This week, I interviewed the lovely Kimberley, the owner and mastermind behind Catkin Toys and Gifts. I wanted to get to know the woman behind the brand a bit and provide a glimpse into what life is like when you’re the driving force of an ever-expanding small business.
So, Kimberley, I guess the most sensible place to start is with the inception of Catkin! How and when did you start Catkin Toys?
It was during lockdown 1 in early 2020 that I really started to re-examine my parenting style. With not much else to do and increasingly frustrated at our daily ‘dump everything out of the toy box but play with nothing’ event, I realised there had to be a better way. After doing some research, I slowly began to introduce more Montessori principles and chose more and more open ended and traditional style toys. The transformation in not just Arlo, but our entire family, was so incredible, I decided I wanted to help other parents on their journey and so I started Catkin Toys in March 2021.
My oldest (4) calls you The Magic Toy Lady, I think she thinks you have been blessed with the magical power to make toys appear from thin air! How would you describe your job if you were speaking to a child under five?
I help children learn new things by having lots of fun!
I love that. Learning should be fun, regardless of your age. What made you choose to enter the sustainability marketplace?
To me, it makes sense that if you are focusing your energy on children and toys, you must also focus on sustainability because our children are our future and we should endeavour to leave them not only with a great range of skills but a planet that thrives.
I am a big believer in everyone doing what they can. There are plenty of places in my life I strive to be more eco-friendly, but by making small changes where I can, I know I will be making a positive change. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
I completely agree. So, Catkin and your eco-friendly way to play was born out of your own parenting experience, that makes a lot of sense! How many children do you have? I have a 2-year-old son called Arlo! I have a big kid husband at home too called Darren! Arlo is my guinea pig and trials most of our toys before they ever make it on to the website and Darren helps with day to day running, shredding paper, packing boxes etc. It really is a family affair!
Oh, that’s lovely. Goodness, I don’t know how you manage to parent and run the business; I can barely manage my two and the laundry load let alone anything else! What does a day in your life look like?
Believe it or not, alongside running Catkins, I work as a primary school teacher three days a week, so on those days life is really hectic! On the days I am not at work, I try to spend as much time as possible with Arlo, playing games and spending time outdoors walking our dog, Bleu in between packing orders and running Catkins social media.
Wow. Do you have any spare time at all!? If so what do you like doing in your spare time?
I love to read! The Outlander series is a favourite and I am sucker for a cheesy romance.
I love Outlander! If you could meet any fictional character in real life, who would you choose; or who would be the most exciting to meet?
Definitely Jamie Fraser from Outlander. I could swoon at just the thought (but don’t tell the husband!)
I’m 100% with you on that! I’m in the middle of reading the latest book and I still fancy Jamie! Without spoiling it for people that don’t know the story, the concept of time and history is very important in Outlander, if you had a time machine and could travel to any time and place in history, where would you go?
I would love to go to Ireland when my grandmother was a girl. She talks of a world where she walked 3 miles to school, had a pony and trap and still used an outside toilet. It seems like it should be hundreds of years ago, but was only in the 1950’s. I love hearing her stories of times gone by and would love to experience the world for myself.
Ah! A fellow Celt! I knew I liked you! Do you speak any other languages?
I speak very patchy German and very patchy Gaelic (Irish) but barely enough to order a coffee!
Well, I’m impressed! Speaking of language, how did you come up with the name for Catkin Toys?
My husband and I were trying to come up with a name which would have multiple meanings. A catkin is the seed of a beech tree, which worked perfectly as beech is a wood commonly used in toy making and it is a nod to our love for environmentally friendly wooden toys. As it is a seed, it is also a link to our little Catkin – Arlo – who was the driving force behind launching Catkins. I wanted to help other parents along the journey I had been on since becoming a mother.
Again that, makes a lot of sense! You’ve achieved so much in a comparatively short time; what are your short-term and long-term goals for Catkin?
Short term I am launching a new rep search in the next week which will hopefully bring some fresh voices to the Catkins team alongside some veteran reps who (I hope) will stay with us! In the longer term, I am working tirelessly behind the scenes to launch a very new side to Catkins. I can’t reveal too much, but after many conversations with parents about how I, as a business, can help and support them, one thing was clear – the biggest challenge was a lack of time. So I am focusing on a project which will take out the heavy lifting out of preparing and organising learning through play activities.
