Imagine the scene. You have three children who all love playing with farm toys but you find it so hard to find everything they want in one place
One wants toy animals, one tractors and the third loves all things horse. As a busy mum, time is precious so rather than have to keep going to various outlets for the toys, if you’re Julia Lowe, you set up a business which sells all farm toys in one place.
Farm Toys Online was established ten years ago now, after Julia’s bright idea.
Before marrying and moving to the West County, Julia helped run her family’s educational farm in Surrey.
She then set up a web design agency but, after having three children, Emily, Oliver and Harry, she decided to sell her website design business and start something simple that she could fit around the kids.
So she combined her ecommerce knowledge and love of farming, and hey presto Farm Toys Online was born.
At the time the children were all different, and each liked things their own way but they all loved farm toys.
Emily loved horses, Oliver liked playing farmer with his cows and sheep and Harry was crazy about tractors.
Ten years after her amazing idea, the company is bigger and better than ever but they still do what they do for the same great reasons:
To make it easy to find fantastically fun, top quality farm toys, all under one roof, and because Julia loves what she does.
It has taken a lot of hard work with early mornings and late nights to ensure the children were happy and the business thrived but Julia laughed when I asked how she managed to organise her time.
“I could lie and try to come up with something clever, but the reality is that I don’t,” she said.
“With three kids and Farm Toys Online to manage, I’ve just learnt to go with the flow.”
Julia says it has been incredibly rewarding to see, what was once a bright idea, mature to ten years in business.
“It feels like all the dedication, hard work and perseverance has paid of. Despite competition, we’ve continued to grow because we’ve stuck to what we know – farm toys. If it is on a farm we sell a toy version of it, and our customers love that about us.”
As with many small businesses, Julia says their greatest challenge for them (and others in a similar position is the unfair competition from the likes of Amazon who, unlike them, don’t pay their fair share of tax.
“Surely, a .co.uk website selling goods to people in the UK should pay VAT at 20 per cent and that is without getting into the corporation tax issue.” Farm Toys Online is single handedly keeping the imaginations of carpet farmers fuelled across the land and she says we really need to get young people excited about farming-both the carpet variety and the real thing.
“Not enough parents are getting their children out onto farms and teaching them about where their food comes from,” she said.
“Young kids are being immersed in a technological culture which worries me. Farm toys have a huge role to play in this. Through our toys children can act out farm scenes that come to life in their imagination and gets them excited about the world of farming.”
Here here to this, I say. I would rather buy 100 toy tractors than a tablet for my children.
Julia’s business has expanded and now, employing outside of the family, she says she prides herself on happy employees, satisfied customers and a family feel.
Julia adds “We also have excellent relationships with our suppliers. Not only do we work with some well-known international brands like Britains, Siku, Bruder, Rolly and Breyer. But we also work with some smaller British ones too like Brushwood Toys, which is run by a lovely Devon farmer and Tractor Ted, whose founder was at agricultural college with my husband”.
Looking to the future, Julia said: “We had our biggest Christmas ever in 2017 and we have lots of plans in the pipeline to make this one even better, including the release of our very own Farmer Freddie book”.
Here’s to another 10 years and even greater success the Farm Toys Online team.