Small Business Saturday Featuring Little Land Play Gym
An Austin Original Comes to Katy!
Little Land Play Gym offers a fun and developmental gym environment that fosters holistic growth through unstructured play, creativity and imagination. Founded in Austin, TX, it’s a place designed to offer something enjoyable and engaging for children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Little Land Play Gym was birthed in the heart of Debbie Garcia-Beltz, a pediatric occupational therapist for nearly 20 years.
After working in children’s hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities, Debbie dreamed of creating a place for all kids to play together and have fun, all while developing foundational skills that are instrumental to their growth, including gross motor, fine motor, sensory processing and speech and language skills.
Ernie & Debbie Beltz founded the Little Land concept in 2014. The concept it centered on being a play-based gym designed to promote growth of core developmental skills for children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. They opened the doors to their first location on April 3, 2015, in Austin and the company has since grown to include 10 locations in Texas with other franchises set to open up around the globe.
Little Land Play Gym was also a 2018 winner of the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition and was named a Best Place to Work in Austin, Texas in 2018.
And now we’ve got one in Katy, mamas!
Set for their grand opening today, we thought it fitting to feature this mama and hubby duo who are so excited to bring Little Land to Katy! We got to stop in to the facility yesterday and meet the Katy owners, Alicia and Norman, as well as their CEO Ernie.
Mamas, never have we met such inviting, kind people who are also so passionate about what they’re doing. Little Land isn’t just another indoor playground, it’s a place where all kids can feel accepted and welcome. This is a company that’s truly doing good, spreading good, and so excited to spread their message here in our community of Katy.
The Katy owners, Alicia & Norman Witmer, decided to bring Little Land to a community they’re new to, as well! They’ve been in Katy only a few months, but quickly saw there was nothing like Little Gym in the area. Alicia first fell in love with the Little Land concept shortly after the birth of her sweet daughter Norah Grace while living in Temple, TX. Her husband Norman was stationed there in the military and at the time was deployed to Afghanistan. With no family around and a new baby, Alicia knew she needed to get Norah out and meeting other kiddos. A friend told her about Little land and she fell in love with the entire concept and staff. It was a place all kiddos and parents could come and enjoy. The Little Land in Temple community quickly became like a family and a place she could take her daughter Norah weekly.
When The Witmer’s had the chance to relocate in Texas and got Katy, Alicia knew she wanted to bring Little Land with her. Nothing quite like it in Katy, Little Land offers open play for all ages, physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. They also offer classes & programs, parties, camps, and events. And they open their doors for the first time tomorrow to the public.
We got to chat with the inspiring mama behind it all about this new business, how she balances it all with her joy of being a mother, and who inspires her most as an entrepreneur.
Where are you from and how long have you lived in Katy?
We are originally from South Carolina. My husband and co-owner of Little Land Katy is a soldier in the US army so we have lived all over. We just recently moved to Katy 2 months ago from Fort Hood (Killeen).
You’re a mama yourself! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
Yes! I am a stepmother to my 5 year old stepdaughter (my heart grown child) and mother to my sweet and sassy 2 year old daughter.
You first discovered Little Land in Temple/Killeen, what excited you about it and why was it different from any other indoor play gym?
We were at Fort Lee, Virginia where I gave birth to my daughter Norah Grace. 2 weeks later my husband received orders to Fort Hood, TX. I was in a new state, had no friends or family and suffered from postpartum anxiety.
To make matters a little more tough, my husband received orders to deploy to Afghanistan when Norah was 4 months. It was already hard enough for me to get out of the house but I knew it was time to step up and Norah needed social interaction and to get out of the house. I had a friend tell me about Little Land Temple that was a more relaxed area to take Norah and they offered many different ways to get involved with other families. I absolutely fell in love, I had somewhere to meet other moms who were going through the same position I was in or had their own anxiety going to play areas because their children had a special need and could not play at other indoor playgrounds. We got involved with story time every week and sensory art class. Little Land was a safe place for not only children of all ages and abilities but also it’s own community for parents as well. I knew every city needed a Little Land so I made it my mission to help this amazing company grow! With help from our CEO we found Katy, TX and here we are! It is my mission to serve this community and to make everyone feel welcomed and accepted no matter what they have going on in life.
