Friday, 25 May 2007

A Bit of Pre-history

So how did it all start? Well, something like this ...


Somewhere around 2003, Anita (Belgian born, fluent in Mandarin, married to an Aussie) takes her 2 pre-school boys to a small home-based play school run by Rose (Kenyan born, in Singapore since 1998, married to an Irishman). They are neighbours and soon become friends.

ANITA (exasperated): It's so hard to get good quality toys. Why can't I find things that are durable and educational? Toy shops are full of stuff based on the latest movie or TV show, stuff that breaks down after a week - and in any case the kids are already bored with it before then.

ROSE: I couldn't agree more. And here we are in a tiny island faced with a waste disposal problem. You see so many toys going into the bin lorry. I wish there were better toys and I wish they could be re-used when kids grow tired of them.

ANITA: Most people live in small apartments, so it's understandable that they have to get rid of clutter. In lots of countries there are toy libraries where you can borrow toys, but I've never seen one in Singapore. I wonder if something like that would work?

ROSE (warming to the theme): Yes, and not just toys - what about strollers, slides, baby carriers, carseats, nursing pumps, all sorts of things? And birthday parties: think of all those parties in condo function rooms and the trouble parents have trying to organise activities for kids ... Their lives would be so much easier if they could just rent out play houses and push-along toys and a ballpit and so on.

ANITA: Yes! And what about all the visitors who come here and have to carry strollers and carseats and toys with them - I bet they'd love to travel lighter and just rent something while they're here ...

Scene 1 is repeated at least a dozen times.

Rose, hugely pregnant with triplets, takes a break from work. The babies are born in May 2005. Life will never be the same again. Anita, too, is busy as one boy starts "big school" and another moves to kindergarten. Who needs a business?

April 2007. The idea just won't go away! the toy rental club is registered as a business.

May 2007. A hundred amateurish versions of the website are launched. (Come back every 5 minutes and spot the changes.) Ads are placed in magazines. Fliers are distributed.

ANITA (excited): Look, look! We got an email!
ROSE (terrified): Oh no, the phone's ringing! What will I say?
ANITA: Just don't answer it. No, I mean do! Oh heck, I guess this means we're in business ...

(The rest, of course, is history.)

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Toy Rental Club toddles onto the stage

the toy rental club launches its website and thus becomes a functioning business. We have so much to learn, mere toddlers taking those first wobbly steps across the carpet with our arms outstretched and faces full of hope.

But despite the playmats, the jolly seesaws and the colourful toys, this is actually the world of grown-ups. Setting-up costs have broken the bank, there is rent to pay and soon we'll have to hire delivery trucks. These toddlers must run before they can walk!