Amanda Worr, creator and owner of Tiny Kind Toys, said she creates her hand-painted wooden dolls to celebrate diversity and encourage imaginative play for three to 10 year-olds. The Rhyze Ventures participant said she decided to apply to the program because she wanted the opportunity to explore the business side of what she does. “I’ve spent time honing my craft and becoming an artisan,” she said. “This was a chance to explore how to turn it into a business to help support my family.”

Her Rhyze Ventures project focused on organizing her business and positioning it for future growth. She worked out many smaller details with her business advisor, Business Centre Guelph Wellington’s Nathalie Plouffe, who was great at identifying squeeze points and providing a much-needed perspective.  As a result of the project work, Worr achieved production efficiency transitioning from a home craft approach to breaking down production steps and preparing for growth. “Organizing business processes was a real breakthrough,” she said. “It helped me see how I can grow.”

Due to the pandemic, Worr shifted her focus from in-person markets to online sales. Participating in Rhyze Ventures gave her a broader focus in working toward bringing her product to retail markets rather limiting sales to only direct to consumer. One success she’s proud of is engaging in toy-testing certifications for the US and Canada which is required for retail. “It feels big to me because it legitimizes my product,” she said. The pandemic may have also contributed to some growth for her company as families spent more time at home with their children. She is ramping up production to prepare for upcoming Christmas sales in the fall.

Worr credits participating in Rhyze Ventures with changing her mindset; seeing her viable business as something people need and want, giving her more confidence.

“My dolls are unique, no one else makes dolls where each one is different. Only the shape is the same. They are diverse with no cultural or gender barriers,” she said. The brand focusses on addressing a lack of diversity in manufactured toys where some children and families are not represented.

“We create hand-drawn and painted dolls with glasses, hearing aids, freckles and quirky uniqueness,” she said. “They represent all kinds of differences that are beautiful.”

“In my heart I’m creating dolls for kids to feel special, so no one feels left out.”