Iritsia van 't Wout
My suitcase used to be my best friend. I spent seven years living and working on construction sites in China, Aruba and Canada. My life as an architectural designer couldn’t have been more different to my life now, in Haarlem.
A holiday back home in 2008 turned my life upside down. I met a wonderful man and thought – now, that’s a man you don’t meet on the corner every day! I resigned, happy in love, and made my way back to The Netherlands with plans of family and a quiet life.
My friends will tell you, however, that I’m not very good at the quiet life. I always need a challenge. Somewhere I can channel my big heart, passion for life, and inner entrepreneur.
So I started looking for a new adventure with my partner and my first daughter, Kiki, by my side.
Two different sets of friends told me about The Little Gym. They thought it would be the perfect class for Kiki, and might also give me the entrepreneurial challenge I needed.
I first took Kiki to The Little Gym Amsterdam when she was seven months old. In just one hour, I realized that my daughter was capable of so much more than I had imagined. It was so wonderful, in fact, that I started talking to The Little Gym Europe about opening a The Little Gym franchise. And in 2014, we took the plunge and opened The Little Gym Haarlem.
Today, we welcome nearly 300 families to The Little Gym Haarlem each week, helping them to have that special experience that Kiki and I shared all those years ago. And that my youngest daughter, Lilou and I now share as well. We pride ourselves on giving parents and children of all ages an hour of special time each week. A chance for fun, relaxation, bonding and learning away from the distractions of the outside world. Some parents tell us that they learn more about their children in that one hour than they do all week. That’s because we create a place where every child can be him or herself. We nurture and challenge them, give them the courage to step outside their comfort zone, build their confidence, and make them stronger in every way. Each child is different – they have weak points and strong points. We love all those points. And we get that love back ten- fold from the children. Sometimes they run in, jump up and hug their instructors so tight that it feels like they’ll never let go.
One mother told us that her daughter asks every night ‘is today a little gym day?’ On the night before class one week, she dressed her daughter in pyjamas and put her to bed. The next morning, she found her daughter asleep in her Gym clothes – fully prepared since midnight, her pyjamas forgotten on the floor.
It’s an incredible privilege to play such a happy, positive role in a child’s life. I’m thankful every day to parents for giving us the opportunity.Iritsia van ‘t WoutOwner – The Little Gym Haarlem