A Coronacoaster Year at Mess Around
2020 was certainly a year for everyone, or a Coronacoaster of year as Kristine Monaghan from Mess Around has called it. Unfortunately in March they had to close their messy doors to the public to protect their team, customers, the NHS and to support the government in the attempt to suppress the virus. Kristine has been running Mess Around Ltd. for over 8 years and of all the things that she thought could possibly put her out of business, a bat in China was not one of them. Nobody in the children’s activity sector could have foreseen this happening or have been ready to adapt their business in such a short space of time in order to survive. Many unfortunately did not.
However after having dedicated 8 years of her life to her Mess Around family, she wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Mess Around team all work extremely hard and have invested their time and money into their businesses and it was her role to protect Mess Around Ltd. and all of her team’s businesses and to support the team through this crisis wherever she could. So, lets see how her year had unfolded...
Right from the start the team set to work. They collated all of their resources from work that Kristine had done with the Mess Box over the last 2 years and created a diverse extended range of boxes catering for their customers, so that they could continue to have messy play fun at home during the lockdown. The Mess Boxes have been flying out to door steps across the UK for the last 6 months.
They also added an extensive library of free messy play and arts and crafts activities to the DIY Blog on the Mess Around website. During the dark days of the virus Kristine wanted to help her exceptionally loyal customers wherever she could. The DIY Blog has been a great success and many families from around the world have had the opportunity to enjoy the work Kristine and her team have done.
As the world went online, Mess Around knew that it was a global movement that they needed to be a part of. Although the nature of messy play meant it was going to be difficult to take their programme online, they nevertheless wanted to support their customers during this difficult time and set to work developing an online event.
Knowing that the core business is to host events, where children choose what they want to play with and how, with no end result, they knew going online was going to be a challenge.
However they persevered and the Born to Mess Around at Home was launched! In April they hosted their first online event, with the aim of entertaining parents and children at home and to give some light relief from the effects of the lockdown. They wanted to give parents messy play ideas with simple instructions and arts and crafts activities using materials that Mess Around knew they would have at home. The concept was simple: to provide a way for the customers to recreate their very own Mess Around party at home.
Kristine and the teams took their fantastic themed events and turned them into an online party. They launched Dinosaur Detectives Party and received an overwhelming response from parents which inspired them to launch a weekly Mess Around at Home programme, throughout the lockdown period.
The Dinosaur Detectives Party went out live on Facebook, unfortunately broadcasting from a remote island on the west coast of Scotland proved tricky and sadly they had to come to terms with the fact that their internet connection wasn’t reliable enough to do live events. So as not to be defeated, they turned their living room into a green screen video studio for 3 months and pre-recorded videos each week.
They planned an initial 6 weeks of online events and the team set about creating fantastic messy play and arts and crafts activity blogs linked to each event theme. Each week, Kristine and her family would film the online party and then Dirk would spend the day editing the video to create the finished product, which was then premiered live on Facebook and YouTube and thus Mess Around TV was born.
Every week they created a fantastic blog of the online event with links to the team’s messy play and arts and crafts content and sent it out to the customers.
The online events were so successful, (hosting 14 online parties) that they created a brand new series of events including the Wizards of Mess, Philosopher’s Mess and Mythical Slime to keep their customers entertained throughout the summer.
The team had worked so hard on online events and had created such fantastic resources to support those events that they didn’t want the work to go to waste. They wanted children from across the world to experience the magic of Mess Around and felt that they could via an online digital resource pack of their events. They set to work on creating a digital product and The Mess Pack was launched.
A themed Messy Play Resource, delivered directly to customers email addresses, the Mess Packs are crammed full with messy themed activities, video events, step by step guides, video instructions and themed Arts and Crafts activities, with instructions and downloadable templates. The pack made a great resource for home-schooling parents, nurseries and schools and went on to prove itself to be a great addition to the Mess Around family.
