Thursday, October 14, 2010

How a business owner's good intentions nearly ended in tragedy

I get asked a lot about why we started Child Friendly Solutions and how we came up with the idea of a safe, space-efficient, durable Play Panel to occupy children in stores and waiting rooms.

It was actually my former business partner who spotted the market need but the story about how she did that could have ended, not in a successful business, but in tragedy.

Back in 1998, she took her 2 year old daughter shopping with her. A thoughtful store owner had supplied a box of toys for children to play with so that mothers could browse in peace for a few minutes.

In theory, this is a great idea and one we have based our entire business on for the last 10 years. Keeping children safely occupied in a store allows parents to browse and increase the likelihood of a sale.

The problem was that the play solution the store owner had come up had one critical ingredient missing. It was not safe. The box of toys contained all sorts of bits and pieces, including some very small blocks which the 2 year old girl promptly put in her mouth and began choking on.

The tiny piece of plastic lodged in her throat and, in the end, had to be removed by a doctor in the emergency department. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending, but I think we can all imagine an alternative outcome.

As a parent, this story sends shivers down my spine. As a business owner, whether of a store or a medical practice, it should send shivers down yours too.

Under Australian law, business owners are responsible for the safety of visitors to their premises. So even if an injury occurs to a child on your premises that wasn't your fault, the liability rests with you, the owner of the business. Scary, but true.

To finish the story, not only did young Kayla survive the incident and has now become a gorgeous teenager, but it prompted her mother to come up with a design for a play solution that was not only safe, but met the other requirements of business owners as well. It had to:
  • Conform to Australian Standards
  • Not take up too much (if any!) valuable floor space
  • Be easy to clean and maintain
  • Be extremely durable to withstand the daily onslaught of small, but terrifyingly tough, children.
She came up with the brilliant design of the Play Panel - the signature product of Child Friendly Solutions which has been embraced by over 2000 retail stores, medical practices, hospitals and government departments in Australia, NZ, USA and UK.

Do you have any stories of how a prospective tragedy or a bad experience turned into a great idea? I'd love to hear it. Please share your story in the comments below.

It's getting uncomfortably close to Christmas and you can feel the shopping frenzy is about to hit. If you are a retailer, click here to get 5 great tips on how to take customers away from your competitors (nicely!) this Christmas.

If you are looking for a safe play solution, now is a great time to visit our website and view our range. We are giving everyone who orders in the month of October a giant 400g box of those scrummy balls of yum, Maltesers, for you to share with your colleagues (or not!) Visit and click on Products to view our latest range of play solutions. There's something to suit every space and every budget.

Child Friendly Solutions has been assisting Australian retailers with in-store play solutions for 10 years including Big W, K-Mart, Westpac, Toyota and Forty Winks. You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels, Play Tables and other play equipment, as well as lots of information on becoming a child friendly retailer, at