“We want them to understand that an actual family made their toys, not an assembly line.”
— Stacey Bannor, Bannor Toys
Soon after starting up an in-home daycare in central Iowa, Stacey Bannor realized having a good selection of reliable toys at her disposal was crucial for her business. Growing tired of dealing with constantly breaking toys and safety recalls from toy manufacturers, Stacey set out to put together a collection of durable, educational toys she could be proud to show off to prospective clients.
Stacey’s husband, Jesse, who worked in the home mortgage division of a large banking company, loved woodworking as a hobby. He started crafting toys for Stacey to use in her daycare, using beautiful maple, walnut and cherry hardwoods.
Jesse built baby rattles, wooden cars and trucks, building blocks and some floor toys. The toys became excellent additions to Stacey’s daycare collection, and the Bannors realized there might be others looking for these same types of quality, American-made toys. They decided to turn Jesse’s hobby into a toy-making business.
“Once we realized that there were others out there looking for the same things in a toy we knew we had a shot,” Stacey told The Marketplace.
In a blog post earlier this year, Jesse wrote the following explanation for why he chose to accept the risk of quitting his job in order to start a family business:
“I used to have an office job. It was a pretty god job, the pay was ok, the hours were reliable and decent. Maybe it is because I’m a bit eccentric, maybe it is because I get bored – but it just didn’t feel natural to me to sit in a cubicle surrounded by 500 other cubicles. Not to say that is a bad thing, I also have family in mortgage and insurance and they are every bit as valuable as those of us who do labor or “hands on” work. I just felt a calling to DO and to MAKE and that is why I ended up back in my woodshop.”
The early days of their business were full of ups and downs for the Bannors, quite literally at times. Stacey recounted an experience to The Marketplace that took place right after they’d moved their workshop from their home to a 3,000-square foot warehouse with 20-foot ceilings. Jesse was there doing some electrical work by himself, when Stacey decided to head over to see how he was doing.
“I am so glad we walked down there this day,” Stacey said, because shortly after arriving, she heard Jesse screaming her name.
“So I run out to the workshop part and see him hanging from the rafters and the ladder slid halfway down the wall! After I got the ladder back up and he got down safely, we could not stop laughing about it, thank goodness he has good reflexes and didn’t fall down with the ladder!” she said, adding as small business owners they’re simply learning as they go.
From the outset of their business, the Bannors understood they wouldn’t be the only people out there making American-made wooden toys. They decided early on they wouldn’t let their competition bother them. Stacey wrote the following in their company blog:
“We don’t compete with other wooden toy makers. We just don’t. It’s not who we are and we don’t think it’s a healthy focus for Bannor Toys. Every minute we spend worried about what someone else is doing is time we are not focused on where we are taking Bannor Toys! We aren’t the toy shop who brags about our products or uses fancy words to promote ourselves. We just don’t operate like that and it makes us tremendously uncomfortable. Jesse and I love what we do. We love our customers. We love being able to give back to our communities. We love that our toys make kids smile. We love to think outside the box and try new things. That’s it! (We also love to support other small American made businesses!)”
As new shop owners at The Marketplace by TheBlaze, the Bannors add to the vibrancy and passion found only in the finest collection of small businesses
To learn more, visit Bannor Toys at The Marketplace by TheBlaze.