Women-Owned Business Series: Rita & Mary Ellen from PlayWell Brooklyn

Welcome back to our Women-Owned Business Series! We are happy to feature PlayWell Brooklyn, founded & co-owned by Rita & Mary Ellen! With a passion for inclusivity and wellness, the pair created an integrated playspace for children to enjoy, while also developing social skills & staying active. Read on to learn about their journey and how PlayWell supports Brooklyn’s children!

First, tell us about your business and anything special we should know about it or you.

PlayWell Brooklyn is an inclusive playspace, offering a sensory-rich play based experience and gym space within a calm and non over stimulating environment. We offer group classes and after-school programming, and open play for kids and families of all ages. We create an interactive and engaging social environment through unique experiences with the use of obstacle courses, swings, soft play equipment, zip lining, and climbing walls; providing opportunities for kids and families to connect socially while building strength, coordination, endurance and joy!

Why do you feel a connection to your work?

As someone who also lives with sensory sensitivities, and having worked with children in the community for over a decade, I have felt the need for a sensory inspired play space for a long time. It brings me joy to be able to be able to offer play experiences through intentional design and fostering a safe, socially inclusive environment for all families.

As a business owner, community is everything. In what ways do you serve your community and how has your community served you?

As pediatric OTs, we’ve both served families and children within our community for over a decade. We’ve been able to collaborate and work with other disciplines, in schools and in homes, and witness the children we work with grow and thrive through our work. It’s really an honor to be a part of this community.

What advice would you give to young women who want to start a small business?

Just keep going! Do the next right thing! The list is long, but meaningful =)

What women inspire you and why?

I find inspiration in women who are constantly committed to personal growth and making positive changes in their lives and the world around them. In my opinion, every woman is a source of inspiration and empowerment!

What do you think are the most significant challenges for women business owners or women in leadership positions?

As new women business owners, it’s been quite a learning curve! I’ve been talking about the concept of PlayWell for years, and it always felt like no one took me seriously! It wasn’t easy finding a partner who also believed in the vision and was willing to take on the risks of starting a small business. Aside from the challenges of gender bias for women in business, seeking mentorship, financing, and especially juggling work and family responsibilities – it’s a lot to handle! It’s crucial for us to recognize and address these challenges, support and uplift women in their endeavors, and create a more inclusive and equitable world for everyone.

PlayWell is taking their summer and fall schedule live in early June! Check out their website for announcements new class schedules, evenings events, workshops, and new offerings.

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