The end is just the beginning...
Even though we've close Natventure Book Cafe, I still want to immortalize this milestone and remember the lessons learnt from this adventure.
No experience is ever wasted.
And before we go on about the future plans, let's start from the beginning...
The concept of the kids book cafe was a dream from a long time ago, bringing together my passion for working with young people and books. Having 3 young children on my own, I understand the challenges of bringing children out. Not to mention, the judgement we may face when children do not display behaviours deemed proper by the society in general, like sitting still, talking softly, and the list goes on.
Natventure Book Cafe aimed to redefine the concept of a child-friendly establishment, and to curate a space where children's experiences are being prioritised. We believe that children are capable individuals and we wanted our space to allow children the freedom to express their independence within reasonable limits.
While it is definitely easier for children to be strapped in a high chair while dining, it devoid them of the freedom of movement. Imagine the helplessness of being strapped to a seat throughout a meal.
The low floor seating allowed children of all ages to freely move around (or crawl around) and help themselves as and when they needed. There's no need to feel bad when children are not able to sit still. In fact, it's normal and accepted.
With a simple addition of a learning tower, children were able to interact with the staff on the same level, express their needs and make their orders. Everything is well within their height.
It might not mean much to us adults, but the sense of accomplishment experienced by children is empowering and priceless. And that was what we were going for.
As a concept, it's refreshing. But it's not without any challenges in the implementation.
We started the book cafe with zero experience in the food and beverage industry, a tinge of recklessness and too much of madness and optimism. Even though we gave it our best shot, our inexperience and lack of foresight made it challenging for us to juggle the mountainous task of running the business and the needs of our young children.
On a personal front, 2022 had been a challenging year as well. I gave birth my third child and we also took on the role of a caregiver to a family member. I guess, the compounding responsibilities really got to me. It was only after putting everything down, that I realised how tired I had been and how much I have neglected my own wellbeing.
Even though closing the book cafe was a difficult decision to make, it was the right one at that time.
For a while, I was hoping to look for a more suitable space, where the infrastructure could support the expansion of the food and beverage, and also to tap on technology to minimise the reliance on manpower, which in itself was a huge challenge. However, as I took a step back to reflect on the journey, I realised my passion is not in the food and beverage industry, but in making an impact in the lives of young people.
For 10 years of my life, I was a social worker working with children, youth and families. Prior to the book cafe, I was actually looking to return to the industry, but could not find a suitable and interested position that allowed me the flexibility to manage my family commitment. Social worker works really hard, often with long and unpredictable hours. Jokes on me because now I know how much more challenging it was to manage and sustain a business.
The initial concept behind the book cafe is really an extension of the impact I hope to make in the lives of young people. And it really touched my heart when many of you shared how your child/ren had been impacted and empowered.
Will we reopen Natventure Book Cafe?
Based on current circumstances, it's unlikely in the near future.
Even though I have faith in the concept that we came up with, there's still much to be learnt about the food and beverage industry, about managing a team, about sustaining a business, etc. Furthermore, my children are still young and they still need me to be around. Especially now that I know how much it would take out of me to continue.
In the near future, Natventure will remain as an independent online bookstore and will be happy to pop-up at different events and venues. More than just selling books, we are always on the look out for opportunities to make a differences in the lives of young people. Feel free to contact us if you would like to bounce off ideas for collaboration!