Where were you raised and what influenced your career?
I was raised in Canberra and moved to Newcastle when I was 27. I never had a particular career I was striving for but always had that drive to be my own boss.
What was your pathway after school?
I left school and was working multiple jobs saving for my first home which I purchased at 21. My focus was just to do up my home while my friends travelled the world. I loved woodwork at school, so this experience came in handy renovating my home. I was not thinking I would be the face behind a manufacturing company making educational resources later in life.
I was not thinking I would be the face behind a manufacturing companyLeanne Murner
How did you get the idea for your first business, Personalised Keepsakes, and what did it offer?
I was a photographer looking for packaging without having to purchase bulk. I reached out to a few photography friends about purchasing from China, within four months of building up come customers I bought my first machine and started to print on the products I imported and scaled from there.
We offered them to photographers packing for their clients at no minimum. With such a huge demand for our products within two years we were manufacturing timber products here in Newcastle.
How and why did you start your educational company, 5 Little Bears?
My packaging business had lots of timber offcuts that I wanted to repurpose. I had discovered there was a lack for timber educational resources based on Australian themes and started to research and that is how 5 Little Bears come about.
There are lots of companies who make things in this area. How is your product different?
Our products are one-of-a-kind, being designed by me. I wanted to make products that were not on the market and unique.
What happened when the March 2020 pandemic first hit?
As COVID-19 hit my main business packaging business was forced to close down. 5 Little Bears was still at start up and was not big enough to keep us afloat, so I started to run some Facebook ads to try and target parents homeschooling their kids and needing resources.
This is where the business hit the next level, scaling over 400%. We were inundated from parents wanting products and retail stores wanting wholesale.
How did it change your operations and what did it teach you?
I had to redesign the entire range to suit the demand. With no offcuts from the other business, I could not make products. I learnt to open my mind to other possibilities which lead to new products.
How is the company placed now?
We have been fortunate enough to have success from this pandemic, we have now expanded into wholesale not only just in Australia but around the world.
What inspires your products and do your five boys have an input?
Producing these products is allowing kids to learn about the amazing country we live in. I get so much satisfaction watching my children's faces light up when my book proofs arrive, or I make some new products for them to approve.
I take great pride in demonstrating to my sons on a daily basis what a strong work ethic, creativity and determination can produce!
Why did you decide to write a book and what is it about?
I gathered information to try and make a puzzle or game around native plants that 1. Educate on this topic and 2. Are engaging enough for children to stay interested. There was just too much information for this to work so I put it into book. Eighteen months later I have now written seven books, six already published, teaching kids about Australia native plants, what they need and who needs them to survive. I am currently working on another series based around animals, their habitat and threats. I have absolutely loved this new path I have taken further educating children on this amazing country we live in.
Most parents struggle with balancing home and work, more now than ever with homeschooling. How are you coping?
My husband works afternoon shift, I start early so we are sharing the roles with the homeschooling allowing me to still work. It has worked out well.
You recently won five awards at the Mumpreneur event. Which one meant the most?
It's close with Business Pivot and Author of the Year. Pivoting during a pandemic was one of the most stressful things I have done but at the same time, I also became a children's book author, this journey has been life changing for me.
What new things are in the pipeline?
We have just rolled out our range with Kookaburra selling directly into early years and primary schools.
I am also working on another exciting project creating packs and an online subscription platform - this will be available in 2022.
What or who inspires you in business?
The amazing connections and support I have received in the Ausmumpreneur community. I would not be where I am today if I didn't have these amazing women in my life.
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