As the UK eased out of lockdown the team began to strategise on what they could offer to their customers during this transition period. The Mess Boxes had been a huge success during lockdown, but they were keen to support their leaders at a local level to generate revenue; not having been able to work since March was hard on the team. Building on the success of the Mess Box, the team set about creating the Mess Kit. Mess Arounds leaders recognised that by July parents were feeling the strain of home schooling and having to entertain their children all day at home whilst running a household and a career, and they wanted an activities that were easy to set up, but also interesting enough to keep their children engaged.
Their leader (Alanna), from Mess Around South Yorkshire, rose to the challenge and lead the way creating the first Mess Kit and their next baby, The Marvellous Mess Kit was born; a ready to use kit which included a range of materials with play idea instructions delivered straight to your doorstep. No fuss, just mess!
The Mess Kits went down a storm with parents across the UK and have sold thousands. They have been so popular that they have now developed a fantastic range of kits which they have continued to develop. As such, they now form a key part of part of the core business model during these Covid restricted times.
Building upon the success of the Mess Kits, they kept on climbing and launched a brand new product called the ‘Mess Around Takeaway’. An equipment hire service where the customers could book all of the equipment they would need to hold their own private family messy activities, birthday parties or play dates. Garden parties were very popular during the summer months despite the epidemic, although the fantastic weather had certainly helped.
As venues started to re-open and being eager to get back to delivering face to face classes, they relaunched with the Slime Lab UK programme for children aged 5 years and above. A new workshop format had to be developed which was Covid secure, but it was important to keep the fun element too to keep within their core values. In August, leader Rachelle from Mess Around West Suffolk, trialled the new format and was delighted with the results. The new format worked really well and so the programme was made available to the network to roll out within their territories.
September arrived and they desperately wanted to relaunch their Mess Around events; they were inundated with emails and messages from parents wanting to know when they would see them all again. However, they knew that under the restrictions, it would be a considerable challenge to adapt the programme but that didn’t put them off. They had been working on the concept of the Tuff Tray Club, a brand new membership only online club however the Mess Kits had been such a huge success, that they decided to create a face to face Tuff Tray Club using the Mess Kits as a resource. The priority here was to adhere to social distancing, to ensure no equipment or materials were shared and thus to provide a COVID-19 secure activity but it was also vital for them and the brand, to ensure that what they created, kept within the values and was also fun!
So the latest member of the Mess Around family arrived, The Tuff Tray Club. A creative and personalised messy play club for children aged 6 months to 5 years old. The clubs gatherings are smaller than the Mess Around events allowing for compliant social distancing. Each child is provided with a themed messy play kit, filled with a pick and mix of messy play materials from paints, coloured rice, soap slime, cloud dough plus lots more! All materials are age appropriate and individually created for children with related allergies.
Once seated customers are provided with their own dedicated tuff tray loaded with their Messy Play Kit, and additional sanitised toys and utensils. Parent and child get to unbox their kit and explore the messy materials at their own speed.
Included in the kit are a number of keepsakes including the Messy Memory certificate on which children can make their mark with their very own hand prints. The leaders are on hand to give tips on how to make materials and share examples of how to extend the customers play at home and better yet, they get to take their remaining messy play materials and kit home with them.
The Tuff Tray Club launched in September in West Suffolk with Rachelle from Mess Around West Suffolk and the feedback from parents was incredible. Parents have been so grateful for the opportunity to come and play with their child that they are now getting ready to open Tuff Tray Clubs across the UK. They can’t wait to see families enjoying the new experience!
This year has definitely been a roller coaster ride albeit with more downs than ups, but Mess Around have remained positive that one day soon they will be able to host one of their fantastic Mess Around events again. Necessity is the mother of all invention and 2020 has very much been about innovating and adapting their business model.
Thankfully they have done this successfully and Kristine is really excited about the fantastic products and services that they have developed this year and she can’t wait to see what 2021 brings.
A superb effort from all at Mess Around!