Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Anne-Marie O'Hanlon

Anne-Marie O'HanlonANNE-Marie O'Hanlon, 38, runs Charlie's Den, an indoor adventure play and party centre for children based on the Moira Road. She set up the business with her husband Tony a few months ago after deciding to take the plunge and follow her dream.

Anne-Marie is originally from Lisburn but now lives in Crumlin with Tony and their two children Declan and Molly. She worked in an office for 19 years and then worked part time in a School Kitchen, all the while pondering the idea of a children's centre. In the new year the couple put their plan into action and everything fell into place. The name of the business is in memory of Tony's father Charlie who sadly passed away.

I'm up from 1am and I leave my house at 8.30am and drive into work. When I arrive I switch on all the electrical equipment and make sure the water boiler is on too.

The centre opens Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm and on Sundays from 1pm - 6pm. As I am in early I use this time to sort out deliveries for the coffee shop and make note of stock required as well as making sure the equipment is clean and safe for when the children start to arrive with their parents. The frame area is dismantled once a week and thoroughly cleaned and sanitised.

My role is to oversee the general running of the centre and I spend most of my time serving customers and talking to kids.

The centre is for children aged 0 - l l and they must be accompanied by an adult. The children take their shoes off at reception and their parents are asked to sign them in. The adults can watch their children from the coffee shop or stay with them while they are using the equipment. While we have dedicated staff making sure the children and equipment is safe, it is the adult's responsibility to look after their children when they are using the centre. We will supervise but it is up to the Parents to check their children are ok. There's a frame for the older children to use, a sports court and a baby and toddlers section too so all the children can have fun. The four lane wavy slide is very popular as is the drop free fall slide. The frame has three tiers and the children enjoy using it.

It's a great way for children to play safely and at the same time be stimulated by the colours and pictures on the equipment. It is also good for the parents to be able to interact with their children.

If I get time to myself I work on the administration side of things which includes payroll and making sure we are adhering to the health and safety requirements and training needed for such a business.

I check the diary each day and see if the centre has been hired for any parties and if so I will make sure there are 'enough food supplies in the kitchen and that the cooks know well in advance.

I really enjoy running this business with my husband. Our family have been very good at helping us out. Towards the end of the day the centre is cleaned and the tills are balanced and then once everything is secure we leave and head home for dinner with the children.

Once the youngest child is in bed I probably do some work at home as often I don't get time to finish the paper work at the centre. I'm delighted that the business is up and running. It is a dream come true and I wish I had the nerve to do it years ago. Nothing ventured nothing gained is definitely a true saying. Everything just fell in to place when we decided to set it up and it is all working out well and we are enjoying the support of the local community.

Ulster Star