Little Crew - PreStart

The toymakers of Bagenalstown

Little Crew Photo

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There’s an old-world charm to wooden toys. They’re sturdy and designed with care; they’re simple and straightforward, perfect for imagining and pretending; and unlike their mass-produced plastic counterparts, they don’t run out of batteries (or make noise). For sustainably minded mums and dads, wooden toys also have the added bonus of being much better for the environment, free from toxic components and potentially harmful manufacturing processes. For Magda and Tomasz Pydych of Bagenalstown in Carlow, however, it was a struggle to find wooden toys anywhere in Ireland. “Me and my husband, we were looking for wooden toys for my daughter when she was really small, when she was about two years of age,” says Magda. “We couldn’t Gabrielle Carroll (Local Enterprise Office Carlow), Magda and Tomasz Pydych (Little Crew) find any here in Ireland, so we ordered toys from Poland.” But when the toys arrived, the couple weren’t completely satisfied with them. Rather than throw them away or make do with poor-quality products, Tomasz and Magda took matters into their own hands—and then went one step further. “When the toys arrived, Tomasz decided to do a few improvements to them. He wasn’t happy with the quality,” says Magda. “When he finished the toys, we just decided to create our own company and fill in the gap in the market and become a manufacturer of wooden toys.” By carving out a few spare hours in the evening (and sometimes late night into the night), Little Crew was born. Now, several months on, the business is selling toys to parents all over Ireland.

“Little Crew manufactures eco-friendly wooden toys, which are made from natural resources,” says Magda. “They’re timeless and high quality. They don’t contain any toxic materials or PVC, which can be found in plastic toys.” The couple share duties. Tomasz, a carpenter by trade, crafts and paints the toys and helps Magda package them. Magda’s role involves design and business. “I design all the toys. I make our listings for the shop. I do customer service, marketing, promotions, and packaging,” she says. Fulltime playtime Despite their early success, getting Little Crew up and running has been a difficult task. Eventually, the challenge of juggling professional and family duties led Magda and Tomasz to approach the Local Enterprise Office in Carlow for assistance. Gabrielle Carroll, a business advisor at the Local Enterprise Office, helped Little Crew take the next step on their business journey. “When Little Crew approached the Local Enterprise Office, they were making toys in their spare time. Initially, we helped them with the support of a priming grant,” she says. A priming grant is available to all microbusinesses (those with fewer than ten employees) in the first 18 months of operation, provided they are manufacturing products or selling internationally traded services. “The grant allowed them to purchase equipment for the business and also to support one fulltime salary,” says Gabrielle. Local businesses can also benefit from a feasibility grant to conduct market research; a business expansion grant for scaling; and the ‘TAME’ grant, which assists businesses exporting products and services to international markets. In addition to financial assistance, the Local Enterprise Office provides one-on-one consultation sessions with specialist experts and business mentors, as well as regular group seminars, workshops, courses, and networking events. “We are really happy to have support from the Local Enterprise Office in Carlow. They do help us a lot. We get so many mentoring sessions from different people and different fields of business, for example, marketing, strategy, and finance,” says Magda. “Mentoring sessions help us a lot because there’s always something we can improve within our business, and the Local Enterprise Office is always helping us.” Today, Magda and Tomasz are keen to grow the business. The support of the Local Enterprise Office has allowed the couple to move Little Crew from their home to a dedicated unit in a business park outside Bagenalstown. This year, for the first time, the workshop will be open to the public, inviting customers in to view the toys before purchasing them for the festive season. Little Crew’s high-quality wooden toys, and its founders’ passion for their market, has won the full backing of the Local Enterprise Office. “We will continue to work with Little Crew, allowing them to make it happen,” says Gabrielle.