourite stage in your child’s life or as a mother?
Each stage you think he is perfect and you want him to stop growing and you want him the way he is. Although I do miss the time when I could hold him, because he is very cuddly and now he is taller than me but he is still very cuddly. I am sure he’d hate me for saying that. The only thing about now is that he not so interested. So getting him to do stuff is hard. And that’s quite sad at times. But then that’s part of life.
Have you always raised you son as a single parent? Is it difficult to raise a son on your own?
Well I have my sister living with me. And he sees his dad a lot. It is easy from the point of view that it is my decision making. But then on the other hand financially it is hard when you are on your own. I guess, when I was ill it was blooming tough but on the whole I don’t find it difficult.
I don’t think I am the best mum or the worst – I might have let him stay up late, I might have let him play video games a bit too long but I think we have a pretty good relationship overall.
What has been the worst and rewarding part of being a mother?
I am not a very tough person. But now my son’s got GCSES and the school called us up saying he isn’t working hard enough and I have been working quite a lot and neglecting him, so I had to be tough on him so he gets his work done. I think that is the hard part. But the school is now happy, he is doing well again and he seems happy too. So I guess being tough when it doesn’t come naturally to you is the worst part.
The most rewarding part (I am going to cry now), is knowing that in his heart he still loves me (although he is a typically 15 year old teenager) and that itself is very rewarding.
You have you hands full with variety of different work that you do, yet if I had to give you a choice to pick a different job, what would that be?
I actually love what I do – I love meeting people, I love kids, it feels like it is coffee morning everyday. I only wish I could make more money out of it. I enjoy organising events like I do with the town team – so I think it would be something like an events co-ordinator or something on those lines.
How would your son describe you in just three words you think?
Snuggly, pushy and funny.
And how do you unwind?
I can sleep for Britain. I like my bed. Being with my friends is what I like and I also like going out dancing. I used to do meditation as well but I haven’t done that in ages.
What is one skill you would like to gain?
Admin and book-keeping. I am terrible with accountancy.
Is there anything you miss doing that you did before becoming a mother?
I used to be a culture-vulture. I used to love going to the theatre, art exhibitions etc. Having said that now my son is 15 and I can start doing those things all over again, now my only constraint is work and all my voluntary commitments which I enjoy.
What would you ideal Mother’s Day be like?
My ideal Mother’s Day would be when my son will wake up in the morning and make me breakfast in bed. I’d like him to jump in bed ,give me a cuddle and take me out for lunch (he’s not going to love hearing that). But I do like it when he makes breakfast in bed for me.