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Shop Small, Feel Great! Meet the faces behind the toys

When you choose to shop small and support Smiling Tree Toys, a lot of good things happen!  There's the good THINGS , like providing employee for numerous families, keeping money in local economies, and promoting small scale, earth friendly production methods.  And then there are the good PEOPLE you're supporting as well. We're a team of moms, dads, and young adults who pour our hearts and souls into keepsake toys destined to be memory makers for you and your little ones. And we're proud to share with you an inside look at our close-knit team.  Everyone brings different skills and talents to the business, but we're all committed to keeping the "local" and the "handmade" in small business.

Justin and I (Kathleen) are the founders and owners.  We started Smiling Tree in 2011 from a tiny seed of an idea.  Recently returned from serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa and about to have our first child, we were searching for what was next.  We're both creatives at heart, dreamers but also doers, and eternal optimists who believe that small steps can lead to big accomplishments.  

As any small business owner can relate to, Justin and I wear ‘all the hats’.  The designers, the researchers, the makers, and the marketers. We share a lot of roles, but we also each have our own responsibilities.  Justin is responsible for most of the making, for keeping the woodshop humming with activity, building inventory, and dealing with the breakdowns and the “how did this happens”.  I, on the other hand, oversee most everything outside of the wood shop walls: personalization and engraving, shipping, customer service, marketing, website management, and accounting.  I do most all of it from my laptop in our home office (or when the kids aren’t at school or Grandma’s, I usually relocate to the kitchen island, the play room, or the family room). My days also involve plenty of quick trips to a small outbuilding that houses our finished inventory, engraver, and shipping station.

As you’ve seen in the video, we definitely don’t do it all on our own.  We have Jake (year round help in the wood shop) and a few additional wood workers during the holiday season.  Tegan takes care of most all things related to personalization, engraving, and shipping on-site. And we call in extra help with packaging and shipping when the Christmas orders are pouring in. Brittany works remotely on design, marketing, social media, and shares the customer service tasks with me.

Now that our oldest (age 8) can read, even she and her younger siblings get in on things, especially when it’s really busy.  They help put letters in the name puzzles, add information tags to toy bags, and seal package with a Smiling Tree sticker (their favorite part!)

Smiling Tree is more than just a family business; it's a defining part of our family.  And the keepsake toys we design, create, and personalize for your little loves ones are more than just another toy.  Smiling Tree Toys means conscious consumerism; selectively choosing fewer, high quality, long-lasting toys over mass produced, short-lived plastic toys destined for the landfill. We also believe it’s better to give than to receive.  So we donate a portion of our profits to support Peace Corps youth development projects around the world.

When we design and create toys, it's always about more than the physical product.  It's about promoting playtime that’s open-ended and battery and screen free. It’s about encouraging caregivers to spend time playing and interacting with their children, and creating memories cherished by young and old.  We create with the goal of each toy being treasured long after childhood, tucked into a box of keepsakes to rediscover some day and share with the next generation. 

We know you have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing wooden toys and keepsake gifts for your family and friends.  And as thrilled as we are each time a new order comes through (it truly never gets old, and yes we actually do the occasional ‘happy dance’!), we’re even more excited for the opportunity to connect with you, learn from you, share stories, and build a community of parents and caregivers passionate about keeping the simple, the timeless, and the personal in childhood.  Thank you, truly, for being here and choosing our family to help make memories among you and yours.

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