Julie ODonnell, founder of Let Them Play Handmade Toys, is a multi-award winning entrepreneur for the following categories in our 2020 AusMumpreneur NSW-ACT Awards
- Gold winner – Emerging AusMumpreneur of The Year
- Bronze winner – Handmade Business
- Bronze winner – People’s Choice E-Commerce Store
Let Them Play Handmade Toys connect kids to nature in the funnest way possible. They are all about creating the environments that are safe, fun and filled with ethically sourced toys from natural materials.
Sustainability is in the core the business. This includes all steps they take, from design to production. Every toy Julie creates is made from sustainable materials and has as close to zero footprint on earth as possible.
When did you start your business?
I started the business in March 2019 whilst I had some spare time leading up to the birth of my 4th baby. Initially, my plan was for this to be a lovely side hustle to help fulfill my creative ideas and give me an outlet as a mum. I did not expect it to turn into an internal company within 12 months and have a team of 7 around me in 2 years.
What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
As an early childhood educator, I love to watch how kids’ imagination and creativity can be inspired by the simplicity and beauty found in nature. I believe nature is one of our greatest tools when it comes to learning. Plus our children are who will be responsible for protecting our environment and its future so if they play with it, they will love it and if they love it they will want to protect it. Tree’s and their branches contain so much natural beauty, plus toys made from recycled or sustainably sourced wood will have such a minimal impact on the environment then when the toys are no longer needed they can become one with nature again.
What are you most excited about in your business?
To see so many families enthusiastic about their kid’s learning and a sustainable future.
It has truly blown me away to see so many children connecting with my natural toys and open-ended learning. I still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see something that I have designed and created being played with by children all over the world!
We’ve got big things planned for this year so I am also excited to see them come to life!
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
The juggle. Hands down, the juggle between being a mum, taking care of myself, and running a company – especially when prior to this company I had no prior experience in management, running a business, or even in manufacturing. It has been a wild ride, with so much learning but at the same time, I have loved coming on the other side of each challenge and realizing just what we have achieved. But the great thing about being a mum, then starting a business is mums are so good at rolling with whatever is thrown at them. We wear 10 hats all at the same time when we’re a mum and running a business is just the same!
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
Just know that every other business owner is still winging it, even after years in business and we are always making mistakes and learning from them. Even though I am so much more confident in running my business now than I was 2 years ago, I still feel like I have no idea most of the time and I am still winging it – just at something new. In saying that, this is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done and I am so proud of what I have accomplished – so definitely give it a go. Get involved in some women’s business groups and support services and accept all the help you can.
Why did you enter the AusMumpreneur Awards?
Because I was thrilled to be nominated for these awards and excited to connect with other business mums around Australia – there is so much inspiration out there!
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?
Seeing all the winners and learning their stories. There are so many amazing mumpreneurs in these awards and I gained so much from learning about their journey!
What surprised you most about the awards?
How nervous I was when doing the interviews and how hard it is to talk about yourself!
How did the awards help you in your business?
Firstly, I have loved displaying my trophies at the entrance to my studio – it’s such a lovely moment to see them each day!
I also believe the awards have helped build my confidence in my abilities since being recognized for my achievements.
What advice would you give to others mums thinking about entering the awards?
Do it! You’ve got nothing to lose and trust me the confidence you gain from the awards and the inspiration that comes from meeting the fellow mumpreneurs is invaluable.
What has been the best thing about starting your own business?
The massive sense of accomplishment and satisfaction each day when I see what I have achieved, the jobs I have created for 6 other mums and the fact that I get to work for myself and support our family is huge!
What’s happening next in your business?
This year I plan to work alongside educational services and preschools to bring more natural learning resources into children’s lives – and be inspired by what ideas they have. I would like to also see Let Them Play Toys be stocked in 5 more countries!
What are your big plans for the future?
Keep growing and making jobs for more mums out there so they can balance working alongside school hours and their family life.
I plan to take more time for me and the family and see the business running smoothly with less demand on me. This will be a dream come true!
All images featured here are from Let Them Play Handmade Toys.
2021 GLOBAL BUSINESS MOTHERS AWARDS
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