House of Coco and Victoria Cavaco of And The Children Came Too had a whirlwind chat covering Dalston (before it was cool), kismet and raves for children. Read all about it and let us know what you think @House_Of_Coco
HOC: So, Victoria tell us your story!
VC: I grew up in Marple, went to Uni in Bristol and then when I was travelling in Australia I fell into working for an investment bank, as you do! After 5 years in Sydney I moved to London, which had always been a dream of mine. I then spent 10 years living in Dalston and working in the City, as an Analyst. We were in Dalston when it was dodge! Now it’s super cool… okay, maybe a little dodge still.
I met my husband putting on a funk and breaks night on Whitechapel Road at the Rhythm Factory in 2005. We were before our time, East London wasn’t such a destination like it is now. Bonobo headlined on our first night, it was amazing fun! My outside life was a complete contradiction to my corporate life but then gradually we started doing more events and that was my release. Then in 2009 we had our son and the following year friends started a music festival so we offered to set up a kids area. Events became a very different experience for us as a family, creating a space for the kids to play, as well as for the parents to socialize and connect was really important.
HOC: So that’s where And The Children Came Too came from?
VC: Yes, that idea has been bubbling away for the last few years. A couple of years back we moved to Bath, and had our second child which was a complete change of life. It was time to step away from working in the city and to do something different. I was really lucky with work and was offered redundancy so I took that as my chance!
Event production is what my husband and I do well together and I wanted to start something rolling with the kids that had the potential to become something much bigger in the future! So our concept is to take care of kids attending events (family days, weddings, festivals etc) from the moment that they arrive until they leave. We can get parents involved or make sure that the kids are well looked after and the parents can do their own thing.
If you think about the wedding market, alone, there are more children going to weddings than ever before, but people don’t cater for them. Kids want to do their own thing, they want to be moving around and using their imagination, not stuck in the adult world. Using beautiful canvas tents, we provide a space for kids to have their own party; we do circus skills, have a photo booth with props, crafts, storytelling…. It’s a million miles away from where I started but the journey so far has been incredible!
HOC: Sounds fab! This is a fairly new project for you, how did you go about setting it all up!
VC: Yep, [at the time of this chat] we’ve been going for a month! That said, last year I did all the business planning! I had an inspiring business mentor who was actually offered to me by my corporate job, who has been amazing. It’s scary to go from a regular salary to zero and to lose the other supportive elements of a permanent job like insurance, a pension etc. But, at the same time, you only live once and life is now!
I’ve been lucky to find people who take me seriously and who see the technical set up behind what we’re offering, there is a lot of preparation work before every event, it’s not all play! We also need to be savvy with what we offer until we’re established and learn through trial and error. I’ve done my research and know that there aren’t many companies who do what we do and we purposely want to offer something different. We want to engage with children and their imagination, we want to inspire their creativity and take them on a little journey. Something I want to try out is to create a Mr Benn costume shop and then have the kids in all kinds of exciting situations.
HOC: It’s really admirable that you’ve started this journey with a family too, how do you balance that?
VC: We left Dalston to have more living space as it just wasn’t possible to get that in London unless we lost the dreams of doing something for ourselves and just buying into the bigger mortgage! I once had a manager who told me not to ever give in to that and get stuck.
Having children has made me more motivated than ever, I think they make you reevaluate your life and I certainly want to show my kids an example of how it is possible to live doing what you love.
It’s amazing to get my kids involved in the business too. My son is our chief tester and has so many ideas for And The Children Came Too. We went to a wedding fair the other weekend and he was my assistant. He gave tours around the tent and talked animatedly about what there was to do, I was so proud! Hopefully, as he gets older, he’ll want to be more and more involved; my husband has already started teaching him to DJ!
HOC: How much do you feel your corporate career prepared you for this new journey?
VC: I think what I learnt there I can certainly put into my business. It’s been great to have my time in London, working in the City. The stress you are under, the time pressures and juggling ten things at once so I know I can handle almost anything! All the demands of a corporate job teach you a lot, not least how to work with people. I have a vision for my business but I don’t know exactly how I’ll get there but I know I’ll figure it out!
HOC: Talking about your vision, where would you like to take your business?
VC: I think there are a few directions we could go in and the best way will become apparent over time. We could certainly scale the business and become a larger event production company, with more production and lighting etc. Or my other passion, which is a little more whimsical perhaps, is to put on our own kids’ festival. We are already meeting amazing people and collaborators along the way and it would be fantastic to put on our own events. We’ll figure out what is our bread and butter and what brings us most joy! The idea is for And The Children Came Too to be a lifestyle business, both my husband and I think about earning a living so differently now as opposed to a few years ago when we were in London. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea to dream of having a family business, but when I was younger I used to help my dad’s business and I loved it. We had dreams of creating a business together but very sadly he passed away. Life is so precious, and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity with my own kids.
HOC: A children’s festival would be amazing, do you subscribe to the belief that kids grow up too fast these days?
VC: I do speak to a lot of Reception/Key Stage 1 teachers about how they are encouraged to move children away from play. It’s such a shame as that’s how kids learn! Kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore and it’s also all too easy to use technology. There is definitely a time and a place when an ipad can be a lifeline, but not for hours on end, it’s not good for children’s brain development to have too much screen time.
Going back to traditional approaches can work so well to engage kids and help them have fun. I have yet to meet a child that doesn’t love Megan our vintage rocking horse! I think all to often people don’t think about the need children’s entertainment when planning events, especially weddings. Our challenge is to convince people that it’s needed!
HOC: And how do you go about convincing people?
VC: We’ve been doing a number of wedding fairs this spring, so we can talk to our target audience. I’ve also been involved in writing articles like ‘7 Ways to Entertain Children’ for magazines and plan to maximise that by sending the tips out on twitter. I’ve seen a lot of content about the dilemma of inviting children to weddings and it’s understandable that it’s not for everyone. But, if you have children yourself you would want to provide something fun for them to be doing! We have had a lot of interest and editors keen to have stories from us so we’re working hard on publicising the business!
HOC: Finally, you made the move away from The Big Smoke, how important is London to you for your business?
VC: We’ve always been drawn to the South West, it has felt like a spiritual home, somehow. It’s funny but until we moved there I had no idea why, then my Mum told me my Dad had grown up only 5 miles away from where we live now!
You do get the fear when you leave London, that maybe you are stepping off the circus. But once you’ve lived somewhere you are always connected to the energy of it and you can always go back. We’ve started meeting with companies and venues and there’s a wonderful sense of community in Somerset. We’ve had other funny coincidences when we have met people and had loose connections and then ended up having dinner with close friends and finding out they know the person we had a loose connection with, it’s a small world!
HOC: Best of luck with And The Children Came Too and if you ever branch out into adult only parties in your Mr Benn tent, you know who to call!