25 Nov Have you heard about Lela Land?
Ewelina Szynkarek chats to SHE about her new business venture; an online shop for kids with a difference. Gracing the web during the pandemic, this family-run business sells clothes, toys and accessories for kids. Nothing out of the ordinary there you might say. But wait! The clothes are, for the most part, second hand, the majority of the toys wooden and the accessories crocheted by a member of the family. We couldn’t resist finding out a little bit more ….
Ewelina, tell us a bit about yourself and how Lela Land came to be?
I am Polish. I’ve been living in Malta since 2012 and my partner is Maltese. We love traveling and bike rides. In April 2019 our baby girl was born and our life became more exciting than any ride we ever took. We started to realize that it was, for the most part, challenging to source certain baby products and quality toys locally. We had been thinking about opening a business for quite some time now, so with mummy’s business mind and daddy’s creativity, we decided we could make a difference by finally starting something of our own.
Is there a story behind the name for your online shop?
Oh yes! Our little one can’t pronounce her name “Leia” properly yet. Instead she happily calls herself “Lela”. We had many brainstorming sessions to find a suitable name for our online shop but nothing really felt right until one morning whilst asking my sweet pie her name and hearing her sound the word “Lela” so sweetly – I couldn’t think of a better fit – so we named the shop after her .. “Lela Land”.
You say that Lela Land is a family business. Which family members are involved and what roles do each of you play within the business?
I’m the business mind behind the project; the company is also registered on me as a sole-trader. However, as previously mentioned, daddy plays a big part, he is the creative one and helps to source many of the products, he handles some of the marketing, which helps me immensely since he is Maltese. He is also our main delivery person! We love the fact and are very proud that Leia’s nanna does all the crochet herself. Finally, we can’t forget Leia herself! She is our photo model and plays a big part in the testing process. Usually we buy a particular toy for her first, so we can test how she takes to it before we decide to stock it online.
Would you say the Covid19 Pandemic has played a role in pushing you towards your goal of running your own business?
Yes it did, definitely. First of all, since we had our daughter, I realized that my previous career in tourism was no longer making me happy and didn’t allow me a good work-life balance. I felt like I needed to make a change. The time to find a new job wasn’t ideal, so I was slowly exploring my options. Due to the pandemic, we had to start taking our vacation leave and since March we only worked around 3 days a week. Thanks to that, we finally had more time to dedicate to brainstorming our new business idea and to begin the process of bringing it to life. They say the first step is the most difficult and I totally agree. Little by little we worked at our idea and finally we managed to go live in May. The shop started off more as a hobby and I am aware that it takes time to actually start seeing some return, but actually having it, made me re-think where my priorities lie and pushed me to start changing my life. This is what lead me to leave my previous job. I had a good 2 months where I could fully focus on family and the shop, which was an amazing period. It finally felt right! Meanwhile, I was searching for a new, full-time job, which I started this October. I love my new job and it allows for a better work-life balance. Working remotely also helps. I can dedicate time to my job, to Lela Land and to my beautiful family as well.
You have recently started your own family. Has having a child altered your approach to business in general?
Yes it did. Most of all, it inspired the direction for Lela Land. We had many ideas before that but nothing felt right. I always wanted to do something in collaboration with Polish suppliers, but was never convinced until we had our baby girl and then the idea felt obvious.
Reusing of clothes is both practical and Eco-friendly. Would you say it is a relatively new concept in Malta and do you envisage any barriers due to peoples’ perceptions about reusing clothes?
Oh definitely. I can see that the trend is not that popular in Malta yet. All around Europe people are proud of giving clothes a second life, reusing, being Eco-friendly and trying to follow a more sustainable approach. Here it seems like people prefer to buy cheap quality and new, rather than good quality branded clothes that are second hand. I really want to change this perception! Especially when it comes to children’s clothing, the quality is so important and since kids grow out of the clothes so quickly, the clothes are literally like new. Why pay so much for new clothes, when you can spend the money elsewhere. Our second-hand collection is all branded, imported, washed and handpicked by the Lela Land Team. We stock loads of brands such as Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Zara, Reserved, Petit Bateau etc. Unfortunately there aren’t lots of nice, second hand shops in Malta, like the ones I am used to in my hometown. We, at Lela Land are trying to change that by bringing you a vast selection which you can browse in the comfort of your own home.
Tell us more about the types of toys that you stock?
Toys sold in the shop are mostly wooden, the ideal for child’s proper development. The organic experience of touching, sensing the surface, shape, volume, and weight of the wooden toys develops complex neurological connections in the brain and strengthens their memory. Besides the sensory development, wooden toys support exploring and playing with products made from organic materials. The majority of them align with the Montessori concept, which is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Last, but not least, wooden toys support the sustainable, Eco-friendly concept of the shop.
We also collaborate with a Polish brand with 38 years experience, producing sensory toys for the youngest. Sensory toys are not only fashionable, but serve as proper development for a child. From the first days of life, our children need properly selected stimulation to develop their senses. At first, children are not able to notice colours other than white and black, only with time red comes into play and slowly new colours as well. That is why specialists recommend black and white toys, which we have a large selection of.
A small, but unique part of the shop are our handmade, crochet toys and accessories, made by a family member, with 30 years of experience in crochet.
Would you say Malta is a good place to initiate a startup of this type?
It’s not bad, the procedure for setting up a sole-trader is rather easy and the costs aren’t that high compared to other countries. There are lots of new small businesses coming up, so that’s also proving my point (and also increasing the competition, but well, the competition drives the market after all).
Can you describe/outline your typical day?
I get up at around 6-6:30am, morning chaos of trying to get Leia ready for childcare, then I start my full-time job. I then pick Leia up from school and spend quality afternoons fully focused on the family. I put Leia to bed at around 7pm and then Lela Land time starts. I love to work in the evenings, I’m not a TV person at all so I’ll spend a couple of hours on the business each day during the week (and put more time in on the weekends) and finally we enjoy some mummy and daddy time.
What motivates you?
My family, my ambition and my desire for a happy and satisfying life.
Do you have anything special lined up for Christmas? How is Lela Land getting ready for the biggest holiday of the year?
We love handmade, eco-friendly, personalized items. We Included some of these like; handmade, crochet Baby Yoda and BB-8 (we are a bit crazy about Star Wars, mostly daddy), personalized wooden baubles and 2021 calendars.
Our wooden story blocks make the perfect gift already packaged in eco-friendly boxes, no wrapping required.
And finally some cute Christmas clothing. We also had wooden advent calendars and felt Christmas Trees, but these are already sold out!
What do you hope to achieve with Lela Land in the medium to long-term?
I hope Lela Land will be recognized as a user-friendly online shop for kids that sells great quality second-hand clothes, beneficial wooden and sensory toys and room interiors.
Customer service is really important to us and we want to go the extra mile to make ourselves available for our customers to discuss any special requests and to make sure that our client base is happy and satisfied with our service.
We are currently working on including more products that will help children with SPD- Sensory Processing Disorder. We already have a selection of sensory toys, but would like to spread more awareness and include products that help kids with SPD in everyday life; like weighted blankets, squishy, tactile toys and oral sensory toys. These should be added to our shop in the coming weeks.
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