2021 Publishers’ LOVE Award: Vivi & Dario Zayas, Lulu’s Casita
"Keep on moving even if it’s just a step, but you keep on swimming and moving towards your goals."
We are pleased to present Vivi & Dario Zayas with a Publishers’ LOVE Award for their tenacity, resiliency, and creativity in delighting local families throughout 2020 and beyond.
Lulu’s Casita opened its doors in 2013 as the very first play cafe on the Main Line. They offer a safe and clean space for kiddos under 6 years of age and their caregivers to come together, play, socialize and celebrate diversity. They offer weekly bilingual story time, music circle, special family events such a BYOB pizza night, family “Bruncho,” special character appearances, private birthday parties, and off-site backyard birthday parties.
What pivots did you make in 2020? How did your organization evolve to meet the needs of your clients through the pandemic?
Oh boy, we really had to think outside the box to make 2020 work. Since our families couldn’t come to Lulu’s, we had to come up with ways of taking Lulu’s to them. We came up with the idea of “Lulu’s Bunny Tour” during Easter time, and the Grinch and Elf on the Shelf during the holiday season when we were hit with the second shutdown. We put together Birthday in a Box with all the essentials for a mini celebration, activity boxes that we delivered. We did virtual calls with Princesses and Santa during Christmas. We took all of our big signature community events outside, even in the winter. A few years ago we added the concept of “backyard fiestas” but it wasn’t until 2020 that we really pushed it, and now with people feeling more comfortable gathering outside it has become a huge success and definitely helping us get back on our feet.
What is one thing you know now, in running a business, that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Make sure you have “how to survive a pandemic” in your business plan! All jokes aside, the emotional and mental load one carries while you are running a business is perhaps even more draining than the physical work you put in everyday running your business.
What is one thing you wish more people know about your organization in 2021?
That our doors are open! We many offerings from private playdates, to Lulu’s at-home activities, we are hosting private parties and regular open play.
To what do you attribute your success?
I try to think outside the box, keep on innovating, thinking of new things and events. Hard work and loving what you do.
How does your organization help the local community?
During the never-ending shutdown our special characters made visits to nursing homes and kids in lower-income areas to deliver some cheer. We kept on delivering our birthday baskets to our community members in need. Our very own Mama Lulu helped register countless people in the BIPOC community for their vaccines.
What are your goals for the future?
Get back to our pre-Covid days and expanding on our “backyard fiestas.” We have something huge in the works and we can’t wait to share the news soon!
What does resilience mean to you?
Rolling with the punches, keep on moving even if it’s just a step, but you keep on swimming and moving towards your goals. It means working hard and having a supportive system next to you.
Lead photo by AMC Photography Studios at the 2021 LOVE Awards Celebration.