Monthly Archives: August 2013

Five Minutes With… Green Hat Workshop’s Cameron Lee

PLANKS are dynamic technical building blocks that are designed to inspire creative minds. They were created by Melbourne school teacher and father Cameron Lee after experimenting with similar materials in the classroom. They have since become popular among budding (and fully grown!) engineers who use them to build almost anything they can imagine…

Cam Lee of Green Hat Workshop

What made you decide to turn a teaching tool into a business? I wanted to create my own job and eventually my own business, customised to my own interests, with all the good things about teaching that I enjoyed and none of the rubbish.

What’s Green Hat Workshop’s philosophy in a nutshell? At Green Hat Workshop we value thinking very highly. Edward de Bono’s creative Green Hat, which we take our name from, dispenses with habitual thinking and restrictive frameworks and focuses instead purely on creative ideas. We manufacture, source and popularise products which are without restrictive frameworks, are open-ended and intuitively appeal to all abilities.

Green Hat Workshop Planks 100

What do you particularly love about PLANKS? Because each face of a plank construction block is cut so exactly, I love that builders can easily do things that look difficult. People constantly amaze themselves with what they can build. I love watching kids who begin every task thinking that they ‘can’t’ and realising as they work that they ‘can’. Once they have seen that, they can’t ‘un-see’ it and it leads them to experiment in ways that they don’t normally. They leave the workshop buzzing with energy and possibility.

How are PLANKS different from traditional building blocks? They are identical and have a precise shape. This means they are not simply a chunk of wood, but are rather pieces to a delicate puzzle or precise elements to a design, rather than simply stackable. The length of each piece offers a wealth of counter balancing opportunities and the exact faces make balancing them easy – I’m often asked if they’re magnetic. They may seem small, but if stacked the right way can easily be taller than the builders themselves.

Green Hat Workshop Planks 200

How important are toys that inspire creativity? It may seem a little far-fetched to some but, to us, toys that inspire creativity are essential tools for Australia’s future and therefor extremely valuable. Except in some extreme cases, we all play. From pilots making up rhymes while going through their safety checks, musicians and athletes visualising a success in front of an audience, to any number of people who are intuitive or problem solve; they are all engaging in a form of creative play. Studies have shown that children possess greater creative problem solving ability than adults, and play is a great way to move from things and experience we are familiar with into realms of the unfamiliar. Toys are instruments of this movement.

What do you love the most about what you do? I enjoy getting feedback from kids and parents that PLANKS are the toy that they keep returning to over-and-over again; that it’s the thing they most like to play with friends and family, and that they too are finding new things they can do with them all the time. I love engineers rediscovering joy in construction and parents rediscovering play. I love the fact that their children can easily and authentically be a part of this experience.

Planks in the classroom

What are you working on now and what can we look forward to? Now that would be telling ;-)

What do you do outside of Green Hat Workshop? Spend as much time as possible with my busy little family. I also play with ideas and experiment with new products for Green Hat Workshop and I spend time with the youth organisation Lord Somers Camp and Powerhouse and Mirabel — a great kids’ charity.

See the PLANKS range on our website.

Planks in Colour

Seven ways to spend quality ‘Dad Time’ this Father’s Day

Whether it’s tinkering with Dad in the back shed, kicking the footy around, or having him sit down and engage in a game of car racing; there’s nothing better than bona fide “Dad time”. While we all know how important it is to spend time with Dad on a regular basis; this Father’s Day marks an ideal opportunity to build some especially cherished childhood memories. Here are just a few ideas about the mischief you can get up to…

1. Build a medieval war machine
Yes, you heard right – how much fun will you and Dad have crafting a Pathfinders Medieval Trebuchet, Medieval Catapult or Siege Tower, then using these wooden beauties to barrage castles, or simply experiment how far you can fling the projectile? There’s more than 6m of flying fun for a start!

Pathfinders Trebuchet

2. Go fishing
The ultimate bonding experience with Dad, Haba’s Angler’s set has everything budding fisherfolk need to follow in Dad’s fish-catching footsteps. This fantastic fishing set includes a telescopic fishing rod, landing net and accessories like a tin with sinkers, 25 fish hooks and two floats, plus a robust polyester bag with a padded shoulder strap. With this set and Dad’s guidance, you’ll (surely) be fishing like a pro in no-time!

Haba Angler's Set

3. Build a city
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with you and Dad on the job these architectural structures will be knocked out in no time! Micador’s Super Strong Structures Architecture craft pack provides everything you need to build just about anything you can think of, from a sports stadium to a dog kennel. Do the activity together, or have a competition to see who can build the best (but be prepared for Dad to play the ‘Father’s Day’ card to claim victory).

