Oh Hey Parallel Play
An interview with Parallel Play owner Rachel Glaser Lawrence
Q. Oh hey Rachel! Thanks so much for speaking with us today. Tell us how you describe Parallel Play in just one or two sentences.
A. Hey hey! I’m so glad I get the opportunity! Oh gosh. Ok: Parallel Play. Parallel Play is a sensory gymnastics gym that provides both therapy and adaptive gymnastics to children of all abilities. It’s a happy place where kiddos get to learn how to move their bodies in a safe way which in turn helps them learn skills they need for play, school, self care...just...life. We’re all about empowering children and families to increase independence and confidence so they can do what’s most important to them!
Q. That’s fantastic! It sounds like the work you do truly makes a difference in kiddos’ lives, and that is so in line with our Stanifesto. So thank you for this work. Now tell us, what’s the most fun part of your job?
A. I’m so lucky to be able to do this for a living. The most fun is definitely getting to be a part of those “aha” moments. I’ve had kids who have learned how to walk in my gym, learned how to tie shoes at the end of a session, or have learned how to simply say “I’m frustrated” or “I need a break” without throwing a tantrum. Those are those BIG moments that we celebrate! There are a lot of challenging times and hard work behind the scenes that lead up to those moments, but those are definitely the most fun.
Q. Beautiful! Your spot at Stanley is located on the second floor, between Base Coat Nail Salon and Kinesis Pilates. And we bet lots of people who walk by notice your big chalkboard wall, where there are often inspirational (and Instagrammable!) messages. How did you come up with that idea? How often do you change what’s on the chalkboard wall?
A. For a while I considered doing a mural on that wall, but I had way too many concepts that I was passionate about expressing...hence the chalkboard! It’s become a creative place to express positive messages, seasonal greetings, social justice and more. I aim to change the placement of the mats, obstacle courses, equipment, and the chalkboard at least twice a month. Novelty is fuel for the brain no matter what the age. I never want this small but dynamic space to become stale, and our chalkboard definitely plays a part in that!
Q. That makes so much sense! Also, a fun fact: a photo of one of the messages on your chalkboard wall was the most popular Instagram post on our @ohheystanley Instagram in 2020, reaching more than 24,000 people! Of all the messages you’ve put there so far, do you have a favorite?
A. I think my favorite has to be the first one: I drew it at 3 in the morning the night before we opened. It featured a checklist that stated “I am brave, strong, smart, and kind.” Although it certainly wasn’t my most artistic work, it was the most true to what Parallel Play strives to do—to help children recognize and maximize these characteristics in themselves!
Q. Ah, that’s fantastic! And we love that you drew it at 3AM. It’s been a strange and challenging year to be a small business owner. How has Covid affected the work you do?
A. Oh man. March 2020 was going to be a very big month for Parallel Play, with brand new open gyms and small groups slated to start the very day the Marketplace was shut down. When the shutdown began, my efforts immediately turned to advocating with the state to allow telehealth services to become reimbursable through Medicaid and Insurance. Many of my one on one therapy clients utilize these funding sources, and I wanted to find a way that they could continue being served, even if it wasn’t the most ideal. Thankfully telehealth was approved and I was able to continue providing virtual services for several months before we were able to open back up. Since then it’s just been one-on-one therapy sessions in the gym with all precautions and ongoing telehealth for some families, planning for and dreaming of the day when those open gym and small groups can happen!
Q. It’s so great you were able to advocate for those families and get telehealth approved. We have seen so many business owners here go above and beyond this year. Bravo. This may be a tough question, but what other Stanley businesses are your favorites, or ones you frequent the most?
A. It’s been downright inspiring to see how so many of my fellow business owners have pivoted during this crazy year! That is a tough question! I tend to run down to Trunk Nouveau when I need to grab a last minute gift or card. When I’m not pregnant, Cheluna is perfect to grab a beer with my husband after a long day. I do grab a quick empanada in between patients from Maria Empanada fairly often. Honestly, I have and do frequent all of our businesses as much as I can to shop, eat, and receive services!
Q. Same! What’s next for Parallel Play?
A. Hiring! I have been a one woman show long enough! I am bringing on my first additional therapist early next year to help cover my maternity leave, and do hope to bring on more occupational and physical therapists next year to be able to reach more families who would benefit from services! I think it’s going to be a year of a lot of growth (and working out kinks, of course) for Parallel Play, and the prospect both excites and terrifies me.
Q. And what’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s thinking about starting their own business right now?
A. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Of course it’s crucial to have a plan, but here’s the thing: none of us truly have it all figured out! That’s no excuse not to try! If the amount of downright painful lessons and mistakes and mishaps I’ve gone through as a young entrepreneur isn’t a testament to “learning from experience,” I don’t know what is! I feel like I’ve had to learn a lot of things the hard way and every day has its own set of challenges, but those experiences have helped make me a more resilient, flexible, and seasoned business owner. As a new business owner, I’ve worked more and harder than I ever have in my life, but I love what I do and love the way this experience continues to stretch and mold me into a stronger and more confident human. So I say develop a general plan, know that there will be MANY hurdles, but go for it anyway!
That is excellent advice, in a few different ways! Thank you for sharing your story with us. We’re thrilled to have you and Parallel Play as part of our #StanleyFamily of businesses!