Young & Learning was super excited last week to find out we have reached the SME Cambridgeshire Business Awards finals 2019 for two categories Best New Business and The Green Award.
This has been super exciting as Maria and I founded the company in 2017 together shortly after the arrival of their second child. Back then we didn’t even think about being a company that would be in the finals for any awards. None of this would have been achieved without early customers believing in our product and supporting us.
My background before Young & Learning was mainly with small start-ups in Cambridge, with the majority of my working career spent with companies that have a social impact. 2017 was a crazy year for us with lots of travel for me a second child on the way and completing a two-story house extension! After a work trip that involved 4 different counties over 2 weeks and being away from Maria Sofia and baby bump, I had lots of time in hotels and airports to think. After reading a personal development book during the trip I arrived back home declaring we should start a company. Lucky for me, Maria was one step ahead and already knew what product we should focus on. Her idea comes from spending many nights awake to breastfeed our first born and scrolling mums support groups at 3 am.
We then decided to create Young & Learning, a business as a force for good to reduce toy waste by making sustainable toys that are played with, encourage child development, are loved and last for years. We were already concerned about the number of toys that had been brought for us and not used and wanted to change this. We also love scuba diving holidays and reducing plastic waste in our business was a must since the beginning. We have witnessed how waste and Carbon Dioxide is causing Climate Change and having a detrimental effect on our oceans and the planet. I had also seen first hand in rural African countries waste piling up destroying natural wildlife habitats or being burnt to get rid of it without proper landfill waste facilities allowing toxins to be released into the atmosphere and kids breathing it in.
(Photo of Curvy balance board being used in an early years setting showcasing its small world open ended play)
The product development of Curvy was quite straight forward as I have first class Degree in electronics and have spent over a decade in product design, manufacturing, product quality, and reliability. Curvy was my first time working on manufacturing a wooden product but the same principles still apply when making a top quality product.
Starting a company was a bit scarier neither of us had run a company before. Maria also has a degree in Electronics engineering from Valencia, where she grew up. She moved to Cambridge in 2010 and that’s where we met. She has over 10 years of experience in R&D, customer support and key-account management for top-Cambridge companies. Her ability to use these experiences from those roles and high level of detail has helped get Young & Learning going from daily problem-solving, managing daily activities and having a huge amount of curiosity has kept us innovating.
We are a family run business and even our young kids have got involved with helping. Sofia is the eldest and has spent evenings and weekends trying and testing new toys. We have seen Nolan growing from birth with Curvy balance board, just being placed and rocked on some of the very first prototypes to be able to walk and rock on the latest versions. Sofia along with her little brother are the stars of the show when it comes to helping out with social media photos and inspirations.
We have grown our social media from 0 to over 600 followers on Facebook and over 2400 followers on Instagram in less than a year. We are about to launch 3 new versions of the Curvy balance board and already this year completed a deal which is larger than our total first 6 months of sales.
We are definitely young and learning and the way we care about children and our planet is by making beautifully designed sustainable open-ended toys that will last for generations.