Oh I love that! I’m on board with anything that makes my life as a Mummy easier! I sometimes feel like I need to be some sort of Superwoman in order to just get through the day with small people in tow! If you could have a superpower, what would you choose?
Confidence. I know it might not feel like a superpower to many, but I find being on camera really tricky and filming reels in particular is a challenge. I am definitely getting better, but the ability to tackle every situation with confidence would be a superpower indeed and something I would love to pass on to Arlo!
You really surprise me! I’m always struck by how natural, genuine and comfortable you appear to be online; perhaps that’s your unfazeable teacher’s persona kicking in then! I think Arlo is going to grow up incredibly proud of what you’ve done and continue to do.
You said you’d like to meet Jamie Fraser, but if you could pick a film, TV, or book character that you most identify with who would it be?
Most days I feel like Julia from Motherland, however, I think I identify with Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice as I am stubborn, fiercely independent and somewhere very deep down inside, a romantic.
I can see that! You’ve definitely got a bit of the Mrs Darcy about you!
Whether it’s through your teaching career or your work building Catkin Toys, and the community that has grown up around it, clearly supporting a happy and healthy childhood is very important to you., What did you want to be when you were a kid? Did you see yourself in such nurturing roles?
I wanted to be a vet! I love animals, but as I grew older and realised that being a vet would be less petting cute bunnies and more dealing with very solemn situations, I decided it wasn’t for me!
Interesting! Your love of animals definitely comes through in your work; from your eco-focus to the products you sell; I absolutely love all the wooden animal figures you stock. What animal would you compare yourself to and why?
An otter because I would love nothing more than to snooze away floating in a lovely cool pool all day!
Yes! Wouldn’t that be lovely! But I think chance would be a fine thing with our small people in tow: we may have to readjust our expectations and settle for sitting the splash pool feeling sleepy!
You introduced me to the concept of toy rotation and I think, as a result, my children don’t really have a ‘favourite’ toy per se; they have an army of toys that they completely adore, and are able to play with in a very open-ended way . I don’t remember being like that as a kid; I was practically attached to my Peter Rabbit and he was my absolute best and most favourite toy. As a child, did you have a favourite toy?
I used to love my little dolly and playing being a Mum!
Aw! That’s very sweet!
A lot of interviewers ask to see their guest’s last photo on their camera roll, I’ll spare you that (mainly because if you’re anything like me, it’s probably one of twenty five different close ups of a thumb accidentally taken by a small child) so instead I’ll ask what was the last thing you looked up online?
A recipe for slow cooker chicken curry – it was YUM! Our days are so busy some times and I love our slow cooker so we can have easy nutritious meals.
Oh definitely. Slow cooking is a God-send when you have small children. Food prep tends to be accompanied by music in my house; if you had to choose a song that would play every time you entered a room, what song would you pick, and why?
Feeling good by Muse. A helpful reminder that we have to find the positive and feel good!
I have two more questions to ask you, if you don’t mind, firstly, in a very Desert Island Discs sort of way, if you were to find yourself stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you and why?
A copy of “Pride and Prejudice”,, my favourite book; pack of paracetamol, because I suffer headaches often and a bar of galaxy chocolate – is it even possible to enjoy a good book without chocolate?
Ha! It’s possible, but much harder, I think!
And lastly, Kimberley, what are you most looking forward to in Catkin’s future?
I am most looking forward to growing our community of Mamakins! I really do see everyone who supports us as part of our Catkins family and the more incredible parents I meet, the more I am so glad to have started this journey!
Aw! Well it’s a pleasure to be on the journey with you and it’s been a pleasure finding out a little bit more about you and about the woman behind the business! Thank you so much for your time and for answering all my nosey questions!
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That’s all for this week – I hope you’ve enjoyed reading something slightly different on the blog this weekend, with 2022 now well underway, I thought it was about time that we went Behind the Brand at Catkin Toys! Until next week!