Hi I’m Erica and I run the Basingstoke and Reading franchise of Pop Up Play Village. I thought I would blog today about why I decided to join the franchise back in January 2018. It has been a real adventure and one of the best decisions I have made, to give me a rewarding job that I really love.

Before I joined the franchise I was a teacher for 17 years working in the Basingstoke area. I loved teaching and working with children. As a teacher I had a real passion for outdoor learning and learning through play and creating exciting role play areas was always something I enjoyed. I now love that I can help to plan exciting themes for our play sessions and ways to make our corporate events exciting and fun for our clients.

I was unfortunately diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer, in 2015 and took a year out of teaching to go through the gruelling treatment. It was a very eye opening time for me and at the time, as a single mum, I was worried about leaving my daughter on her own and regretting the time I hadn’t been able to spend with her because I had been working so hard to provide for us. My cancer diagnosis was unfavourable and during the following year, while going through treatment, I crammed in time to make memories with my family and my daughter in particular. Once my treatment was over I married my partner Frank and returned to teaching accepting that I would be living with cancer. I taught for a year but soon realised that it was no longer the job that I wanted to do and that once again it was taking away the precious time I could be spending with my family. I left teaching in September 2017 in search of something that I could do that was rewarding and meant that I would be able to have that family time back.  I decided that I would take some time out to re-evaluate my life and find something to suit. I was supported by local charities during my treatment including Victoria’s Promise who helped me to recover mentally from the experience and accept what I had been through.  Yes, I had cancer but there is more to me than that and now I want to get on with living my life to the fullest and making sure every day counts.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do next but knew that I should make good use of my teaching experience and skills. When I saw the advert for a franchise of Pop Up Play Village I just knew that this was what I was meant to do! I investigated what it was all about and discovered that I would be the very first franchisee! It was quite a scary thought but I was now miraculously in remission from the cancer and knew that life was short, too short to have regrets and that sometimes you have to take a risk! Chatting over everything with my family and friends I decided to have a go and I launched my business in February 2018.

It has been an amazing experience and one I don’t regret for a second. Buying our van made me chuckle and it was daunting but surprisingly easy to drive! Learning to run a business was a great challenge and I have been blessed to find a great support network as well as all the support I have received from our franchisers. Our life took another turn when my husband Frank had to take time out of work to recover from a knee injury and he helped me with running the accounts and coming along to our play sessions to give him a way of getting out of the house. Before we knew it, we were a great double act! We decided that I would expand the franchise in July 2018 by also taking over the Reading area and when Frank left his job later in the year we got stuck into building the business further together.  We love working together we are going from strength to strength and can see huge potential for our little business. We now have a team of staff working with us and are looking for more to help us grow further.

I love running the play sessions and meeting our customers and playing with the children. I love the rewards from taking photos at children’s parties and seeing the pure joy as I watch the children play together and create memories. I work hard behind the scenes to run the business but I also have time to spend with my family and I am able to be there for my daughter every day in ways I never was while I was teaching. I can take time off for lunch with a friend and I have found time to volunteer in other ways in the community all while running a business that I am extremely proud of and can see growing around us. In the past year we have had days trips to Windsor a mid-week break to Yorkshire just the two of us and I’ve indulged my inner child with a visit to the Warner brothers studios, things I never had the time for before I joined the team.

I started my Pop Up Play Village journey hoping for a better life and I definitely have that. If you are thinking of joining us then I look forward to meeting you too.

Written by Erica Mudd, Franchise Owner of Pop Up Play Village in Basingstoke and Reading