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The serious business of play

April 2006

The serious business of play

Wendy Jasper had an idea for a small home business. Less than six months later she has plans for an exciting enterprise with export potential and has been accepted into one of Wellington’s business incubators, Fashion HQ.

Based on the principles of creative parenting and sustainability, which Wendy describes as a growing movement worldwide, her business is toys – quality, natural toys that she says engage learning and imagination, as well as organic clothing and soft furnishings. The products will be manufactured in New Zealand and elsewhere in the South Pacific based on fair trading principles.

While she says that wooden and woven toys are available in New Zealand they are usually prohibitively expensive. Her goal is to make quality more available.

“Most toys available now are made to entertain a child, they don’t engage their imagination and are discarded after a couple of hours. You know, the box-is-more-enjoyable-than-the-toy-inside syndrome!”

Her business idea was initially quite small. “I started with wanting to do good and support my family,” says Wendy. Then she saw a course in New Venture Development advertised at WelTec. “Now I realise that I can do that and be really successful as well,” says Wendy.

Through the course she established that some of her initial ideas would not work and that she was thinking too small. “When I looked at how many Steiner and Montessori schools there are in New Zealand alone – over 400 – and then calculated how many parents are looking for products to support their children’s learning, and then how much they might reasonably spend in a year – it was obviously not a small business. I’ve also got a childcare centre in Melbourne desperate for them,” says Wendy.

“On the course I also found out about the business incubators and how they could help my business. I first thought they would be out of my league. But to get in they must believe your business could have a turnover of $2million in two years time. You have to prove that you’ve got a high growth potential company that could go to export.

“At Fashion HQ, I get my own space, support, mentors – all well known people – talks and lectures, good contacts. The office space alone is a really stimulating place. And it will give my business credibility. People recognise what it means to be in a business incubator.

“It seems to be in our nature to think small – Americans don’t do it, but we do. Maybe it’s the tall poppy thing.”

Wendy started her course last October. “I’ve done a business course before but it was all theory for the sake of it. To learn while working on my own business is so much more relevant.”

Wendy has heard there is a series of popular British television programme Dragons’ Den planned for New Zealand. “I might make an idiot of myself but I’ll be there.”


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