Mother of three Leanne Papadopoulos was looking for a way to engage her children’s imagination when she came up with the idea for My Creative Box.
“My Creative Box was inspired by my children and what I see happening around us with technology and the divide that this is creating between parent and child,” Leanne tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB).
“I wanted to bring the joy of learning back into homes around the world by creating age-appropriate, fun and engaging activities that families could conveniently use to share special moments connecting with their kids,” she explains.
As a busy Mum, Leanne says she constantly endeavoured to provide her children with opportunities to be creative at home, but often the time and effort it took to find ideas and collate all of the materials took all the fun out of the experience.
“There’s nothing like the opportunity to connect with your kids and help challenge their thinking while teaching them new things. There is nothing that makes a parent feel better than spending some real quality time with their children, but I couldn’t find a product on the market in Australia that gave me this, so I decided to create what I was looking for myself.”
Drawing on her background in Early Childhood teaching, Leanne set about creating her product with a mantra to ‘inspire little minds to explore, learn and create’ driving the process.
“My passion and background in Early Childhood Education has really been the backbone of this business start-up along with the purpose it brings to inspire both parents and children to explore, learn and create together,” she says.
“I feel like my studies and experience working with young children and their families has taught me so much about the way kids like to learn. I know how much families loved seeing the time and effort that was poured into my programs over the years and I am so glad to be able to offer this support to families to inspire them to create the same magical moments at home.
Leanne believes creative play is essential to the development of a young child’s mind and future health and wellbeing.
“Nobel laureate Professor James Heckman came out with some groundbreaking findings in which he concluded that early nurturing, learning experiences and physical health from ages zero to five greatly impact success or failure in society. Professor Heckman also concluded the most efficient time to develop skills and social abilities was in the very early years of a child’s life.
“We know that children’s brains are still developing at this time and that positive experiences, as well as good health and nutrition, play a big role in children’s future learning and success. There has also been endless coverage in both media and academia into the negative implications technologies are having on children’s learning particularly with their social and emotional development, so our challenge is bigger than providing creativity in a box, it has a social cause in delivering families screen free alternative activities that allow parents and guardians to reconnect and be educators to their children in the critical early years of their life.”
There is an expectation that play comes naturally to parents and children, but Leanne’s experience suggests the opposite is true.
“Most parents really don’t find playing with their kids easy. Like most skills when they are not practised for a while they are forgotten and almost have to be learnt again, parents don’t have the same imaginations as kids, we lose all of these fun and magical things as we get older! Parents are a child’s most valuable teacher. Even the busiest parents can make time to play with their kids and guide their learning. It really is like most things in life is quality over quantity. You don’t need loads of time, you just need to make sure those short moments are special.”
Leanne tells KBB encouraging creative play with her children has seen a major shift n the way her kids think.
“Both my husband and I felt like our kids would wait for us to give them all the ideas, ‘I’m bored’, ‘I’ve got nothing to do’ were things we would hear often. When children have been exposed to creative ideas and thinking they are challenged to think creatively and innovatively and their natural curiosity to learn more about the world they live in is challenged, they gain a further desire to ‘find out more’. So, creativity brings a big shift to the way kids look at the world as it exposes them to questions, it gets them to problem solve and try new things to find out and make it work.
“BEING CREATIVE ALSO HELPS CHILDREN BE EXPRESSIVE AND EXPRESS THEIR FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS WHICH IS SO IMPORTANT WHILE YOUNG CHILDREN ARE LEARNING STRATEGIES TO HELP THEM REGULATE THEIR EMOTIONS AND EXPRESS THEM IN APPROPRIATE WAYS.”
Since starting the business 16 months ago, My Creative Box has scaled rapidly growing its revenue by over 2000 percent. Leanne says the rapid growth has been challenging.
“When you start your own business there is so much uncertainty around everything, you wonder if people will like it, you wonder if people will get what it is you’re trying to achieve. There are a million and one questions that run through your mind. I remember my husband looking at the first prototype and looking at me with a scrunched up face saying ‘Do you really expect people to buy this? They will just make it and throw it away?’ At the time I can’t lie, I felt a little disheartened by it! It wasn’t him though I was just missing the biggest point in the product, the experience it gave kids and their families! That’s something you have to experience yourself. I would have never in my wildest dreams expected my product to be so well received but I was right, there are a lot of people who really value their time teaching their kids.”
Leanne says scaling so quickly has certainly kept her on her toes.
“We have had to make changes and big decisions to keep up with the ever-growing demand for our products. We also went into the business with a partner who had a 50% share, that later decided it wasn’t the path she wanted to take because of the growth and workload and time we were spending away from being Mums to our own beautiful children. This has also been another hurdle but in saying that I feel like every day is a new learning opportunity for me and I am so much more resilient than I was 16 months ago.”
Creative Boxes can be bought as a one-off or via a subscription. Leanne tells KBB she decided on the subscription model very early in the business.
“We felt that families would greatly benefit from having a new and exciting delivery arrive at their home every month that kept them and their children excited to learn and spend quality time together. We also wanted to make our product exciting releasing a completely new box every month. Learning is forever and constant and so we figured our boxes should be too!
As for what we might find in a typical creative box, Leanne says each box is different, but all will provide age-appropriate, fun and engaging activities along with all the materials you need to complete them.
“Each box usually has a theme to it so children gain a full range of new skills and learning through each delivery. Each creative box also comes with a creative handbook which gives parents prompts to use with their children to help them share quality interactions and challenge their child’s skills and abilities.”
Leanne encourages anyone wanting to engage and connect with their little ones to consider taking up a subscription.
“My Creative Box will help you and your family share special moments connecting again. It will help you easily set up moments to explore, learn and create with your child. It will help parents feel empowered to take on a role of a teacher at home and really cherish the special quality time they share with their child. Sometimes we are told even the parents learn something new too! There is nothing more beautiful than seeing kids getting excited about learning!”
As a mumpreneur, Leanne knows the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance, but she encourages other mums to follow their small business dreams too.
“Never let someone else tell you that your idea is silly! If you’ve thought about it, then I’m sure someone else has. Do what you believe in and do it well, you really need to love what you are doing as you will be faced with times when it feels like it’s all too much but love, passion and believing will be the only thing that can help you through it.”
Image source: courtesy of Kiki&Co.