I am absolutely thrilled to bring you the very first handmade shop spotlight! I adore anything homemade and I pretty much live on Etsy. Working with my hands, creating, everyday is something I’m passionate about and these wonderful shops that I will be bringing to you are doing just that. Their products are one of a kind and made with handwork, love, and often in the wee hours of the night. So without further ado, today I’ll be sharing with you a wonderful baby toy brand out of New York, Sugar Maple Toys.
Right off the bat, I was smiling as I opened my package. I’m a sucker for cute packaging and Sugar Maple Toys delivers! Such attention to detail really speaks to my handmade lovin’ heart.
A wonderful feature of the teethers is that they all come with a braided vegan leather clip. I don’t know about you, but my Ro cannot keep anything in his hands for longer than five seconds. That’s probably because he’s only four months old, but even the older ones tend to throw things on a whim. It’s so nice to clip onto his shirt and not have to wonder where the heck it landed. Also, the craftsmanship is just impressive. The super smooth wood provides a natural way for my baby to relieve his sore gums. And thank goodness, because he was really starting to chow down on his hands!
Next, can we talk about the adorable design? As a photographer on the side, I just couldn’t pass up on this one! Regardless of which design you like though, each teether is designed in a way that really helps little ones get a good grip. Ro loves holding his camera teether and its the perfect size for his little hands. Another personal favorite from their shop is the drumstick teether!
Here’s Tiffany with a little more insight into what Sugar Maple Toys is all about.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi I’m Tiffany, a 33 year old wife and mom. I am also a pediatric occupational therapy assistant, but I have put that career on hold so I can stay home while my children are still little. The other half of the business is my husband Mike. He is 35 years old and works for the railroad. We met 9 years ago, fell in love, got married and had 2 beautiful boys Mikey and Tommy. This past December we bought our first home and are still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we are homeowners now! Oh we also have 4 lovely hens: Lucy, Rose, Anna and Sara that are not only fantastic pets, but also give us some of the best eggs on the planet.
2. Tell us about your shop.
Our business started as a crazy idea in 2008 after our first son was born, but it wasn’t until 2014 that we decided to finally go for it. 15 months later on July 4th we officially launched on Etsy and it has been non stop since then. All of our products are made one at a time in our home based shop. We wanted to give our customers a voice so we allow for wood customization on pretty much all products in the shop except teethers. I think this is a fun element that not a lot of other wooden toy shops offer, so it definitely helps us stand out. We also wanted most if not all components of the shop to be US based. All of our materials are all locally sourced and/or purchased right here in the US; we have spent countless hours making sure of that. We primarily work with three main hardwoods that do not splinter: maple (lightest in color), cherry (medium color), and walnut (darkest). Occasionally we will throw in some ethically sourced/repurposed exotic hardwoods to give our customers a little variety and exposure to different woods located around the globe. Our glue is used minimally; however, we have made sure that it is made in the US and also organic, eco-friendly, and non-toxic. We do not stain our wood with any harmful chemicals. In fact we make our own wood sealer using local beeswax and organic jojoba oil. Our teethers are sanded very smooth and never receive a finish. Since they spend a lot of time in babies mouth, we wanted to stick with a less is more approach.
3. What made you want to start a handmade shop?
I think for us, we both love working with our hands. There is something really satisfying about making something yourself. I have been involved with the fiber world for sometime (knitting, crochet, spinning etc), but I always like to branch out and try new things. Mike likes to rebuild vintage campers. It is something that he has been passionate about for a few years now. He too loves to try new things and is always looking for a challenge. This is not our first handmade shop, but it is the most successful one by far. Being involved in something from start to finish and seeing others positive reaction to something we created, makes the both of us very happy that we decided on a handmade shop.
4. What do you love most about being a handmade shop?
I love that we get to know our customers on a more personal basis. I love how they send us emails and photos of their children playing with our toys. They really let us in and give us a backstory to create our products. I love knowing that their children are loving their toys as much as we love making them. When we make our toys its not just a police badge, its a police badge because this little girls daddy just joined the force, or a grandmother on the west coast is sending her grandchildren in the midwest a heart rattle because she loves and misses them. Our toys are so much more personal than a mass produced toy. We get to help make memories and that really makes it all worth while for us.
5. What inspires your designs?
Our children and other children inspire most of our designs. Adults inspire us too since they are the ones buying our products. We have to think of ideas that can connect them personally to our toys in order to keep them coming back. A lot of times an idea kind of just pops up at random times: in the car, watching a movie, people watching etc. I keep a notebook with me at all times to write any ideas down as they come to mind.
6. What are your favorite designs from your shop?
We do enjoy making certain toys a little more than others, but I cannot say we have an all time favorite. It sounds a little cliche’ but we do really love them all. Since we have to make each one over and over they all have to be our favorites. I can tell you that our customers really enjoy the State Shakers, camera teether, and drumstick teether. Those toys seems to be a big hit right now.
7. What can we look forward to from your shop?
We do have a few things cooking here. Some new teether and rattle designs and a few new category of toys completely. I am pretty excited to see how 2016 will pan out for Sugar Maple Toys.
8. What one piece of advice would you give someone starting up their own handmade business?
Just go for it! You are going to make MANY mistakes (we sure did), but you learn from them and grow. Never give up, stay passionate, stay hungry, and always keep pushing ahead.
So, are you ready to get your hands, and your baby’s teeth, on your own Sugar Maple Toys teether? Of course you are! Sugar Maple toys is giving away one teether of the winner’s choice and, if you just can’t wait for that, they’re offering 10% with the code GAVANDRO!
Head over to their Etsy shop to see their great line of teethers as well as rattles, blocks, and more!