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Meet Rebecca, a mom who turned her passion for homemade toys into a business!
Q:Tell us a little bit about your businesses.
My name is Rebecca, nice to meet you! I am the designer and creator of Bug Bites Play Food handmade felt food toys. I make durable, interactive and fun felt food toys using natural and eco-friendly materials from my home-studio in Orem Utah. My goal is to help cultivate brilliant imaginations and encourage healthy eating habits learned through play, and give kids a natural alternative to mass-produced junk. I have an amazing husband and 2 beautiful children who are my support, laughter and balance in my life.
Q: How did you get into this business?
A wonderful friend told me about Etsy.com - it was the perfect place for my business! I signed up, did some brainstorming and came up with my business name and started building my brand. The name "Bug Bites Play Food" was inspired from my children, whom I call my "bugs" and the little "bites" they would take out of their apples. I spent a lot of late nights researching business articles, finances, licensing and learning everything I could about running a small business. I am an artist, not a businesswoman, so I "flew by the seat of my pants" for a while. Trial-and-error is a great teacher.
Q: What motivated you to start selling play food toys, and how long have you been selling toys?
I loathe the thought of my kids playing with cheap, plastic, mass-produced, toxic toys. The lead toy recalls in 2008 pushed me over the edge and I tossed all of the Chinese-made junk in my kids' toy-box into the trash. From that day, I started making as many of their toys as I could. I made my first felt play food apple while pregnant with my daughter, and had so much fun I soon moved on to a banana, orange, tomato and a whole basket of fruit and vegetables! I haven't stopped creating play food since that night in August 2008.
Q: Is this a full-time gig, or something you do on the side? a hobby?
This is as full time as it can be, while being a wife and mother. My family always come first, so most of my design and production time comes while kids are at school and late at night, while listening to endless Audiobooks.
Q: How long have you been a member of the HH community?
I am a new member to the HH community, but have been a "whole foodie" for 12 years and dairy-free since I was 14. In the winter of 2010 after being extremely sick continuously for over a year, I discovered I also had a severe gluten-intolerance, and have been living Gluten Free since 2011. The challenges of changing one's diet - especially eliminating gluten, are life-rocking and I admire those who choose to make these dietary changes before being compelled to for health reasons.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone interested in pursuing their dreams of opening an etsy shop and selling their crafts?
My advice - go for it!! Don't be afraid to jump in with both feet and Etsy is a great place to start. Keep in mind that good photography is what will set you apart from the pack, so really focus on good pictures of your items.
Any advice to those looking specifically to make toys or products for kids? - Make your items unique! Let your personality come out through your creations and shout that through good photos.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your business/work?
It allows me to stay at home with my children. They are growing so fast, and I am so blessed to work at home to enjoy so many Kairos (precious) moments with them. My workday usually involves one or both kids at my feet under my desk, drawing, painting or making me "tea parties" with their play food sets. I also find great joy in knowing that children all around the world are playing with something I created that was handmade with love.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect?
Balancing work and family. When orders come piling in, it is a challenge to not get swept up in working all the time. I thank my husband for keeping me grounded during those times with family afternoons fly-fishing, biking and hiking (snowshoeing in winter) together up the canyon.
Q: Does your business directly relate to your Herbie lifestyle?
Yes. I find inspiration for my play food by what is on my dinner plate. I believe in eating whole foods that I can either grow myself, or imagine growing somewhere local, and do my best to express that in my toys. I believe that if children are playing with toy vegetables and fruits, they will ask for the real thing at the table - though you must forgive me the occasional felt food cupcake in my shop!
Q: Anything else you'd like to add or share?
I find great satisfaction in contributing to kids' imaginative playtime, and that they are learning valuable lessons about life and nature from something that doesn't require batteries.That toys as well as food don't magically appear on a store shelf - there is a story behind them, and the closer to the earth those things originate, the better.
Rebecca has offered to giveaway a felt cupcake to one of our readers! (Open to U.S residents only- sorry!)
Leave a comment telling us what food you'd make out of felt if you could! We'll choose a winner on Tuesday.