Susie Lodge Founder Wikiplacesforkids in Conversation with Edx Education


Susie Lodge Founder Wikiplacesforkids in Conversation with Edx Education

Episode – 25- Edx Education in Conversation, Susie Lodge Founder Wikiplacesforkids in Conversation with Edx Education

Susie. Mum, Founder, Wikiplacesforkids with plenty of tips, advice for everyone for a great family day out in UK wide.. Or as Susie explains as A TripAdvisor for parents looking for things to do all across the UK where everything has been added and recommended by parents

Today we are chatting to Susie about, founding Wiki places for kids, trends in kids entertainment, how it benefits families, your inspiration for starting the company…

Here are the highlights from this episode:

{2:30} Susie’s journey to launching her app
{8:59} How to lockdown has affected kids activities
{13:10} How what parents are looking for has changed  over the last three years
{17:41} Susie’s top 3 tips for the Easter and Summer holidays
{22:23} How to upload your own business to the Wiki places for kids app

Episode – 25- Edx Education in Conversation, Susie Lodge Founder Wikiplacesforkids in Conversation with Edx Education
Heather Welch : (00:01)

You’re listening to education experts with Edx education. Education is evolving. Join having Welch for edX education, chatting with teachers, psychologists, parents, authors, creatives, and other tons of experts to keep up with the trends and what’s happening from around the globe. This podcast series mediates education discusses, home learning, school readiness, being creatives changes in education, discussing what’s next hands-on learning. Or as we like to say, learning through play welcome everyone.

I’m Heather Welch from Edx education. And today we’ll be in conversation with Susie lodge. Now, Susie is a mom. She’s also a founder of Wiki places for kids, which has plenty of tips and advice for everyone for a great day, out in the UK. As soon as he likes to explain a TripAdvisor for parents looking for things to do all across the UK, where everything has been added and recommended by parents today, we’re going to chat to Susie about founding Wiki places for kids trends in kid entertainment, how it benefits families, your inspiration for starting the company. Welcome, Susie. It’s wonderful. You could join us today. Thank you so much. Can you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them about your passion for getting families out and about in the UK?

Susie Lodge (01:17)

So nice. Definitely on here. Thank you so much for having me well, you’ve done such a great job of introducing me, but I will do my best addition to that. So yes, I’m Susie, I’m the founder of Wiki places for Um, as you say, it is exactly that is a TripAdvisor to parents looking for things to do all across the UK. Everything on there has been added and recommended by people who’ve actually been with actual kids.

It essentially is a, portal for time, poor parents who are looking for things to do that have a shortlist of great ideas. So you don’t have to jump from site to site and page to page to find out what you need to do. It also exists as an app, which was released in the last lockdown and, uh, essentially is hopefully going to be a game-changer for parents.

Susie Lodge (02:01)

Um, when places start to open and restricting and stuff starts to drop, because it will actually ping you to let you know what is open, what safety measures are in place in venues all across the UK. So you can find out about major attractions or just the local things near you. And the idea behind it is to try and get the local economy, the businesses and families all back on their feet, post the lockdown. So, yeah, it’s super exciting. So I guess I’m also a mom of three. I have three children, a boy at seven and two girls, five and two. And I founded the idea back in 2017.

We’re back in 2016 actually, and launched in 2017, mainly because I was on maternity leave. And I was looking for things to do with my children. I had a three-year-old at the time and the baby and I just wouldn’t for things to do and just felt really underwhelmed with the resources that there were available and ended up thinking to myself, well, you know what we really need, we need something like a for parents, we need something that actually shows recommendations. So we know that it’s been vouched for and pre verified by someone’s actually then, and then I thought that that’s it going to do it? I’m going to build one and here we are today.

Heather Welch (03:11)

Fantastic. I love the app, by the way, I’ve downloaded it. And I was just checking out, what’s available in my area. And we’ve only been down in where we live now out of London for two years. It was like, wow, I didn’t even know these places existed. So I felt actually like a little bit of a tourist.

Susie Lodge (03:28)

Can I, I love that because one of the main goals for the weekend for me is to actually find hidden gems. You know, everybody knows about the major attractions in the UK. Everybody knows about, you know, Alton towers is and the chasing tens and you know, some of the obvious ones, which are fantastic and amazing for the huge days out, but it’s not something you can do every weekend.

I always wanted to really support that small, hidden gem with the tiny businesses that you would tell your friend about somewhere that you’d pop along and have a coffee. And if there’s a small, soft play area in the corner. So we, we support and work with businesses that are a tiny little South Bay cafes, for example, right up to the lights of Alton towers and some of the biggest attractions, you know, across the country.

