Two-thirds of their income may come from export markets, but Seedling is firmly an East Tamaki business.
PIC: Phoebe Hayman
In this globalised business environment it isn’t unusual for businesses to base different parts of their operation in different parts of the city, country or world. Not Seedling. Every part of their business is based at their Lady Ruby Drive headquarters and it seems to be working for them.
Named as a finalist in the New Zealand International Business Awards in 2013, Seedling creates inspirational products for children aged 3 through to their tweens. And that’s not just marketing speak for toys, founder and CEO Phoebe Hayman describes what they do as ‘DIY for kids’. They’re kind of craft kits that allow children to get creative.
It all started when, as a mother of a preschooler, Hayman was disappointed by the toys available. They were full of lights and sounds and usually made of plastic that was not intended to last. “I just didn’t understand why kids were given such low-quality tools. Why couldn’t we give children real tools?’
She created a small number of kits at home at the end of 2006, intending them to be more engaging for children. They were popular enough to start a company in early 2007 and now the company creates a range of more than 350 products that cross a wide range of areas: from sewing to art, games to adventure.
‘These aren’t paint by numbers kits,’ Hayman explains. ‘They’re curious, imaginative toys that allow kids to be really creative and bring their own ideas to life. From a parent’s perspective, if they want something different for their kids, they don’t have to spend the extra time coming up with a creative concept for their children and then finding the tools to make it.”
It turns out that New Zealand parents weren’t the only ones looking for more engaging toys for their kids. Seedling now exports to 20 countries and their biggest markets are Australia, the US and the UK followed by a number of European countries and Asia. And every single toy is manufactured here in East Tamaki, something that, in itself, gives them point of difference.
“We’ve been in the area for five years and we’re now in our second property. For us it’s about location, especially the proximity to the motorway, which gives us easy access to the airport and all areas of Auckland. There are great facilities for our staff, as well as for the business. There’s a real community feel in terms of the business community and we enjoy being part of it.”
Hayman says the process involved in entering the New Zealand International Business Awards was a great opportunity to really have a look at who they are and what they’re doing.
“It’s a good snapshot,” she says. “We have a great plan around international business because that”s our future. We are flexible and adaptable, our growth has been fantastic and it relies on a number of different markets rather than just one.”