Meet founder and owner Sheryl Tecson of Play Haven SF.Meet founder and owner Sheryl Tecson of Play Haven SF. As a preschool teacher for 12 years and mom of two, she knows what kids want and what parents need. Learn how this family run business has become one of the most sought after open play spots in the San Francisco. Sheryl shares information about coordinating activities with outside vendors, tips on keeping the space clean and germ-free, growing the birthday party business and more!
Please give us a 2 sentence summary to describe Play Haven.
Play Haven was created by a preschool teacher of 12 years. We offer activities that promote early childhood learning, social and emotional development, and fine motor skills. Here you will find everything from art and sensory activities, to imaginative games and dramatic play areas, and a rock climbing wall to encourage creativity and hands-on learning.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was a preschool teacher for 12 years and had 2 young children of my own. When our school was closed I realized that there weren’t too many options to take my 4 year-old and newborn. Most of the options were scheduled classes that didn’t always work since both my children had differing nap times. That’s when we created a space that families can come to anytime of the day. Here we wanted children to have a safe space to explore and learn while interacting with other children.
We also wanted to create a space for parents and caregivers to connect with one another. Being a parent can sometimes be lonely and isolating. Our hope was to create a community, which we feel we are accomplishing more and more each day.
How do you attract new customers during your slow season?
We go out in the community and promote at local events. We also post more on our social media.
How do you make new families feel like the facility is clean and germ free during flu season?
As a family-run business, we take a lot of pride in our space. Throughout the day, we are always in the space cleaning and wiping down toys and furniture. We have containers in the space for mouthed toys to be placed in. At the end of everyday, we clean our toys with water and soap. During the winter/flu season, we also wipe down our entire space every other day with anti-bacterial sanitizer.
How do you keep older kids coming back once they’ve aged out of the most traditional activities you offer?
Our space is geared for children under 5 years-old. Once they are over 5, then we refer families to nearby places that are more age-appropriate.
How do you coordinate with other vendors that come in to do programming?
Most of our partners reached out to us or were referred by families that come into our space.
How do you grow your birthday party business?
Many parents that attend a party here often book their own children’s parties here. Most of our bookings are made by families that come in for drop-in play. In the past we have also, promoted our parties on social media.
We have been really lucky to have our space win local awards. This has really helped to promote our parties and business. We are also added to many local listings from parent resources i.e Red Tricycle, Bay Area Parents, San Francisco Magazine, etc.
What is most challenging about running a biz w/ your family? What is the best part about it?
The most challenging part is separating work from home and balancing our time with our children. Play Haven is run with my husband, my mom, cousins, and aunts. When we are together for family dinners or parties, we almost always end up talking about Play Haven. It is deeply personally to us, so we all treat it almost like another child. We are constantly striving to think about ways to make it better, to nurture it and help it to grow.
That is also the best part about it. We all support each other and have a blast working together. We listen to each others input and respect everyone’s ideas. Play Haven is our collective dream come true.