Susie Lodge (04:11)

And, and that’s what I love is that somebody can go on to the app or to the site and find something that they didn’t even know was seven minutes away from their house. And, um, I love that you’ve found some things on the app already. Fantastic. Because as I said, we’ve only been back here out of Dubai for two years and we moved out of London because we’re trying to get something bigger than a postage stamp, to be honest. And so we moved down South and it was actually really nice to have a look. And I was thinking, I was looking at it thinking how many gyms to like give away, I’ve got these woods walks, I’ve got lots of different things. Should we keep them away?

Susie Lodge (04:50)

Well, I’d love to hear about your career previous to being founder. Would he places for kids? So what brought you here? I absolutely say I spent the majority of my career working as a project manager and program director level jobs within, uh, agencies in London. So some of the big ones that people have heard of like MNC Saatchi. So I started, you know, as in, later on project management and worked my way up to the top, running here, do counts.

Did that for about 15 yeah, 15 years, which gave me all the skills that I needed to eventually build my platforms and build everything that I have. Guess that’s what the reason I felt confident just to throw it all together and create these two platforms. The app is actually across Android and iOS. So it’s actually three platforms because we have the website as well, but eventually having worked in, you know, I don’t live in London anymore.

Susie Lodge (05:41)

I live in Milton Keynes, so it’s an hour or so to get in and out of London. And what I found was that it just wasn’t viable anymore to, to have a career like that in London and try to have a family outside of London. I found myself so many times stuck on trains, you know, in between platforms, not knowing what was going on, signal failures, just so stressed, mentally fried ringing.

Everybody I could find to try and pick my children up from nursery. Everything was crunched all the time. And in the end, it just wasn’t viable both my luck cause my husband and I were both in London. So if the children were in nursery or had a problem at school, we were both two hours away. And as much as I loved that job and felt that it was, I was good at it, it just was eating away at me and I couldn’t do it anymore.

Susie Lodge (06:31)

Um, just the stress of being in and out of London all the time. And I, you know, as it’s turned out, most people now are able to run those jobs from home, which I’ve actually been doing a few contracts across the, this pandemic period. And I’ve actually been doing a few jobs back in the old world, which I’ve been running from home, but it suddenly, it does make the whole thing a lot more viable, but back in 2017, 2016, and you know, when I had my first job, 2013, it just wasn’t possible anymore for me to just continue running on that sort of highly stressed day all the time and running pregnant to this train station, just to end up having the door shut in front of me and, you know, go off just that happened too many times.

Heather Welch (07:14)

Oh no, I can definitely, I can definitely feel for you then, then the other thing is you get late fees if you’re late with childcare as well. I mean, I remember at the end of the term, looking at the late fees, thinking, why am I working sometimes? But I’ve been flexible for a few years now. How about you? How long have you actually worked flexible?

Susie Lodge (07:32)

So I run it to build Wiki alongside running the other career, I guess, right through, till about 2018. And since having Lily and in 2018, I’ve been running Wiki almost a hundred percent of the time. As I said, through the pandemic, I have dipped in and out and run another few contracts because obviously the pandemic is significantly affected lighting, industry, tourism and hospitality. And at one point back in March last year, I had just literally drew a blank about what an earth I was going to do going forward. Cause my entire business shuts overnights with the first lock down. And luckily that time at the contractor, Scott popped right in front of me.

running the business on my own independently from 2018 onwards, but it, you know, but I had a first year of maternity leave and then almost as soon as I was getting into the flow with it in 2020, we all know what happened then up and down. And you know, the point of recording this without you to send the children back to school on Monday the 8th of March, 2021. And obviously the plan is we currently have a plan in place for things to start opening again. So as things open, that means almost that my business starts to reopen.

Heather Welch (08:59)

Did you find that people were looking for different activities, but still activities online? So for example, if they looked up the museum, you could then see the online virtual, you know, obviously you can see it from anywhere, but did they start doing things like that on your app recommending glow, like more global activities or anything like that that are online.

Susie Lodge (09:18)

So the places that we have on the app where they didn’t change their content on the app, per se, I have quite an active social media accounts, which promotes days out. So what I did was I sort of pivoted and changed the content around to focus on activities that could be done at home or that were online for some of these businesses. But in all honesty, I mainly focused on what people could do outside. So what was the open, what you could do to exercise children outdoors because especially as a parent, who’s I have two children who would literally sit on tablets all day.

I figured my thing then to try and get them off the tablet as much as possible. And I think that that, although absolutely you’re right, that all the businesses themselves were trying to pivot to an online and some sort of online service online option.

