You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Tiffany Kim said, recalling a trip to Las Vegas that inspired her to roll the entrepreneurial dice back home in Kansas City — despite a raging pandemic.
“I call it the most relaxing day of my motherhood career,” laughed Tiffany, co-founder of Lee’s Summit-based MY Play Cafe, recalling her discovery of a kid-friendly attraction amid the glitz, glamour and gluttony of Sin City.
“[The space] was specifically geared toward zero- to 6-year-olds. … I was able to catch my breath for a minute,” she continued. “My mom and I were able to sit, catch up, drink some coffee. This was a really great experience for me and I realized there was nothing like that here in Kansas City.”
A month later, Tiffany and her husband, Brian, put all their cards on the table and got to work launching My Play Cafe — an 1,800-square-foot indoor playground and coffee shop where kids can play and their parents can connect, work, and unwind.
Click here to learn more about My Play Cafe.
“That is what makes it worth it for me — to see the experience that I had come to life and seeing other parents and caregivers walk away with that same feeling,” Tiffany said.
“[My husband] was always encouraging me to start a business of some sort,” she added. “I came back, started working on a business plan with a mentor who owned an indoor playground, applied for a SBA [Small Business Association] loan and started working with the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC.”
My Play Cafe is among a growing list of headline-grabbing entrepreneurial endeavors launching in rapidly developing Lee’s Summit. After years of being championed by such ecosystem efforts as Velocity Lee’s Summit and Bridge Space, the community is expected to be the site of Whataburger’s high-profile entry into the Kansas City market. And Made in KC announced last week its plans to open a new marketplace concept at Summit Fair in Lee’s Summit.
Originally set to debut in April, COVID-19 slowed MY Play Cafe’s seemingly smooth launch, Tiffany noted, adding they delay might have been for the better.
“In May, we were able to start curbside coffee and private playdates. [Surprisingly] we’ve seen our location grow during this time. It’s been good to be challenged in the front end,” she said. “Our goal is to open three locations in the Kansas City area because there’s such a great need for this.”
With strict policies in place that include hospital-grade sanitizing, MY Play Cafe ultimately was able to open its doors to the public — at a limited capacity — providing the Lee’s Summit community with a much-needed form of relief from increased social isolation, Tiffany said.
“It’s almost like a blessing in disguise that we’re not at full capacity,” she said. “I actually wonder if there wasn’t this pandemic how much more business we would have. The families that are ready to come out are able to social distance. It’s really been allowing us to grow at a good pace and get our processes in place.”
Support from families isn’t the only encouragement for Tiffany as a first time entrepreneur, she said.
The local business community has rallied behind her in unexpected and much appreciated ways as she navigates entrepreneurship, discharging her previous career as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“We teamed up with Messenger Coffee downtown. They trained us, walked us through the entire process of how to run a cafe — how to price, what to order, how to have the coffee shop aspect,” Tiffany said of community partnerships that also include collaborations with local bakers at Holt’s Donuts, Doughboys Donuts, Cafe Main, and Morgana’s Gluten Free Bakery.
Click here to check out MY Play Cafe’s full menu, which boasts hot and cold drinks like the honey lavender latte.
The journey has also seen Tiffany’s husband evolve into the cafe’s star Barista, she joked.
“We [initially] hired a barista who had a lot of experience in a coffee shop and she really helped us get the systems in place at the very beginning,” Tiffany said. “I think everyone [in Kansas City] is very supportive and willing to share what they have to offer. I also have other businesses reaching out to us about partnerships.”
Included in that group are a slew of local artists and educators — many displaced throughout the pandemic — who are helping MY Play Cafe round its offerings.
“We’re able to partner with art teachers, dance teachers, music teachers, and offer their services in our store — kind of creating a little hub for young families,” she said, noting her hope is to create a meaningful space that merges playtime with educational resources.
The venue is also available for birthday parties. Click here for rental rates.
As entrepreneurism evolves in the COVID era, Tiffany said she’s optimistic that Kansas City will continue to respond to her dream business for years to come.
“Now that all the systems are in place, we are ready for more families to come experience this,” she said. “We are ready for more guests to come and play.”