Sandy Gilchrist – Yeesh! Fun for Kids

by Claire Minnaar

Tell us a bit about YOU and your family (where you are based, single / married, number of kids, etc)

I am a 45 year old married woman with 3 children aged 14, 12 and 10 years. I am based in Johannesburg and have lived in Zimbabwe and UK previously. I have a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. I completed my undergrad at the University of Cape Town and then did the doctorate in the UK. I practiced for 10 years after qualifying and then wanted the challenge of running my own business in a different sector and yet maintain time to be available for my children and family.

What is the name of your company and when did you start your business?

The company is called Yeesh! Fun for Kids. It is an indoor children’s playcentre with two branches in Sandton, (Woodmead and Bryanston). I started the Woodmead branch in June 2008 with seven permanent employees and by January 2010 had opened a second, larger branch in Bryanston, bringing my total staff complement to 18 permanent and 6 casuals.

The playcentre is designed to appeal not just to kids, but also to their parents. Apart from the large play structure itself we have a coffee bar that provides a comfortable venue for adults to meet and relax whilst their children enjoy playing whilst being supervised by trained staff. In this way, can aim to offer parents quality “time out”. In addition to physical play on the structure, we also offer children the opportunity to try arts and crafts in our “Paint Pot Corner”. We host parties and aim to give the children a memorable experience and the parents a great deal of assistance to lessen the stress of organizing children’s parties!

What inspired you to start your own business?

As a mom with three children of my own, I was always looking for new venues for the kids to play in, especially in bad weather. These did exist, but were often designed to appeal only to the children themselves with the result that I, often couldn’t wait to leave and weren’t keen to visit again. The noise, the “busyness” and the “children” type food and presentation wasn’t my idea of fun! This was the start of vision and goal. I wanted to create a venue that offered both children and adults a stimulating and yet comfortable place to visit; where the children could enjoy physical play in safe and secure surroundings and the parents or carers could relax knowing that their kids were having fun and were being well looked after. I also wanted to incorporate some healthy development for the children which always makes us as parents feel good. The play equipment helps children develop spatial awareness, balance, eye and hand co-ordination, gross motor skills and social skills.

What are the challenges you face or have faced being a working Mom and how have you overcome them?

Like every mom, the main challenges in starting up a business like Yeesh! Fun for Kids had to do with splitting my time between work and home life. This was particularly hard during the early months when the business was very new and demanded more of my time and yet I wanted to still be available for my children. However, as the business has become established and the Yeesh team more experienced this balance seems to have worked itself out.

What is the hardest part or have been some of your struggles starting your own business?

The hardest part was finding a landlord who was prepared to believe that my business concept would work and that I would be a reliable tenant! It was very difficult persuading people to believe that I had business skills after being in the therapeutic world for all my working life and also to persuade them that an indoor playcentre would be a reliable business.

How do you balance your business and your family?

With great difficulty! I work at the business from 7.30am after dropping the children at school. I then leave to fetch them early afternoon and allocate the afternoons to them whether it be watching their sport or helping with homework. If I still have work to do after that, I will do it after supper. Weekends are difficult as it is the busiest time so I am at the business on Saturdays and my husband who is a great support will be with the children. Sundays are family days where we prioritize having fun and resting together.

What or whom has been the greatest support for you and your business?

100% my husband who has been patient and supportive of me since the first seed of the business idea started. He has helped out a great deal with the children and the business in an integral way.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t be quite as anxious as I was and would believe in both myself and the staff more from the beginning.

What advice can you give other Moms out there who are starting a new business?

Go for it! Although you may sweat and shed tears in the beginning you will rise to the challenge and overcome the obstacles and it will be worth it.

If other Moms would like to keep in touch, how can they contact?

Email: yeesh (at)

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