I know that lots and lots of parents have been looking and children themselves have been looking for activities that they could do online with the amount of zoom lessons.

But yeah, I mean the trend obviously has been this year that a lot of people have ended up the entertainment industry for children has a hundred percent of the focus and what they can provide people from an online perspective, whether that’s, you know, games or tutorials or reading books to them, or lots of different things that different venues have tried to do to try and engage people in an online experience just to make sure they’re not forgotten about.

Susie Lodge (10:57)

And that’s the case. It’s like national history museum where they’re walking tours of the, of the museum is absolutely fabulous and also extremely educational and wonderful. And lots of people wouldn’t even have been able to make it to the natural history museum at all on a normal year, let alone in a, doing a pandemic year.

So, so a lot of the things that have been provided by these venues has been wonderful and they actually brought their experience to a home, into a family that might not have been able to experience it at all, either geographically or for whatever financial reasons that it might not have been able to, to do that. So I do think it’s been wonderful, but I would, I would also equally argue that people have been as much as wanting to absorb as much of that information as they possibly could.

Susie Lodge (11:36)

For rainy days. They have also looked to see what venues are still open, where they can go, that’s free, you know, how they can get outdoor experiences and walking and to the beach, for example, to forest, to Dunstable downs and other national trust properties that have remained just to try and get that healthy experienced of exercise and fresh air because otherwise, you know, you get children can, can sit in front of the tablet when something in front of a screen all day at the moment, especially if you’re a parent who’s trying to juggle a job, know all those things are things isn’t it awful lot to do.

Heather Welch (12:12)

You’re the cook the only, not really the driver and the taxi driver anymore, but you’re definitely the chef and the snacks and everything that goes with it. I think my children are gonna miss the most when they go back to school is the fact that they don’t have a running restaurant or snack drawer at the, you know, for some reason I think they must eat a lot more at home than they do at school. Let’s see. But I remember we did this, the nest side here, there was a NASA virtual, it was in the first lockdown where everything was very strict. I mean, this lockdown down actually hasn’t been as bad.

They haven’t closed all the playgrounds and things like that for this year. But I suppose my question to you is have you found since starting this platform, which I think is an amazing platform, Wiki places for kids, have you found that, you know, parents, what they’re looking for has changed, has the trends changed to being going from more baby classes or looking for, say, for example, I’m looking for a play gym to looking for natural history museum or looking for other sort of free activities over the last three years.

I would say

Susie Lodge(13:10)

When I first started the platform, actually I was looking at a much, much broader range of activities. And I was including at that point baby classes, doctoral classes, all those sorts of different things. But I actually have changed the focus a little bit on to more of the days out and the places to go specifically. But I wouldn’t say that people’s habits and what they are looking for has changed, particularly because depending on what stage of life you’re at with your parenting and how old your children are, you all have completely different needs.

So definitely there are still parents with children, little ones who are still looking for those classes, and they’re still looking for those safe contained venues where they can sit down for a moment with a cup of tea. And I know that their child is basically trapped within a little fence.

Susie Lodge(13:56)

You know, the people that are still one thing. And then what I would say though, is that more and more, there seems to be a, it’s not an appetite. Appetite is always been there, but venues are starting to recognize that there just isn’t enough for older children. And when I first started with the platform, we had tons and tons of ideas for little children with preschoolers, lots of soft plays, all of the usual things that you might expect, playgrounds, et cetera.

But then it almost seemed to cut off at eight years old. So I would often get people asking me, you know, your platform is no good for people for a over is a way of all the places for, for the eight, nine, 10, 11, 12. And my answer generally would be that it isn’t that the platform isn’t have it doesn’t have that information on that.

Susie Lodge (14:38)

It’s just that those places just don’t seem to exist. But what has been amazing I’ve squatted over the last few years is that there seems to be more and more and more things coming out. So as an example, they’re grilled adventure, which is part of the Merlin group, but it’s reasonably new it’s specifically for eight years and above. So you can’t take your younger ones there, that everything there is, it is a proper athletic activity for boys and girls of over eight and white adults.

You can go as an adult group, don’t even need to take children at all. And that’s what I love about the platform as well. It’s evolving so much to cover activities that adults can do without their children. And so that’s why I always called it that from the start it’s called Wiki for kids and grownups in the logo.

Susie Lodge (15:24)

Because as an adult, if you don’t like going somewhere, you’re not going to take your kids back, even if they loved it, you know, it’s your money, it’s your time. And you’ll, you know, life’s too short to keep revisiting experiences that you hate. So that’s the thing. So that the platform itself holds so many different ideas, but it is not an endless exhaustive list.

