Capikooa founders Maria and Warren understand what it’s like to want the best for your little ones: to not only want them to be healthy, happy and thriving as they grow, but to have the best future on this planet too. They also know the importance of being conscious shoppers and not filling your home with poor-quality plastic toys. Capikooa was created with a simple aim: to design and make sustainable, fun toys for children to grow and learn through play. All their products are designed to support your child’s development, look beautiful and ensure they don’t cost the earth, whilst providing endless hours of imaginitive play. Their sustainable wooden balance boards are designed to delight kids, do good for the planet, and become a family heirloom that can be handed down through generations. Here Maria talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind their business, their biggest breakthrough, and their hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
5 days after becoming a parent, my baby and I had to go back to hospital for a couple of nights because she had lost too much weight. I became very worried about her health and development; I wanted the best for her and felt like I had failed. Child development became my passion. I even did some courses and training to learn more about it. My aha moment was when I realised that babies learn with their bodies before they can learn with their brains! With the importance of movement in babies and young children, together with the first-hand realisation of toy waste, I decided to start a business for good to support child development from the early years and help reduce waste in toys.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
The idea of starting a business had been in my mind (and my partner Warren’s) for a while and the purpose had always been clear: for the future of our children (their development and the planet they will live on), but it took some time to actually get started. I started while on maternity leave with my second child.
I did all the research work and Warren worked on the design, development and making of the product. We bootstrapped from the beginning and because of our engineering background, we did a good job with the product part of the business, but we didn’t know much about marketing, so we didn’t tell anyone about what we were working on until we believed it was perfect. At that moment, we put our product up for sale online but in the first month no-one purchased it. This made me realise I had to go out of my comfort zone and show the product to the world.
I first visited local nurseries with my baby in the sling and a balance board under my arm. I was offering a one-week trial to get their feedback, but when I was coming back to collect the balance board and get feedback, they would say, “I’ll keep it! Actually, I’ll buy one for each of the nursery rooms”. That made parents see their children playing with the balance board at nursery and buying it for home. Slowly, by word of mouth, we started growing.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Feedback from customers is very important to us. We also observe how they use the product when they tag us on social media or send us emails or direct messages. We noticed that there were customers who drew with chalks on the balance board. Our balance boards back then were only finished with a clear child-friendly lacquer on top of the beech wood, so scrubbing it clean a few times could eventually remove the lacquer and leave the wood bare. We also observed customers using bluetack or playdough to stick things to the board. These two new uses of the balance board got us thinking and it took a lot of research and development to come up with the material that ticked all the boxes for our values.