What made you want to bring Little Gym to Katy?
We were able to pick one move after Norman was back from his deployment. Our CEO filled us in on Houston and San Antonio. We prayed so much for God to tell us where would be belong. After visiting both areas we knew we belonged in Houston. We took a look around Sugar Land and Katy. Katy really stuck out to us and felt family oriented. We finally felt in our hearts we were right where God wanted us.
What can the Katy community expect from Little Gym?
We will always have something to bring the community together and that is so important to us. From story times, art classes, music classes, (many other classes in the works), camps, parents night out, and events. We would love to host mom meet ups, have schools/daycares do field trips.
Name one thing that makes your business unique in your space or industry?
We are FUN developmental play. No tokens for tickets, no electronics. Our equipment is designed by physical, occupational and speech therapists to provide play that engages the growth of:
-fine motor skills
-gross motor skills
-speech and language skills
-social and emotional development
What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner in the Katy so far?
This is our first time living outside of a military town for long time. I was worried how to reach out to the community and also connecting with people that do not have that one thing in common I am so used to, being a military spouse. Katy has blown me away. We have had so many fellow business owners reach out to us and send their support. Being a business owner in Katy not only feels like being a special part of the community, but also as a part of a family.
How has the Katy area community had an impact on your business?
The community has been so helpful- everyone’s asked how they can help with our launch! We’ve had so many people reach out to bring flyers, cater our events, and even have our flyers in their store/on their products. The outpouring of support has been amazing.
What’s one thing you’d like to go back and tell the you before you were a business owner?
You CAN get past through postpartum anxiety, you CAN go from stay-at-home mom to business owner. Anything is possible, go after every dream. It is okay to ask for help, get help from everyone who offers. Ask for help whenever you feel you need it.
Advice for anyone wanting to start their own business?
Go after your dreams with every amount CONFIDENCE you have and more, seriously believe in yourself. Make everyone take you seriously as well. Reach out and make people listen to your ideas, plans, goals. Keep pushing yourself when everything starts to get overwhelming. Keep pushing yourself when things start to go wrong.
When things get hard, what’s one thing you tell yourself to keep going when running a business?
You have little eyes watching you. Make your daughters proud, be an example that you can reach goals you never thought could happen.
Personally I am religious so I constantly pray and I know this is my calling. I remind myself that God would not give my anything I couldn’t handle so I will always push through and I know God is right along side me when things get hard.
Who most inspires you in business or entrepreneurship?
The CEO of our company, Ernie Beltz. He has been a boss, a mentor, just an outstanding business person. Also, Little Land Temple owner Casie Wadford. She is a mother and grandmother and runs two locations now (Waco and Temple). If you walk into those facilities you will find her cleaning, talking to customers, restocking, decorating doing it all. You will never find her sitting down she is so passionate about Little Land and it is very inspiring. I am lucky to have learned so much from her.
How do you balance being a business owner and your busy family life?
Though this is something I am still trying to figure out, the perfect “balance”, so far we dedicate dinner, bath and bedtime technology free. No phones or tv while eating, singing and playing during bath time and reading books together for bedtime. I still have a long ways to go to figure out how to balance everything and I will never be perfect but I believe in myself to be able to devote my time to God, my husband, my daughters and my company.
Besides being an awesome place to play, what other services do you offer?
Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, Speech pathology, birthday parties, parents night out, art classes, summer camp, story time. (Coming soon, music class, social pragmatic class, parents day out and so much more!)
Any special, sales, or deals our Katy Moms can look out for?
We’ve got some opening sales:
50% off open play
50% off of first months membership
25% off of birthday parties
25% multi visit passes
*Members will receive certain discounts on birthday parties, classes, camps, toys, café area and special events all year long.
Make sure to visit the Little Land website for more information!