That’s what I, I never wanted to recreate. Some of the other platforms are out there, which are, you know, they might have 600,000 ideas on them, but as a parent, who’s struggling for time who really just wants to make a decision quickly for tomorrow or quickly for now. You want to go on there and have a short list of fantastic ideas and you just go, yes. And I know that those are already, the only reason they’re on Wiki is because they’re good.

Susie Lodge (16:05)

So we will not have bases on the side that are not good. So going back to my point about the open rates. Now, if you are a parent with overwrites, you know, that you can go onto the platform and find a whole bunch of ideas that are specifically tailored to an older group as well. So go wait for example, they have different offerings for the smaller ones, the babies, but also for the children who are maybe 12 up. So you know that you can get a lot more now for that age group, things like this, laser tags and sort of forest experiences. And

Heather Welch (16:36)

There’s like high ropes course, like go away the whole adventure, even paintballing,

Susie Lodge (16:43)

I guess there’s just so much more. So I would say what’s happened in terms of a trend is the businesses themselves was spotted that there has been a massive gap in the market because parents don’t want to just send their kids out into the streets to hang around in big groups with their friends. Do they, they want them to be doing something that’s good for them. That’s using their brain. That’s keeping them active and, and positive exercise time.

Just can see small things popping up all over the place now that are actually serving that age group as well, which is just really exciting. Especially as my child is seven, he’s super active. He’s going to be turning eight this year. And I can now just see that there is just lots of exciting things to us to be doing. And, but we have a two year old still. So we’re still doing all the other things that we were doing before.

Heather Welch (17:25)

Oh, Susie, I can understand I’ve got a 10 and a three-year-old. So we’ve got big gaps in between my two boys and both of them, the oldest one is very active and loves sort of mountain bike riding and all those kinds of things, which is always amazing. Well, now we’re coming out of lockdown and the kids are going back to school. What are your top three tips for Easter holidays? Or even for summer in the UK, what are top three things? And there be more that people could travel to or even go and see,

Susie Lodge (17:52)

Oh, absolutely. Well, my list is literally endless honestly, but I, because there’s just so many wonderful things out there, but I think that what, you know, thinking about it through the parent lens for now, we’re still probably going to be looking at the outdoors aren’t we absolutely. I mean, the indoor venues aren’t even going to be opening until a later in a few months time anyway, but we’ve got some fantastic places that you can be going with the children to enjoy some big days out and small days out.

Now, one of our absolute favorites is over in Norfolk and it’s called the wielder word is I’m a curious tree, top adventure. And it’s just amazing. It’s basically high ropes and tree houses and huge slides. And it’s just really, really magical experience for the small ones who might not be able to do so much of the climbing.

Susie Lodge (18:41)

It’s just, as I said, it’s just so wonderful. Tom Blofeld is an author. And the, and the whole place is created around the history books about the boggles and the Twiggles. And it’s just extremely magical. It’s just lovely. But for the older ones, that there’s just a step wires and there’s huge climbing frames and massive tree houses, as I was saying, and, and big ropes that go between the forest, it’s just incredible den building. It’s just a really amazing experience.

It’s all outdoors. The only problem with it is if it rains, you know, there’s not an awful place to go, but it’s just amazing. I’ve right over in, um, in Wales, in Pembroke chair, there’s an incredible place called folly farm, which on, in usual times, it has almost as much indoors as it has outdoors because it’s got something like, I’m not, don’t quote me on this particularly, but it’s got something like Europe’s biggest indoor amusement park there as well.

Susie Lodge(19:36)

So it’s almost like a fair indoors. It’s just amazing. Um, but outside, they’ve got incredible adventure parks and they’ve got animals. So they’ve got lions there. They’ve got lots of sparring animals. It’s just a huge place that just offers so much. And I really love it. So if you’re ever in Wales, you must definitely go to folly farm. It’s just not the place to mess up in Cheshire. There’s somewhere called the ice cream farm, which is just amazing.

I mean, it kind of says what it is, but it’s, um, they, they make their own dairy ice cream. There. There’s a huge adventure playground in, in normal times. It’s not open right now, but obviously that’s, the workplaces are a shop right now today, but they will be opening up in the next few weeks, but it’s just somewhere. That is again, it’s just tantalizing for the little ones.

Susie Lodge (20:19)

You’d get something lovely to eat with your treat. And yet there’s something that we haven’t been there ourselves yet, but it’s just, it’s definitely on my bucket list. And another place then, which is down in Devon is called the big sheep. Now, obviously it’s one of these huge open farms. There’s just so many different activities there.

