Peace + Riot sounds proper dreamy to us. It’s a kitchen, bar and workspace with childcare on site. Imagine having a peaceful lunch with a friend, or getting work done uninterrupted, whilst sipping a hot coffee. Meanwhile, your child is playing with one of the on-site ‘peace keepers’. We spoke with Peace + Riot’s founder Caroline to find out all about her small biz baby and how it’s helping mums be grown-ups and kids be kids, all in one place.
Please introduce yourself….
Hello! I’m Caroline Newte Hardie, mother of two small(ish) boys, I live in South East London with my husband, and before Peace + Riot I was in education working in schools in East London by day and a comedian by night.
Please tell us about Peace & Riot…
I got the idea via my own experiences as a new parent working part time and as a freelancer, and vicariously through the experiences of my friends in the same boat.
I found maternity leave incredibly difficult; despite having a supportive, kind and fun NCT group, it still felt too much and too little all at once. My son was hugely wanted, it had taken more than 6 years to get pregnant, and somehow that made it worse – it was taboo to say, ‘I don’t like this’. And then I went back to work and the challenge shifted again – I was relieved to be back at work but missed him hugely. My energy levels were always stretched; we could always only afford a day less of childcare than we really needed. The consolation was that I got to see him more, but it was still so tough – there was no give in the schedule.
Then I got pregnant again – we were terrified it was going to take another 6 years and so started try earlier than we probably would have without that pressure. It took longer than it does for many, but still, just two years later my second son arrived, and I was back on maternity leave – this time with a toddler and a baby. Woah. The impact this time around was huge. At the same time an old friend had her first child and she was solidly hit with PND. It was an immediate reminder of how tough it was. And because she’s more eloquent than me, something she said made me realise that the impact of parenthood isn’t just the logistics, the guilt, the sea-change in the day to day, it’s the impact on identity. Identity matters.
She said, ‘Where I used to be welcomed, they don’t want me anymore, and where they do want me, I don’t want to set foot in – where do I go?’. And that’s when the idea for Peace + Riot came from – to create a place where your identity matters, where your needs as a new parent are met. At Peace + Riot you can meet other parents, get some work done with childcare support, have access to enriching events for you and your children – or just stare into space and take a breath.
Do parents need to have a membership to come to P&R? Can you just come by with your kid for a few hours?
You absolutely can just come by! Our membership is there to help people make the most of their time on site with discounted visits, discounts on food & drink for regulars, priority booking for events, a profile on our members’ platform to build your local network and so on; it’s not there to exclude people.
Walk-ins and non-members are always welcome and it’s just £10 per child for 90 mins, and membership is £500 a year and you get 4 free visits a month for the whole family.
Our nearest competitors in terms of the services we provide are £2,000 to £4,000 a year membership clubs – and that model works for them and that’s great, but they serve a niche group and provide a different kind of experience and service; there’s no childcare for example. We want to be for as many people as we can.
What the response has been from parents who come to P&R?
Mums and Dads love it. They feel understood, recognised, and not patronised. We get a lot of people who come in 2 or 3 times a week now. It has been amazing. I’ve found it’s mostly about parity of esteem in their new life vs their old – we understand what they need from their time with us and we do our best to help.
What have been the biggest challenges running this business so far?
The biggest challenge has probably been getting the modelling right – we offer a lot and want to keep it that way, but we’re still refining and reshaping as we go. There is literally nothing like our offer on the market anywhere in the world so we’re learning on our feet.
You have two young children of your own – how do you balance running the club and motherhood?
This ought to be the moment where I calmly talk about how I’ve got it all worked out– but I find it really hard to do. I have total Mum-Guilt , when I’m working at home and I hear them playing downstairs with my husband, it’s torture being away from them.
That said, when WWIII breaks out over playdough and who should get to use the last bit of purple– it gets easier for a moment. It’s another example of why Peace + Riot is so important though; I often take them with me to site and I get work done, we get to eat together, and they get to have fun but with me; they know I’m there. It is a huge pressure reliever – it’s support without the guilt.
Do kids actually play with the childcare workers there or do they still go over to their parents a lot? I would imagine lots of little ones still running to mummy if they know she’s on the premises!
Even the most clingy child is off and running free once they’ve been a few times – it’s about settling in and feeling comfortable in the space. We have toys and play running alongside the tables too; this means even if children do want to stay with their parents, they’re occupied and parents get to stay at their table and drink their coffee whilst it’s actually hot.
Our Peace Keepers do an outstanding job of engaging children in imaginative play, storytelling and games. Lots of children come back excited about seeing their favourite Peace Keeper too. More than anything there’s no separation anxiety; there’s no build up to the visit – no preparation to get the scenario ‘just right’ to avoid tears.
I tried to use creches as my back-up childcare; the minute you arrive the clock starts ticking – and then you’ve got to leave and find a café to work in nearby to the soundtrack of your child crying, and then race back before you pay late fees and have a stressed and tired out child to pick-up.
I remember paying £30 for 2hrs to end up with 1hr to myself – not to mention the cost of the café and still needing to feed my son when I got home. It just didn’t work. A lot of parents have said Peace + Riot feels like amazing training for those first forays into nursery and starting reception at school because it’s such a positive taste of impendence for their children.
Any future plans for P&R you’d like to share?
We’re really ambitious and want to take P+R nationwide, we want to create a network of support for all our members in real life – and online. We’re about to embark on a further raise to build the company further and faster. A healthy proportion of our investors are local and we’d love for that to continue – if you’d like to back Peace+ Riot and be part of our story, and the revolution – do get in touch.
Peace & Riot host a variety of events, check out their channels for what’s coming up!
If you would like to book a party, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(They do parties for grown-ups AND for children)
Location: 12 Croxted Road, West Dulwich, London, SE21 8SP
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