An interview with Nickie Steele, founder of Toy-shelf.com
When we moved from Australia to Singapore, the clan back at home inherited a huge range of toys, baby items and playthings. We had plenty to leave behind, much of which had been the favourite toy for about a month before something else became a favourite… Why did we buy them in the first place!?
Once here in Singapore, the accumulation began again. Over the years, we have had a kitchen, a doll house, things with wheels, sooooooo many dress ups. We still have a collection of princess dolls, Barbies, things she doesn’t play with but are still too good to toss. All these items took up space and really weren’t used or needed as much as we thought they would be. As our first child grew up, we gradually got rid of most of these things. Then as luck would have it, we had number two and here we are again.
I randomly met Nickie at a farewell party for a mutual friend. A few days later, when I showed up at the ice rink for my first child’s lesson, I realised that Nickie and I had been together at the rink for several weeks running and had never met! That’s Singapore for you, a random meeting often turns into the most interesting encounter.
Toy-Shelf is such a great idea for Singapore, especially with so much travel going on. Whether it be family coming to visit, heading off on a quick holiday because “island fever” has gotten too much, even the transient nature of living here. It just makes good sense to spend less, have less and be more conscious about what we buy especially when it comes to the things we get for our kids. Read the article Consuming Consciously – Six Tips to Get You Started (for grown-ups) on vanillabeige.com.
Nickie is also just so personable and if you ever have any questions or need suggestions about what your kid might be in to, I’m sure she can help you out. Thanks for talking to us Nickie! Can’t wait for you to show up on our doorstep with that huge play set that we are grateful we didn’t have to spend a fortune on. 🙂
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Nickie
My husband Gary and I moved to Singapore from South Africa in 2008. Two gorgeous kids and a cheeky golden labrador later, Singapore has become our home. I come from an events management background and met Gary while working at the same advertising company in Johannesburg.
I’ve always wanted to run my own business, even when I first started working, but decided to focus on being a mum after we settled in Singapore. It’s only after I had kids that I realised there was an opportunity to help moms like myself with a toy rental service. Combining my event experience, love for kids and my passion for sourcing unique toys,Toy-Shelf has become the perfect fit for me.
Why did you decide to start Toy-Shelf.com?
As a mum of two young kids, I know how easily they can outgrow and get bored of their toys. I was the one who had bought that brand new, expensive exersaucer only to have it used for two months. Then it was left sitting around my living room in my tiny apartment, taking up so much space!
Toy-Shelf was started to help mums and dads keep their little ones entertained without spending lots of money, while saving space at the same time. Kids lose interest in new things so quickly, so renting gives parents an opportunity to change toys when needed. Their little ones can keep exploring and be kept stimulated.
After travelling with kids I also realised there are many baby essentials which would be a great help for parents travelling from Singapore as well as for parents coming to visit Singapore. I remember thinking to myself while holidaying in Phuket and trying to navigate my big bulky pram down the narrow pavements, how I would have loved to have brought a baby carrier with me. But buying a brand new carrier for a holiday just wasn’t viable, especially if the baby didn’t like it. Our travel range allows parents to rent items such as baby carriers, lightweight strollers and portable car seats on a weekly basis. And if you are travelling to Singapore on holiday, I am sure there is nothing more convenient than having a travel cot waiting for you at your serviced apartment after your long haul flight.
Toy-Shelf is an online toy rental store based in Singapore that offers a wide range of fun and unique toys that are delivered to your doorstep. Toys include play kitchens, ride-ons, activity centres and outdoor toys. The brands we have include Little Tikes, ELC, Hape, Vtech and Melissa & Doug.
We also offer travel items that are aimed at making your next trip away from home much more manageable. Whether it’s a portable cot or travel vest, Toy-Shelf offers weekly rentals of these items so parents can use them for their quick trip away or grandparents can use for their grandkids coming to stay with them in Singapore.
Our party toy range is great if you only need toys for a few hours and don’t want a big ball pit sitting in your house for a month. We will deliver and set up the toys at your party venue and collect the toys again once your party has finished.
My kids think I have the most exciting job in the world! I have the best fun researching and sourcing new products for the business and my kids have the most fun testing them out. After all, kids make the best reviewers.
How does it work?
Browse our website, choose the toy you want and get it delivered to your doorstep, it’s that easy! Orders can be placed anytime over phone, email or SMS and payment can be done online. You can also choose to pay cash on delivery, whichever you prefer. Toys are cleaned and sanitised after every rental and all products are in tip top condition. And if your child really enjoys the toy and wants to keep it once your rental period is up, you can just renew it.
I do most of the deliveries myself. I love exploring Singapore and enjoy meeting new people so it’s a great way to meet my customers face to face. I think they appreciate the personal touch.
Who do you think would most appreciate what you offer?
Parents who are looking at a quick, easy and cost effective way to entertain their little ones. Our customers really enjoy the convenience of being able to choose a toy in the comfort of their own home and have it delivered. It avoids any tantrums in the toy store. What more could any parent ask for?
Which toy is your favourite? And which are your kids favourites?
I really like the soft play set as it is an incredibly fun toy for parties. It accommodates so many kids at once and kids of different ages. It is like a mini obstacle course for kids and can be configured to any layout that works for your party space. This is really handy for restaurants, condo function rooms or even your living room. There are so many different elements to it too. There’s a slide, tunnel, climber and roller which will definitely keep the kids active and entertained.
My son is a car fanatic so he loves all the ride-ons, especially the racers and pickup trucks because his friends can go in the back. My daughter really enjoys role-play so the dollhouses and kitchens are her favourite.
What’s coming up next for Toy-Shelf.com? Are there any new products that you’re looking at that we should be excited about?
There will be lots of new products coming in 2017. We are looking to expand our party hire section so there will be lots more unique and interesting toys available for parties. Watch this space!
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own online service business?
First thing is to get a platform and website that has a simple ecommerce backend. Managing the constant inflow of products, renewals, out of stock items, etc can be very time consuming if you don’t have the right platform. You must also ensure that the platform you choose has great metadata and key wording for it to ranked by Google so people can easily find your website.
Nowadays 80% of users are mobile first, so whatever you do, your platform has to be fully functioning on both desktop and mobile. Tying in all your social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram gives you the greatest reach to build your consumer base.
After you have set that all up, it’s all about the service you provide and unique products you offer. This is where Toy-Shelf has tried to stay ahead of its competitors with the products offered, personal service, fast delivery and continuous stream of new and interesting offerings leading to most of our referrals being through word-of-mouth.
All images provided by Toy-shelf.com.
This article originally appeared on vanillabeige.com and may have been edited for this platform.