LEANNE Murner has worked multiple jobs from a young age, which explains how she bought her first house at 20.
"At 15, I did Avon and ended up in the President's Club in 18 months, and you can't go much further than that," she chuckles.
The craft-loving mum has, however, progressed further afield: her Toronto-based business 5 Little Bears recently won two silver awards (in product design and making a difference - education) - in the Mumpreneur awards.
It makes educational and sensory resources for children, drawing its name from Murner's five young sons.
Its journey began in 2018 when Mrs Murner returned from the Mumpreneur Awards in Melbourne, where her first company, Personalised Keepsakes, was nominated in the sustainability category. A specialist supplier of timber memory boxes, cremation urns and photography packaging, the company had an oversupply of pine offcuts.
"We had a lot of offcuts from making these boxes, we were literally throwing them away, it seemed such a waste," she says.
Speaking to her boys' preschool, she got the idea to make puzzles with an Australian theme, which she designed and made from scratch using a computer and engraving machine.
"I was cutting them all during the day and glueing at night, my eldest kids were helping me and it's been educational for them," she says, adding that she also initially made sensory products.
The range of 5 Little Bears has grown and sustainability is a focus: all offcuts are bagged as loose parts and the sawdust collected from machining the timber is bagged and given away to be used for compost or mulch. The perspex it uses are also offcuts sourced locally.
During COVID-19 lockdown, Mrs Murner was kept busy homeschooling as sales surged grew by 400 per cent, her buyers shifting from parents and schools to retailers buying stock wholesale. She employed five new staff, all local mums who work "school hours".
5 Little Bears has a display showroom and factory workshop in Toronto and Mrs Murner plans to transform it into a retail space.
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