How to set up a soft play business

Updated February 21, 2017

Soft play centres are loved by children of all ages, especially the younger set. They typically feature inflatable equipment such as slides, bouncy castles, ball pits, mazes and jungle gyms. Because soft play centres provide a relatively affordable and safe way for children to release their energy and exercise, many parents are more than willing to pay the admission rates, which typically range between £3 and £7 per child. Setting up a soft play centre requires specialised equipment, but can be very lucrative.

Lease or buy a location suitable for a soft-play business. It should be at least 92 square metres (1,000 square feet) in size, have toilet facilities, central air conditioning and proper ventilation. Spaces near day care centres or schools, high-traffic shopping centres and fitness gyms are ideal.

Obtain the business permissions needed in your area. To find what is required, contact your local council. You will probably need planning permission to change the use of the building you rent or buy to a soft play centre, depending on its current use. You'll also need to register the business with HM Revenue and Customs.

Get public and employee liability insurance for your soft play business. Though major accidents at soft play centres are rare, should one occur and you are without insurance and the injured party sues, you could lose your business personal assets, especially if you are a sole proprietor.

Buy soft play equipment such as inflatable slides, mazes, bouncy castles, blow-up sports goals and balls from specialist suppliers.

Develop safety policies for your soft play business and post them clearly around the facility. For example, you can decide that no running, jumping off equipment, using the equipment while wearing shoes or using the equipment while eating will be allowed.

Test the equipment you buy before opening your soft play centre by using it yourself or getting someone of the appropriate size to use it. Regularly test your equipment after opening your business to ensure the safety of your customers.

Promote your soft play business by handing out vouchers and flyers to local day care centres and play groups, placing ads in local newspapers, websites and blogs, sponsoring an area children's fair or festival and offering discounts for groups.

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About the Author

Melinda Gaines has been a freelance writer since 2006, with work appearing online for YellowPages and other websites. Her areas of expertise include business, beauty, fashion and sports. Gaines attended the University of Houston where she earned a Bachelor of Science in sport administration.