Passionate about teaching children to embrace the outdoors, Melanie Douglas believes in the importance of nurturing their connection with nature. At Little Farmer, she makes it easy for parents to learn with their children and teach them not only to love and appreciate nature, but to develop the practical skills to grow their own garden. Little Farmer subscription boxes get your children outside, learning about plants, the seasons, insects and birds.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. A 2016 study found that 96% of parents think that their children playing outside is important for their development, but the majority of children still do not get to engage in a range of ‘real play’ activities. In fact, nearly 60% of Kiwi kids spend more than 4 hours a day in front of screens. Growing up in an extremely rural area, my sisters and I were constantly outside playing in nature. Once I had moved to the city and had my own children, I was inspired to find ways to enable them to embrace nature and learn the practical skills to grow their own garden. I realised that I could share my knowledge and love of nature with other families.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I started by working out the concept. I originally was just going to focus on gardening but thought that also including fun nature activities such as making pressed flower suncatchers would increase the time spent in nature and provide more learning opportunities. I worked on it single mindedly in every spare moment, working with a graphic designer to create the logo, sourcing organic seeds and finding an artist to paint the seed packet illustrations. It was also extremely important to me to focus on using sustainable packaging. It was extremely exciting to see it all come together and hold the first box in my hands.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
When I first started investigating the idea, I realised that there were no other kids’ gardening subscription boxes on the market in NZ, so this was an innovative business opportunity. I’m also pleased with my decision to make the boxes seasonal, as one of the most frequent positive comments from customers is that they appreciate knowing what to plant and when. The biggest breakthrough so far happened when my Facebook post about the first month’s box was shared by a popular Nature Play Facebook page. Suddenly my page that had only been followed by my family and friends actually had ‘real’ followers! My first few orders came in, then I literally fell off my chair when the first 6-month subscription was purchased.