Coventry Rocks owner Jess McLish explains how she's supporting local businesses during lockdown
While lockdown has presented huge challenges for everyone, in many ways, it’s also helped to bring us together, encouraging us to reach out and support each other’s work.
Recently set up as part of the My Town Rocks franchise, Coventry Rocks is a brilliant new platform full of handy tips and guides for families, focusing on what’s happening in the city. Since lockdown started, they’ve been big supporters of our online programme, Between Stages, so we wanted to share the love and shine a spotlight on what they’ve been up to in return.
“Coventry Rocks is the ultimate what’s on guide for families in the Coventry area,” explains Jess. “The website (usually) has a large selection of baby and toddler groups, local attractions, family-friendly events, day trips, and handy guides. It is super easy to use, with a ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ button, so families can find a wide range of things to do locally, at the touch of a button.”
Jess’s motivation to start up a family-focused guide to Coventry was born out of her own experiences as a mother.
“When I became a mum, I found it difficult to find baby groups and places to go with my daughter. There are so many brilliant baby groups locally, but I would spend hours trawling the internet trying to find something suitable.
“What I needed was a ‘one stop shop’ for everything in the area. It was the same for activities over the weekends, we would tend to visit the same places over and over again, because we didn’t know where else to go!
“I stumbled across the My Town Rocks franchise in 2019 when I had just found out I was pregnant with my second daughter. The site was already established in Cheltenham, Cirencester, and other places, and hugely popular with local parents. I fell in love with the functionality of the website, it is so easy to use, and as a mum myself I could imagine using it for inspiration of places to take my family. So I bit the bullet and started Coventry Rocks!”
Since launching in December 2019 – a great time to start, with a huge range of Christmas events to cover – Jess has received some fantastic feedback from local families, and has quickly built up an appreciative network of local businesses and organisations in the city.
“I have been delighted with the response so far! Our Facebook and Instagram pages receive new followers every single day, as the word spreads amongst local parents, and the website has received some brilliant feedback – my favourite example is below. It’s so exciting to know the website has helped a new mum to find her way and meet new friends.”
“"I am a new mum and just recently moved to the area. Coventry Rocks really helped me to find my way, discover the area and to meet other mums. Baby groups, parks, baby friendly restaurants, family activities for the weekends - I just found everything on there. It's so well maintained (incl. their Instagram and Facebook pages) and easy to find what you're looking for. Even now during the covid-19 lock down, I found groups to join online and keep ourselves busy whilst I'm housebound with my little one. Can definitely recommend the page :-)" ”
“I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know and supporting local businesses like the Belgrade and local baby/toddler groups. Over the last few months I have built relationships with a lot of local businesses offering online classes and resources, as I have helped to promote them. It’s so important to support small local businesses during this unsettling time.”
While Coventry Rocks was already web-based and Jess has been able to continue working on it during the lockdown, the impact of the situation on other businesses she works with has had a big knock-on effect on the site.
“Prior to COVID-19, I was showcasing over 70 baby and toddler groups, heaps of local attractions, parks, events, and day trips. All of this had to be removed from the website with immediate effect!
“I really wanted to ensure Coventry Rocks remained a relevant and useful tool for local parents, and so I re-focused the website to ‘staying at home’. Thankfully, I found a number of great online activities and events popping up from thoughtful people across the country – from storytimes with celebrities, to fitness classes, learning resources, and virtual farm visits! I also reached out to the baby and toddler groups locally who were launching online sessions, and I have helped to promote those – including baby massage, dancing, drama, music, science, and even Spanish!
“As well as changing all of the listings on the website, I have also written a collection of handy articles to support parents through this challenging time, including 50 Things to Do at Home, Top Tips for Homeschooling and my Family Favourites Series.
“As the guidelines have started to relax, and we have been allowed to visit more outdoor spaces, I have adapted the website accordingly. I quickly published info about all of Coventry’s parks and open spaces, and I have created a large number of new listings too – ‘hidden gems’ such as local nature reserves, and woodland walks. This has been really useful for families looking for somewhere a little quieter to visit. My latest article, Family Friendly Walks in Coventry, has been hugely popular, as families are looking for new and different places to explore, and a great way to keep the kids active!”
Despite the setbacks of working through a pandemic, Jess is positive about the future and looking forward to strengthening her connections with other organisations in the city once the lockdown is lifted.
“Over the next few months I will continue to react to the latest guidelines and add local attractions as they start to open up again. When I do so, I am ensuring the guidance is clear for visitors – such as the need for booking tickets, toilets and cafes being closed, etc.
“I plan to support local baby and toddler groups once they are ready to move back to face to face sessions, as well as any local community groups such as stay-and-play sessions and libraries. I will continue to keep local parents inspired via the Facebook and Instagram pages, bringing them new and different ideas every single day.”
“For any local businesses, if you are running a class in the Coventry area, or if you are looking to promote an attraction or event, then please get in touch by emailing email@example.com.”