Laugh and Learn is an educational hub and toy store based in Sydney. Tanya and Anne-Maree first launched Laugh and Learn in 2002 and since then the business has grown exponentially. While many are creating digital-only businesses, Laugh and Learn have gone against the trend to focus on brick and mortar stores. We sat down with co-founders Anne-Maree and Tanya to find out more about juggling the pressures of being small business owners, entrepreneurs and working mothers.
Tell us a little bit about your story
Tanya and I are both teachers and mothers. When we first started Laugh and Learn in 2002, we were looking for something different to do with our education degrees. We originally started as a party planning business, but moved to a brick and mortar store in 2004.
Our party planning business was doing well, but it was primarily Friday to Sunday work and it took us away from our families on the weekends. So when the opportunity came to open a store, we grabbed it. We opened 6 days a week and within 6 months, employed an extra staff member to help out.
Tell us a little more about Laugh and Learn
Laugh and Learn sells educational toys, games, books and puzzles but that’s not all. In 2007, we also started teaching our phonics program to preschool aged children in our designated classrooms, and brought in specialist educators to help children with numeracy and literacy in 2008. Since then, we have also set up music classrooms and started after school lessons, and introduced birthday parties and holiday workshops.
In 2016, we opened our second shop and we are currently looking to open our third store.
What do you enjoy about running your own business?
We love coming to work every day and we honestly have the best staff. We also appreciate the flexibility and enjoy having the opportunity to be hands-on.
How does Laugh and Learn differ from its competitors?
The big players don’t offer the quality, knowledge or personal touch that we offer. We also personally choose everything that we sell and have numerous products and services that are a little bit different.
In saying that, the educational arm to our business is critical. There are so many children that need extra help with their school work. Often times, families struggle to get their children excited to do extra work after school or on the weekends, but the fact that our support is offered inside a toy shop means students can’t wait to come. Often times they want to come early just so they can look around at all the cool new toys!
Why do you use QuickBooks to manage your finances?
We use QuickBooks because it gives us the flexibility we need and can work across both desktop and mobile. We love having the ability to sync our bank accounts. We’ve been using QuickBooks since we opened the business and love that it’s so user-friendly and intuitive. We love the ease of the payroll system, reporting and the support desk.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
Start small and don’t overcommit financially. It’s important to choose the right business partner and it helps if you have an understanding landlord. And remember to believe in your dreams!