Welcome to the third installment in our Littlestarblog ♥ Mompreneurs series ! Today’s interview features the lovely Kate Fagelman from Little Play Spaces, which makes me especially happy because I have long been a huge fan of their lovingly illustrated and eco-friendly cardboard playhouses… Little Play Spaces currently offers three adorable playhouses to choose from, the French Café, the Castle and the newly added Beauty Parlor. All their designs are made from 50% recycled paper and promise to be lots of fun for not just your little ones but the whole family !
LSB: Hello Kate, welcome to Littlestarblog ! Tell us about your business and what you do exactly.
K: I am the owner/ creator of Little Play Spaces a small business which designs and produces good-sized cardboard playhouses that stand apart from other playhouses with their colorfully illustrated exteriors.
LSB: What inspired you to start your own business and how did you come up with the initial idea ?
K: My first daughter, Molly (she is now 9), was like most little girls and loved to sit us down in her imaginary ‘cafe’ and pour me some tea and imaginary coffee for my husband. She did not tire of this play pretend at all and one day I decided to make her very own mini cafe for her. We had just moved and there were tons of cardboard boxes lying around and so Molly and me set to work on “Molly’s French Cafe” (Molly was also very into Fancy Nancy and so it HAD to be French).
Molly’s little play group friends loved the cafe and I was not really wanting to go back to full-time work quite yet and I’m not entirely sure when I thought I would make a business out of designing playhouses but I do remember talking to my dad, who was the head of an art school in the UK and that conversation was the spark that ignited the whole venture of Little Play Spaces.
LSB: What were you doing before this and is this your first business ?
K: I moved to Texas 15 years ago and before that taught art in schools in London, U.K. I met my husband there and on moving to Dallas, decided to ‘switch gear’ from teaching and went to work for a local museum. This is where I stayed until I had my first daughter. By that point I was craving a return to the creative field and while pregnant with her started a little business designing lampshades.
LSB: What has been your biggest obstacle or challenge so far and how did you overcome it ?
K: For me personally, my biggest obstacle was probably ‘me’. It takes a lot of commitment to start a business but what is most important is self-belief and belief in the product or service you are providing. If you have that and the right work ethic, you most likely will succeed. I learned very quickly that people feed off of your own enthusiasm; so try to keep positive at all times. Most recently, I would say my biggest obstacle is international shipping costs – they are frustratingly high.
LSB: Where do you see the future of your company ?
K: I get so excited about thinking up and playing with new ideas for playhouses in my head. For me the best part to my business is the designing stage. I want to try and come out with one new design every year. We plan to expand into the European market in early 2013 and eventually to Australia as they are very popular over there.
LSB: What contributions do you want to make through your company ?
K: The best contribution our playhouses can provide is to the imaginary and creative development of kids minds. There are many theories and lots of articles out there that point to the essential importance of pretend play and its direct correlation to improved social, linguistic and cognitive skills and even academic ability.
LSB: Do you incorporate any green business practices into your current venture ?
K: Our playhouses are all made from over 50% recycled paper product and of course are easily recycled when their ‘time is up’. We also have a Carbon Neutral shipping option with the US, so that for every box shipped a certain amount of that cost will go back towards an eco-concious organization that, for example, might plant a forest.
LSB: Do you have a female role model or a famous woman you admire ?
K: Apart from just plain being kind, the people I admire (am sometimes envious of) the most are usually girlfriends or other mums who have oodles of ideas and over-abundant creativity (just visit Etsy or Pinterest to see) or who have been successful in their workplace or business.
LSB: Can women really have it all ? How do you balance raising your children and heading a company ?
K: I may have to look back in 10 years and really know whether I balanced being a mum and running a small business, or not. I do work from home and our daughters’ school is just 5 minutes away, so I feel fortunate that I can run up to their school for Halloween parties, school plays or forgotten homework!
That being said, there are those days (usually when I am close to launching a new design) where I just have to close the door to my office and put out the ‘do not disturb’ sign. In the past year, I have been getting up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings and this had made a huge difference to my stress levels. By the time my girls are up and wanting breakfast at 6:30, I have already sorted all my emails and press releases and we are usually all a little more relaxed. It does get easier as the kids get a little older too. I can explain to them more on a one-to-one basis what I am doing and how maybe I cannot make it to their soccer game that day. Also, it is fun for them that my product is a kid product and they love the fact that all their friends have playhouses.
LSB: What is the one piece of advise that you would give aspiring mom entrepreneurs ?
K: Do your research. Google whatever your concept or product is and see what is out there first. More often than not there will either be a way for you to improve on this or find a little gap that no one has filled yet.
Thank you Kate for the inspiring interview ! How admirable is it, that she gets up at 4:30 a.m. each morning ?!
Take a look at her website and while you are already there – Kate would love to her some of your suggestions for new playhouse designs ! Just comment below or cast your vote for your favorite design here ! 🙂