Meet the Maker: Miranda Davidson, Founder of Happy Planet Toys.
Team Buy Aussie Now
This story was written by several Buy Aussie Now team members.
Happy Planet Toys is the first company to make toys in Australia from recycled Australian milk bottles. They create unique Australian toys with fun characters and functionality, to spark imaginations and inspire sustainably-minded Aussie kids.
Their toys are a fantastic, practical way to show children the importance of reducing plastic waste, protecting our environment, and how recycling can become something special. Happy Planet Toys believe that inspiring young children to protect the environment is a great way to encourage families to be more sustainable.
How did you start your homegrown business?
As a mum of three, I came up with the idea for Happy Planet Toys after feeling overwhelmed by the volume of mass-produced and non-recyclable plastic toys that were building up in my home. I struggled to find sustainable alternatives that my children would love to play with, which is why I decided to create my own. I realised there would be so many others in the same situation as me – we don’t want to deny our children the joy of new toys, but at the same time, we’re all acutely aware of, and want to minimise, the environmental impact of all these plastic toys.
Being the first company in Australia to upcycle milk bottles into toys, it took more than two years of research and development to understand the recycled plastic and develop a process to mold it into our toy designs. But we’re so proud of what we have achieved, and of the truly innovative products, we’re creating. Most importantly, the amazing feedback we receive from our customers makes all the hard work worth it.
What inspires you? (inspires your designs, inspires your company, inspires your work ethic?)
My family provide me with so much inspiration. For my children, being part of the movement to create a better, more sustainable future for them inspired me to start this business. My husband’s ‘never-say-die’ positive attitude inspires me to take on new challenges every day. And my work ethic is inspired by two of my grandparents – both true Aussie battlers, who through sheer will and hard work, pushed through incredible challenges to be extremely successful.
I also can’t forget that our incredible Australian environment and landscape, and a desire to protect its future, have been a key inspiration, driving me through the challenges of creating the first product of its kind in Australia.
What are the benefits of manufacturing locally?
For Happy Planet Toys, it was a no-brainer that we would manufacture locally. Our toys are made from recycled milk bottles, sourced from Australian kerbside recycling. To send those milk bottles off-shore to be manufactured, to then come back to Australia just wouldn’t make sense. Considering ours is a sustainable business, minimising our carbon footprint is a critical.
More broadly, the key benefits for us in manufacturing locally are quality, speed and communication. We have an open line of communication with our manufacturing team and can physically visit while our toys are in production, undertaking quality checks and making changes ‘on the fly’. It’s extremely quick to receive samples and stock and to relay changes and feedback. And there’s no doubt that the quality and workmanship is first rate.
What makes the Australian consumer unique?
I believe Australian consumers are uniquely nationalistic. We’re aware of how isolated we are on our small island nation, and the uniqueness of our environment, and our resources. With our remoteness and smaller population, it could be necessary to become reliant on cheap and mass-produced items sourced overseas, which I believe is why Australian consumers are so keen to support local makers and innovators, and show the world what we can do.
What is the best business advice you have ever received?
Just go! Start small, and test. The best advice I received was that you could spend forever making everything absolutely perfect, but you have to start somewhere, so just start, and make changes and grow based on feedback from your customers.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in business?
Being the first business of its kind in Australia has presented some unique challenges. The first designers I spoke with about my idea laughed at me and told me it was impossible! And they were almost right (very happily, I proved them wrong!). Creating toys from milk bottles that still have great functionality and meet safety requirements was incredibly difficult and required a huge investment in research and development. Our designs required some major changes late in the process, requiring a large additional manufacturing investment, as well as consultation with international plastic experts. It almost made me give up, but I took the plunge, and pushing through the challenges has definitely been worth it.
What has been your positive takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic?
The incredible sense of Aussie mateship and “banding together”. I’ve seen an amazing increase in businesses and individuals collaborating, and willingness from consumers to dig deep to support local businesses who’ve been hit hard by Covid as well as the bushfires earlier in the year. The incredible support from businesses and everyday Aussies we’ve received is testament to this, and platforms like yours who are throwing their weight behind small businesses who would otherwise struggle to stay afloat right now really helps you believe that we will be ok and we will make it through this very tough time.
Do you keep your vegemite in the fridge or pantry?
In the pantry – no doubt!
Favourite Australian film quote?
“What do you call this, love? Rissoles” from the Castle!
Check out Happy Planet Toys for exciting, engaging and sustainable bath toys.