Usual times they’ve got indoor soft play and lots of indoor play areas, but outside, they’ve just got tons of activities, adventure, playgrounds, just so much more. There’s just so many to do. And you know, you only asked me for three and I’ve already given you four. But another thing to obviously say, as opposed to England are just incredible. So many of them then you’d have weight attached to them as well, which is, um, which is just brilliant, but beds burry, for example, [inaudible], which is in Kent, does, it might, may not be too far away from you.

Susie Lodge (21:05)

I’m not quite your way where you live, but it’s just outside of London. It’s got literally, I don’t know. I can probably count off the top of my head now, eight different play areas. And it’s just amazing. So for the bigger kids, they’ve got a lot there to just burn off that energy, but they’ve also got areas that are specifically tailored to the small ones. So you can feel confident that in that forest, you’re going to find one or two little parks just to keep you in 10 for the whole day. It’s definitely an all day event as well.

Just, you know, on a great sunny day, it’s proper sun trap. Really enjoy it, but if you want more ideas and please, please, please have a look at the app and have it at the site or DME on, on Instagram. Because as you can tell, I’m probably love talking about these things and I could literally reel off a whole bunch of people depending on what they’re looking for. Susie,

Heather Welch  (21:53)

It sounds amazing. I bet you’ve got the best excuse to take your kids out and about for work actually all the time. So I think that you’ve going to have one of the very fun summer evening. We’re all stuck in UK. So let’s see how that plans out in the next few months. I’ve got a question for businesses. Now, if I’m a business and not necessarily a parent, can I upload my business, which is for kids onto your website or email you and then get parents to review it? Is it, can you do that as well?

Susie Lodge (22:23)

Yeah, absolutely. So the best thing to do is if you’re not on there already, I mean, first and foremost, if you have customers that, you know, really well, just say to them, w you know, we’d love a review on a weekly basis and send them to my site. So that’s the first thing to do. If that’s not possible, then drop me a line and we can talk about how we’re going to get you on. And, um, you know, the more the merrier, because it’s never, ever going to be an exhaustive list. It’s never going to have 600,000 venues on there, but what I don’t want is to miss out on the great places. So, um, perhaps you can just drop me a line and we’ll, we’ll talk about how to get you on board,

Heather Welch (22:55)

Susie. Fantastic. Now, can you let everyone know how to get in touch with you, your, our listeners to get in touch with you?

Susie Lodge (23:00)

Absolutely. So the website is on Wiki places for and it’s available on iOS and Android.  Can only have to do a search for Wiki games, which is w I K I K I D S on either the play store or the iPhone app store.  Find me on Instagram at Wiki places for kids underscore official. Where else can you find me on Facebook as forward slash working best for kids?

Heather Welch (23:27)

Susie, I have to say, thank you very much for chatting with us today. It’s been amazing, and I love where he places for kids, cause I can go on there. But as I said to you at the start, I’ve already gone on there. And I put in my parents in law, I put in their postcode to see what’s around them. Cause they kind of get exhausted of my two boys. Then I put in my postcode as well to see what I could, where I could go.

So it’s amazing. It did bring up a lot of places that I hadn’t even heard of to be honest and things, as you said, that would cater for both of my children. So for the younger child and the older one as well. So what a great idea and thank you for founding it. It’s just one of these amazing things, treasures that we need to share.

Susie Lodge (24:04)

Well, thank you so much. And there’s one other thing to say is that, you know, the app is as good as we make it. So it’s a community app and platform. And if you find that on, there you go onto the site and the app and that something is missing. Then on the third tab of the app and at the top bar, it says, suggested wicking place. You can just add places that you love. The big thing I’m really pushing to everybody this year was by adding places to the app. You’re going to be really helping those cases by driving footfall to them and really supporting them as we come out of this pandemic.

So there are so many places, unfortunately will not open their doors again this time because they’ve suffered so much. So the more people that go onto the app and share the app and use it and also add new places, you know, you’re really, really be doing your part to help those businesses stay strong and stay open throughout this whole time. We don’t know where we’re going. Do we with this pandemic? We don’t know if this is the end.

Heather Welch (25:09)

Hopefully the outdoor places will be able to stay open for the rest. Even if the outdoor places get open, it would be fantastic. But as soon as you said, it’s a community app. So please upload your information. If you have a secret treasure that you’re willing to share. Wiki places for kids would end grownups, I should say is one of the best places to share it. So thank you Susie, for joining us.

I really, really enjoyed it. Thank you. There are so many exciting developments happening right now in education. edx education would love to hear from you. So do you get in touch with subscribe to our podcast, which is available on Apple pod beans, Spotify tune-in and so many more, this podcast series is brought to you by Heather Welch, edx education. The she’d like to say let’s create lifelong learners.