It all started with a Sunday visit to Citta Mall in January 2016. We had heard on the grapevine about a new indoor playground there that had some LEGO so naturally, being huge fans of LEGO, we had to go and take a look!
Along with our three kids, we found the place on the first floor – it was very new and still a little bare, but we were taken in quickly by the size of the space – very airy and comfortable, and by the staff who made us feel so welcome too.
Our kids took an immediate liking to the place, then known as BLOKKE Kaffe, and quickly made friends with the staff. They spent at least three hours playing at the little LEGO tables and in the playhouse and when we left, they made us promise to come back. Four visits later, we had by then made friends with the owner, a nice man by the name of Ken, and our kids had decided this was their venue of choice for their upcoming joint birthday celebration!
But, it was not meant to be. Perhaps, in a twist of fate, when we asked Ken if we could make plans for our party, he sadly told us that he was planning to give up on his dream for the space – there was so much he wished to do but wasn’t able to do it on his own. I think we must have looked so disappointed that he suddenly asked us if we wanted to buy over the business… of course, we laughed! Never in a million years did we plan to start another business, let alone in a space this huge!
Strangely though, as the weeks went by, the idea gradually grew on us. We had spent many a night, building LEGO together as a couple, occasionally with my brother-in-law Nizam at our home, already bursting with LEGO. Sometimes we had friends come by and join us building. We would talk about how we wished there was more space for us to build with our friends, more space for our collection. Here we were, wishing every night for more ways to enjoy our favourite toy, when it suddenly dawned on us that owning a huge space with an indoor playground might not be such a mad idea after all!
So we called Ken, and made him an offer. And the rest, you might say, is history.
But it’s more than that. The night we decided to take a leap of faith and go ahead with it was not a spur of the moment affair. We had sat and talked about everything we would need to do, all the sacrifices we would have to make, all the lovely things we would need to forgo to afford this massive venture. It wasn’t an easy decision because we knew it would not be an easy road. We realised that if we went into this, it would have to be all or nothing. We would need to teach ourselves skills we didn’t have, learn from scratch how to start and run a café and indoor playground and all the uncool things that would come with having a potentially cool space. But, together with Nizam, we took the plunge and went for it anyway.
Why did we do it?
Apart from the obvious fact that we could build a business around a hobby we are truly passionate about, we realised we could fill a need for something that has certainly been missing in our community – a space to bond. Without gadgets but with each other. Building LEGO together could help rebuild connections that gadgets had started to whittle down. We knew this because we had seen for ourselves how LEGO had given us so many enjoyable hours of bonding time as a family; how it helped improve our children’s focus, and taught them to patiently keep working on something, no matter how hard it seemed. We wished the same for other families. We believed other families wished for that too. And so, BLOKKE was born, out of a dream to connect families over bricks.
We closed BLOKKE Kaffe in mid-April 2016, only to reopen after a crazy renovation three weeks later on 7th May 2016 under a new name – BLOKKE. – a Café, Playhouse and Shop with big dreams and a humble heart. Would people like what we’d done? Could we reach out to families and LEGO fans far and wide and convince them to drive all the way to our place? It was the most terrifying moment of our lives.
Thankfully, our very first customer, Puan Alina – who had booked us for a party on blind faith over a month before – gave us our very first vote of confidence. There is nothing a new business can hope for more than a genuine smile from a truly satisfied customer. And after that, the smiles kept coming.
We soon found that BLOKKE would give parents another much needed gift – me-time. The look of relief on a stressed-out parent as they sat down at our café while their kids ran off to entertain themselves independently was priceless. When their kids would rejoin them later, their parents would be recharged, happy and ready to be their best again. We were so overjoyed with the love we were getting we felt our hearts could burst.
It’s been two years now since we first stumbled upon what is now BLOKKE. Ken is now a dear friend and we are proud to acknowledge him as one of BLOKKE’s founders. We have climbed steep curves of learning and are grateful for every happy face that has walked through our doors.
The ride hasn’t been without its pitfalls. As any growing business making its way in the world, we have had our fair share of great reviews and some really bad ones. We have learnt that business is tough on the heart and soul and pocket. But we have also learnt to pick ourselves up and keep striving to work on our weaknesses.
BLOKKE could be nothing without our customers. BLOKKE would be nothing without our team. As I like to remind our event manager Ain – the very same staff my kids made friends with the first time they walked into BLOKKE Kaffe back in January 2016: BLOKKE is a dream we cannot build without each other. That means the end result will be what we have learnt from the good and the bad, and all our experiences with our customers, suppliers and team members put together.
Like bricks, we can only be great if we build together. That includes you, our dear customers. I thank you for joining us on this journey. I thank you for all the feedback, however great or awful it was. I thank you for the happy occasions you have allowed us to be a part of. What we are building can only get better with you coaxing us on. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and certainly, neither will BLOKKE. Our journey has only just begun.