is a mother of two, a former business executive and now the happy owner of Creative Toyshop. After discovering a line of eco-friendly cardboard toys from Germany in 2008, she became the exclusive distributor for them in the US. "I have to say, it's not a bad thing to start your business in a slow economy as there aren't any prior years to compare," she points out (great attitude!).
1.) What do you do?
I’m the mother of two witty kids, Colin (6) and Ella (5), wife to Brian, a great and thoughtful man, and I’m the owner of www.creativetoyshop.com. We live in a cute Cape Cod in a suburb of Philadelphia that is packed from basement to the attic with wonderful Calafant cardboard toys.
2.) How did you end up in your current career?
It’s a long story. I grew up in Germany, and when I was young, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be, and so I just tried to make money after high-school to be able to travel. I spent one year in the US as an au-pair and one year in Spain, travelling and going to school. When I came back, I got my masters at a business school in Munich, Germany, but I still hadn’t felt any “calling.” However, when I started working in a large company, it became clear to me that I really enjoyed selling, dealing with people and that I didn’t like large companies. I changed jobs and became the sales director for a small German software company -- a busy, go-getter environment that I absolutely loved.
This company sent me to Los Angeles to open an office for them and to introduce the software to the US market. What a challenge! It was a great time to be in Los Angeles -- single, in my late 20s, and having fun at the job. During this exciting time, I met my husband on a tradeshow, and when we got married, I knew I needed a job that I could do from home so that I could be there when we were going to have children. I started to translate movies into German, something I could do from home. It was hard to stay home all of a sudden, definitely a transition, but it was good to go through that before we had children.
When our son Colin was born, it was really nice to be able to combine baby and job (Colin was a GREAT sleeper, which really helped). In the meantime, my husband decided, he too, would like to work from home and he started his own PR company. When my kids were no longer babies, I was looking for another challenge and always kept an eye out for good opportunities. When my daughter turned 4, I was looking for a unique craft activity for her party, and on a German website, I found Calafant cardboard toys. I ordered a couple to try them out, and they were a total hit with my children.
Calafant is a German company that designs cardboard kits that allow children to build their own toys, such as castles, dinosaurs, tree houses, dollhouses, etc. The quality of the toys is amazing, and they are not only great art projects but also really good toys (my children still play with the ones we first decorated). I love the fact that they are recyclable -- although we haven’t recycled any yet because they’re so cute and my kids are so proud of their “work”. I was so intrigued that I called the manufacturer and asked whether they had a US distributor, and when they said, no, I submitted my resume and a business plan of how I could sell their toys here in the US. Now, a year later, www.creativetoyshop.com has grown 230-percent in website traffic and the toys are available at retailers throughout the country. There is still a lot of room to grow, and I’m looking forward to keep working at it.