Tell us about your business:
Raw Toys is my range of handmade wooden toys. I make toys by hand using sustainably harvested wood and non toxic finishes, including my own handmade beeswax polish. My toys are designed to be hard wearing, to inspire creative play, to be beautiful to look at and gorgeous to touch. Many of my pieces are one-off creations, so there is plenty of opportunity to find the perfect gift that no one else has. Making wooden toys is a true passion for me and it’s such a thrill to be sending them further afield into the lives of other families.
What inspired you to start your business?
I didn’t initially intend for it to be a business at all. I started like many other crafty mums do in just making things for my own children and friends. At some point, I realised that they had more than enough toys but I had no intentions of stopping! I took some things to a market with some lovely crafty friends which was a wonderful experience and showed me that people liked what I made. From there, I opened my online shop and it’s gone from strength to strength.
Is there an interesting anecdote behind your business name?
I like the associations that the word “raw” brings to my mind: simple, beautiful, close to nature.
What is the most satisfying part of what you do?
What’s not to love?! It’s hard to narrow down but I think my favourite part is connecting with my customers. I could never have predicted how much I would enjoy these exchanges. The quick emails back and forth, social media chit chat, packaging up orders with love and, of course, the gorgeous feedback that people are kind enough to leave for me. The personal connection between maker and buyer in the handmade world is what sets it apart from other selling and shopping experiences. It’s really something special.
Have you tried something in business that didn’t work as planned, or on the flip side – worked out better than expected?
A few items haven’t sold as well as I’d expected and certainly, things that I’ve not been sure about have sold better than I thought they would! Reassessment and refining my range is an ongoing part of this gig. It’s all a learning experience.
What would be your best tip for someone thinking about selling their handcrafted goods?
Be super confident in yourself and your product. I really believe this is the magic ingredient that helps other people fall in love with your work. We all have doubts and fears but you’ve got to do everything in your power to leave these at the door when you’re working at what you love in order to reach your goals. I came very close to not putting my work online because of my own doubts but finding ways to let them go was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
I recommend reading the work of successful creative business people. When I need a confidence injection, my go-to girls are Leonie Dawson and Jess Van Den. These incredibly smart Australian women are so generous with their knowledge and they truly know their stuff. I can always count on their inspirational words to get me going. If you don’t know these girls already, I highly recommend you check them out.
What is your favourite item you make?
At the moment, my favourites are my house puzzles because they are such a joy to make. Their creation is totally free and organic but they usually have a woodland theme. I make these with very little planning and I never know how a puzzle will turn out until it’s finished. I switch off the analytical part of my brain that tells me what it “should” look like and just let the inspiration flow.
I never make more than one of each kind, so once a house puzzle has sold, there’s no more the same going onto the “to do” list (the same goes for my fairy doors). These pieces give me the biggest buzz to sell because of their rarity. How exciting and humbling it is to know that in a family somewhere is such a loved-up and personal piece of my work! These ones are very special to me.
Any personal or business highlights in the last year:
Where to start? The last year was Raw Toys’ first and it’s been an incredible start for my little business! Probably the highlight is my sales. Once I got serious about it, I set a lofty goal to reach 100 sales within a year and I exceeded that amount within nine months! I’ve made well over 100 sales with the combination of my Made It shop and offline customers. It’s just incredible and has been such a thrilling experience – I pinch myself regularly!
3 things about you that people might not know:
- I am an avid collector of vintage children’s books. This also makes me a hopeless op shop loiterer. I cannot go past an early edition Enid Blyton. The old language and absence of today’s political correctness is a source of fascination to me. A lot of my pieces are inspired by the adorable Faraway Tree stories.
- If I wasn’t playing with wood, I would be crocheting rainbow coloured granny squares.
- I laugh when I shouldn’t. If you slip over in my field of vision, I’m afraid there will be no sympathy!