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ABOUT US | a day in the life

Small Business Saturday is just a few days away. We pride ourselves on being a family owned business and the fact that we create all our toys right here in our little corner of the Minnesota prairie. This Small Business Saturday, we'd like to give you an inside peek at what daily life is like for us right in the midst of our busiest time of the year!

Justin, Kathleen, & Amana 

If you're not familiar with the faces behind Smiling Tree Toys, we're Justin (master woodworker) and Kathleen (master organizer/keep-it-all-together-er). Amana is our 3-year-old daughter, and the inspiration behind Smiling Tree Toys. She's also our master toy-tester :) We're expecting a new little one to arrive just in time for Christmas! We also have Bryan helping out Justin in the shop, and Brittany assists Kathleen with our design and marketing efforts. That's the entire Smiling Tree Toys team.

{A Day in the Life}

6am //WAKE UP! I head straight to the computer to check for any orders & inquiries sent in overnight. I respond to emails, confirm order details, and spend a few minutes interacting with our fans and followers. Meanwhile, Justin preps everything in the wood shop for a day full of creating masterpieces. He consults with me on any special requests and rush orders, and determines which items need to be a priority for the day. 

Smiling Tree Convo

7:30am // Amana stumbles downstairs and greets us with a smile. We enjoy a home-cooked breakfast as a family, and squeeze in a few minutes of playtime before the work day "officially" begins.

Justin in the workshop

8:30am // Bryan arrives and joins Justin in the wood shop. This time of year, they are busy crafting pieces from our current product line. On less busy days, they experiment with different products, shapes, designs, materials, and methods. Inside, I'm busy preparing artwork for the personalized items from customers' orders. I make sure all special requests appear just as the customer specifies and during the holiday season, the engraver runs almost non-stop from predawn until well after dusk! Amana helps package orders and deliver them to the mailbox by 11:15 for the daily shipment.

Amana delivering the day's shipments to the mailbox!


12pm // We break for a quick lunch and maybe a fairy princess book or two before we (try) to put Amana down for a nap.

1:15pm // I answer inquiries, order supplies, tackle my bookkeeping, and ensure the website is running smoothly. There's usually an email or two between myself and Brittany about any projects we're working on as well. All while keeping the engraver hard at it with alphabet blocks, puzzles, and dominoes. Back in the shop, Justin and Bryan are putting the final touches on the toys with our homegrown organic finish.

3:30pm // Bryan's off to pick up his kids from school, and we drop Amana off at my parent's house down the road for some quality time with her cousins and grandparents. We have a meeting with our accountant to go over a few financials before year-end. On the way home, we stop at our local town to do a few errands before we get Amana and head home. Once there, we enjoy some time watching Amana chase after the kitties and run around with Murphy, our golden lab.


6pm // We prepare dinner as a family, making sure to include Amana and encouraging her to help where she can. After dinner, we enjoy a few hours of family time (which usually involves a tea party, a game or two, a bike ride during the warm months, (and of course a few more books) before we tuck Amana in for the night.

8:30pm // Justin heads back to the shop to squeeze in a few more toys before the day ends. I respond to a couple more emails, consult with bloggers/editors about upcoming articles and giveaways, and finalize a few more ornaments for personalization. If time allows, I research new product ideas, potential partnerships, pin designs I like, and doodle other random ideas in my sketchbook.

11:00pm // Justin and I spend a few minutes unwinding and discussing the day, the fun things Amana did or said (proud parents!), and plans for the following day.  

Especially during busy season, we're thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day.  But it's a satisfying, fulfilling kind of exhaustion; to spend our days doing something we truly believe in and are passionate about is hands down the best!

And there you have it: what it's like to be a handcrafting, toy-making, working-from-home-with-kids, family business at Christmastime.

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