NI mum-of-three on her play business for kids and upcoming plans

A Co Antrim woman has opened up on her creative play business for kids and her plans in the near-future.

Victoria Nichols opened The Wee Village in 2020, which is based on a farm in Doagh, and allows children ‘to experience the high street through their imagination’.

It features play areas such as a beauty salon, health centre, coffee shop, post office and more, along with an area for parents and guardians to relax.

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Families can also hold birthday parties for their children at the premises, with school group bookings also available, and more.

The Wee Village celebrates its fourth birthday this month, with its sister business Our Wee Family, an after-school club, set to open after Easter.

Victoria, who is mum of Anna (10), Nancy (7), and 2-year-old Frances, told Be why she decided to open the business.

The 39-year-old said: “I came home from living in Cyprus, my background is in art and architecture.

“I had Anna and Nancy at that time, they were 5 and 3, and I was meeting my friends and there was nowhere nice to meet for a play and a coffee.

“I went to the Go For It programme and they helped me put a business plan together and they told me to go away and find my premises to see what the rates and rent would be.”

The Co Antrim woman then began looking for somewhere to rent and got in contact with her late mum’s friend.

Victoria said: “With my background with architecture, I had the vision in my head that I would want a barn, a restoration type, just for the feeling of it.

“My mum’s friend who used to have [a] florist up beside where I am now messaged me.

“We arranged for a coffee to meet up and catch up, and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, the Deer Park where she had her florist’.”

Luckily for Victoria, there were premises there that had just been changed from a workshop into somewhere to rent.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better, it was just meant to be. I came in and it was just sitting as a blank shell ready for me.” she added.

The Wee Village then opened in February 2020, and is recommended for children up to the age of 10.

The Wee Village(Image: Submitted)

Victoria added: “It’s something that there wasn’t in Northern Ireland before I opened, and it was just really for my love and passion for creating a nice, safe place.

“Mums, dads, and grandparents can come into a family-feeling atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if they are running ten minutes later, or if they are over the session.

“I always give half an hour after the session to let people leave at their own time rather than rushing them out the door, and then we do a two-hour tidy and clean.

“In the Village there’s lots of different areas. There’s the Post Office, Nancy’s Beauty Parlour, Anna’s Health Centre, Victoria’s Coffee Shop, and at the back we have The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.

“Then there’s the real tree that’s lasted four years, so we call it our magic tree.”

The mum-of-three told of the difficulties of having to close her business due to the Covid pandemic, and also how she welcomed a new baby during this time.

She said: “[Closing] was awful, I had pumped everything into this business and given it my all, and five weeks later I closed. “Whenever I closed, it was the uncertainty…

“We didn’t reopen again really until the 27th May 2021. It was on and off for that time and I had my Frances in between. She was a wee blessing for me, I never thought I could have any more.

“Mummy’s passed 20 years and I still believe she’s very much with me and she guided me here.”

Victoria added: “When I reopened, I was so nervous, Frances was just two and a half months old so she came to work with me everyday.

“I was so nervous. Everybody still didn’t want to be around everybody or be too close to anybody.

“Now I can put ladies together, mummies together, I even had two grannies that I put together and now they have swapped numbers and are going for lunch together.

“I try to look after my customers, and I have my returning customers that have become friends since I opened.”

At the Wee Village, parents can relax and enjoy traybakes made by the mum-of-three herself.

Victoria’s traybakes (Image: Submitted)

The business will celebrate its fourth birthday on Saturday, February 17.

“We are very rustic and homelike here, I’ll be baking a cake, I am going to try and get a bit of a celebration as it’s great that we have been open four years and that we’ve survived it,” the Co Antrim woman said.

Victoria’s new venture is due to open at the end of February.

The 39-year-old explained: “We are going to be launching a new sister business to The Wee Village, which is called Our Wee Family.

“I’m going to generate after school’s club, I’m going to give back to the community.

“I can go and pick up from schools, seven schools within five miles, and there’s 20 children that are going to be able to be looked after at the Village.”

You can find out more about The Wee Village via its website HERE and Facebook HERE.

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