Who are we?
We are a young family of four from Brisbane. Alison is an Early Childhood Educator turned stay at home mum and Dion worked as an Electrician. We have a busy life with our girls, and both work part time but that doesn’t stop us from playing!
As our girls grew, we always strived to create opportunities for them to discover and learn through play. This sparked our love for open-ended toys, the limitless possibilities of what they can be and what they will create.
They allow us to have a smaller collection of toys that will grow with our girls and their imagination. In use or packed away they are calm and inviting to young and old, many of our adult friends will sit down and fiddle, play and build with items on display in our living room well after the children are bed.
We started this store with the hopes of inspiring others to learn and create the way we do. The collection of products in our store reflects our most used and loved items for their simplicity and versatility. These have been the foundations to many of our creations and daily play with our children and we’re sure they will get the same amount of love in your home.
There are many benefits to open ended play and a few strong reasons for us choosing this in our home was to enhance their imagination and strengthen their understanding of the world around them.
I begun a play account on Instgram back in 2018 to share activities and ways that we were already playing with my daughters as a hobby.
At home we incorporate parts of both Montessori and Waldorf and engage in learning through play with open-ended toys. This means that there is no correct way to play or engage with the material. Resources of this kind can be used in a range of ways and have multiple uses and possibilities which allows children to express their creativity through play.
But how did Little Toy Tribe come about?
Dion's creations with Grimm's is how this whole adventure started. Our Instagram account @grimms_creations was created in August 2018 when our eldest daughter was nearly two and new baby in our home. We bought a few Grimm’s products and started creating invitations to play for our daughter to enjoy each morning whilst busy with a newborn.
This started with small world and block arrangements, then quickly got out of hand as we would spend hours each night building elaborate creations of ball runs, stacking sculptures and domino runs for a bit of fun.
We have shared many of these creations with the world through our Instagram account @grimms_creations and we never knew it would be as popular as it is and only a few months after we started the account Dion had the absolute privilege to join the Grimm’s team at the 2019 Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany.
It was here that we were offered the opportunity to sell these beautiful toys ourselves and we talked about doing it later when our children were at school but then we decided to just go for it as a hobby! Little Toy Tribe has since grown into a curation of all our favourite products that we use with our own children and we now also get requests from our wonderful community.
We see the way our eldest daughter plays now and how our youngest has engaged with and grown with open ended toys. We know that as they get older these toys will continue to grow with them, as will their ability in what they can create.
It brings us so much joy to see parents and children rebuild our creations or even better, creations of their own!
Our business started in one room of our family home and we would pack orders and work on things behind the scenes each night after the girls were in bed. After a few months in business we were seeing the same faces of our locals over and over again doing local pickups and asking to see and play with toys we already had so we decided to start doing open days once a month. We welcomed many new faces and it was a great way for parents and children to play and see what their children gravitated towards for upcoming birthdays or celebrations.
These were very popular but then COVID happened and we had to cancel them. It was after the first COVID lockdown in 2020 that we decided to take out a lease and move the business out of our home as it was taking over our house and we were also finding it difficult to separate work and home life becoming overwhelmed with how much there was to do.
Our first store was small and from there we set up a store at the front and had some room for extra stock and to pack orders out the back. We hired our first employee who was also my best friend and together Nicola and I took turns in the work load each week whilst Dion still worked full time.
We opened the store only for local pickups for a couple of ours two afternoons a week and ended up having to open for more hours as we were having to turn people away in our tiny store with COVID restrictions meant we could only have 4 people in store at a time.
After the mad rush of Christmas we were stressed and running out of room so we went searching for a bigger store. It was on Bay Terrace in Wynnum that we found the perfect space with so much natural light and was double the size of our first space and also had a great separation for packing online orders out the back.
We also hired a two more employees, Caitlin and Jenna to cover the work load of opening in store and online helping me each week and Dion was working part time for both Little Toy Tribe and as an electrician.
Fast forward to September of 2021 Nicola was leaving on Maternity Leave to welcome her son so we decided to go for it and bring Dion on board full time and its been such a relief to have so much more help each week. It means I can be present for my children each day and when I’m home I am actually home not worrying about what else needs to be done.
It was difficult to believe in ourselves but I am so glad that we did and have created this wonderful community! Its so amazing watching the children grow each time they come in store and we get to work with our friends each day.
Setting up the Business
Let me start by saying it was not easy. If you asked if we would do this again I would say no so do be prepared to work hard for the first few years but I will say though that it has all been worth it.
We started with 6 brands we were most passionate about and took a small amount of money out of our savings to start with. This was both for the set up of our trust and business and also the stock, stickers cards etc.
We were also never trying to create what we did but it all happened gradually over time! With each step we had to ensure that we were in a position to make it work. We never felt comfortable taking a loan but that is just our personal choice. We felt like it was a bit of a gamble if the store didn’t take off and it was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. We have always kept the business in a position where we could walk away at any time if it became too stressful.
We reinvested all money from sales for the first year and never paid ourselves. Yes it was tight being a young family but we made it work. By doing this we were in a position to keep expanding our range of brands without actually adding more of our own savings.
Our Little Toy Tribe Community
We have a Facebook group called Our Little Toy Tribe. We'd love you to become part of this community and share your ideas with others, whether that be DIY play or with these beautiful toys they are all welcome as we support each other in our journey through play.
We also invite you to head over and like us on Facebook at Little Toy Tribe.