We speak to Max Jennings, who came up with the idea of the family app, Hoop.
Hoop, the free app that lists everything going on for kids, is less than two years old but is already used by more than 600,000 parents … and is predicted to reach the one million mark by early 2018. Listing more than 50,000 different children’s activities across Britain each month, tit has quickly become the must have download for parents.
The idea for Hoop grew out of a group of dads regularly struggling to find fun kids’ activities in their local area, despite many hours of searching online. There was no easy way to find them and many great activities were operating ‘under the radar’. Max Jennings, dad and co-founder of Hoop, remembers: “We often ended up doing the same thing as the previous weekend. It felt like we were stuck in Groundhog Day.”
Max realised parents were short on time to research activities but had a lot of time to fill with entertaining their kids and was surprised there wasn’t a smarter way to find what was on for families. Working with some close friends, they launched an early version of the app that allowed parents to find things happening locally that their kids would love in just a few taps. Everything you see on Hoop is personalised to your family, saving parents time by only recommending activities that are age-appropriate and close to home.
“Our goal from the start was to make it as easy as possible to uncover and book new and fun activities near where you live. The immediate response was positive and thanks to strong word of mouth we began to grow quickly as parents What’s App’d and shared us on social media.”
Within its first year, Hoop was picked by Apple as one of its 10 best apps of 2016. Since then, Hoop’s coverage in Britain has grown and grown – giving the team at Hoop a unique perspective on the mind-boggling variety of kids’ activities happening across the country.
“There are so many talented, passionate people inspiring and entertaining our children, so we naturally feel proud to help connect parents with the fun things happening for families in their local area,” says Max. “It is amazing when you see a child discover a real passion – something clicks and it might stay with them for the rest of their life.”
Since September 2017, Hoop’s listings have covered the whole country, giving the small Clerkenwell team an insight into where the best (and worst!) places are to live when it comes to activities for children. Edinburgh has the most activities for babies and toddlers, while Brighton is the best place for children aged up to 11, along with specific areas in London – though there are big differences between one borough and the next. Kingston upon Thames has the most events and the City of London has the biggest percentage (72%) of free activities, largely thanks to several museums running great programmes of free kids’ events.
“Hoop’s success has been based on building up a good understanding of the challenges parents face in keeping their children entertained,” explains Max. “Parenting is rewarding but it can also be tough and sometimes lonely. If you’re having a particularly hard day, getting out of the house, meeting other parents and sharing your ups and downs can really help put things into perspective. Particularly for parents with babies and toddlers.”
One of the big trends that Hoop has recently noticed is the phenomenon of ‘bring your own baby’ events, aimed at entertaining parents as well as little ones. Baby and toddler raves such as Big Fish Little Fish are a great example, hosting huge family raves with professional DJs and a licensed bar for the adults as well as glitter cannons, bubbles, craft corners and more for the kids. Other popular events include comedy shows, classical music concerts and lectures – all hosted in an environment where babies can be babies, but the entertainment is very much for the parents.
Hoops’ goal is to help families to discover new things they’ll love. “We try to live up to that ideal at home,” says Max. “Our elder daughter, Maya, is four years old and she loves anything which involves arts or crafts – our kitchen is awash with poster paints and craft glue and the fridge door is an ever-changing art gallery. Marnie has just turned two and she loves anything that involves music. When the girls are a little older, I hope to keep introducing them to as many new experiences and fun activities as possible, so they really get the benefit of growing up in London and the huge variety of things the city can offer.”