“As parents, we see a lot of waste, especially at kids’ parties,” says Starling business customer Carol Wilkins. “There are so many throwaway plastic toys. That’s what really sparked the business.”

Together with her partner Alex Jeffers, she runs Eco Toy Co, an online shop that sells wooden toys, biodegradable bubbles and bioplastic buckets and spades. Bioplastics are made from renewable sources, such as sugarcane.

“Toys help encourage children’s development across many different areas. They’re a safe and engaging way to build skills, such as problem solving or communication. Many of the toys we choose to sell are also designed to give the children the freedom to experiment and explore - there isn’t just one way to play with them.”

The toys are organised by function, type or age group. “We strongly believe that children shouldn’t feel as though they’re being told what they can and can’t play with, based on their gender,” says Carol.

Carol Wilkins, founder of Eco Toy Co, and her daughter

“Promoting toys as being ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ can make children feel embarrassed about, or avoid playing with, certain toys. Having two daughters with already very different and varied interests has only strengthened our feelings on this.” Eco Toy Co is a supporter of the ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ campaign, which calls for an end to gendered promotion of children’s toys.

Both Carol and Alex manage the business alongside full-time jobs. Carol, 39, works as a digital designer of children’s products and Alex, 32, works as a web developer. The couple live in Cardiff.

Choosing materials and manufacturers

Most toys sold by Eco Toy Co are made from wood, sourced from sustainably managed forests and plantations. Generally, wooden toys have a longer lifespan than plastic toys and are easier to fix, meaning they’re less likely to be thrown away. “Some suppliers we work with also offer replacement parts, which you don’t get so much with plastic toys.” If wooden toys do end up in landfill they decompose easily, unlike plastic toys, which can take hundreds of years to break down.

Some toys are primarily made from wood but have an electrical element, such as the camera that makes a noise and flashes when you press a button. “It’s important to get that balance between wooden toys that adults want for their kids and wooden toys children want to play with - kids are used to them being bright and colourful and noisy.”

Carol and Alex do lots of research before deciding to work with a manufacturer. “We get approached by many companies that claim to be eco-friendly. But when you track back their supply chain you quickly see who is genuine and who is just using keywords to attract customers.”

One challenge they faced was finding a manufacturer of non-plastic outdoor toys. “We were desperate to find more outdoor toys that were eco-friendly. Silicon and bioplastic are the best alternatives to hard plastic, even if they’re not as environmentally friendly as the wooden toys.”

Simple banking with Starling

Alex opened a Starling business account for Eco Toy Co in 2020, before launching the business. “We were set up in no time at all,” says Carol, who also has access to the account.

“Having the ability to see what we’ve spent on inventory gives us a clearer picture of our spending. We go into the Spending Insights section on a daily basis.” Spending Insights is the section of the Starling app that automatically categorises and analyses outgoings. Most categories align with those used by HMRC, making tax returns more straightforward to complete.

“It’s also so simple and quick to pay people, which is great, because we’re trying to fit running this business around everything else,” says Carol. “It’s perfect.”

Subscribeto blog updatesarrow-rightGrow your businessHelpful free business guidesarrow-right

Related stories

Latest posts