Micador Super Strong Structures Micador Super Strong Structures2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Race your scooters
Regardless of your age, the Swiss-designed Micro Scooters have a heart-racing ride for you. Younger children will love the Mini Micro (from two to five years), while kids from five (up to 50kg) will get a kick out of zipping around on a Maxi Micro Scooter. Older kids – and Dad of course – have stylish and sleek options like the Flex, Flex Air, Bullet, Bullet Street Pro, Sprite, mX Trixx Stunt Scooter (and lots more) to choose from – depending on Dad’s need for speed (and coordination!).

Maxi Micro Red

Micro Speed Plus Scooter Mini Micro Scooter Aqua

 

5. Kick the footy
An activity for when it’s too hot or wet outside, Apples to Pears Football in a Tin adds a whole new realm to kicking the footy with Dad. With a felt football pitch that fits on the table, two sets of finger-fitting football boots, three balls, two goals and rules, you and Dad will be football stars in no time (hello David Beckham!)

Apples to Pears Football in a Tin

6. Talk (and play) cars
Car lovers of all ages will love the classic charm of Automoblox. German designed and manufactured, they are quite simply the best quality wooden car toys on the market. Each Automoblox car is a fun construction challenge as all parts of the car can be taken apart and put back together. Perfect for playing mechanics with Dad without all the grease!

Automoblox Hot Rod and Trailer Set Automoblox Hot Rod and Trailer Set2

7. Have a giggle
A great way to remind Dad about all the shenanigans he got up to as a youth; you will both have a ball with Klutz’s Encyclopedia of Immaturity – the ultimate how-not-to-grow-up guide! This bible of fun contains more than 300 entries, including really important things like How to Skip a Stone, How to Do a Wheelie, How to Hang a Spoon from Your Nose, and How to Really Annoy Your Older Sibling. And if you want to get really silly, there’s also Seedling’s Whoopee Cushion or this set of Practical Jokes.

Encylopedia of ImmaturityPractical Jokes

Dad is certainly set to have a Father’s Day he won’t forget for a long time!

Entropy’s top 6 business tips after 6 years in business

Entropy's Deborah Latouf

Deborah Latouf in Entropy’s beautiful store

It started as a beautiful traditional toy store in Townsville, regional Queensland. Six years later it’s now the most extensive independent online toy store in Australia; with orders increasing 10-fold since embracing eCommerce in 2009. Entropy’s multi award-winning director Deborah Latouf shares her top six tips to SME success:

1. Content is king
In the eCommerce environment, there is no escaping the fact that ‘content is king’. The quality of the copy on your website is important at a number of levels. Ensure you write high quality and accurate product descriptions as your customer is relying on this information. Try to avoid using the manufacturer’s product blurb, as your unique product description will be better from a SEO standpoint. Ensure you have a review function on your product pages: This is one of the first things that customers look at, plus adds value to your product description. Use video product demonstrations whenever they are available. Google loves improving your ranking based on unique content. A blog is an effective way to provide valuable customer information. This can include educational resources such as buying guides, expert information and colourful Q&A pieces with suppliers and manufacturers. In the end, you want most leads to your website to be happening organically, and paying for as few as possible.

2. Multi-channel is here to stay
If customers want to connect with your brand, then let them do this in the channel where they feel the most comfortable. This can be through a retail store, online store, mobile App or through social media. If you have a retail store, then let your local customers know that you value their support by running the same price point that you do in your online store. This will also help to combat show-rooming. If a customer is ready to hand over their money to you, be ready to accept it – over the phone, by bank deposit or through a lay-by service. Don’t give them a reason to shop somewhere else.

Inside Entropy's Townsville store

Inside Entropy’s Townsville store

3. Show your customers you’re real
The hardest part of the retail equation is finding new customers. Once you have done this, make sure your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies are in place to keep them. Give customers a reason to sign-up to your newsletter: a discount code, special offer, or even access to unique content. Provide regular electronic newsletters to this database, but don’t just sell, sell, sell: Include customer profiles, photos, staff news and general interest items. Show your customers that you are ‘real’, and let them engage with you. Reward loyal customers with permanent loyalty discounts both in-store and online. Ensure your social media CRM is in place. Engage with your Facebook community – ask them questions, seek feedback, interact, and listen. If you have a retail store, immerse yourself in the local community when the opportunity presents. Invest in quality staff that share your vision and passion and can communicate this to your customers.

4. Always operate with integrity
Business is not about ‘win at all costs’. It’s about operating with integrity and good morals. Be honest and upfront in your dealings with stakeholders. There is a clear distinction between being naïve and providing information on a ‘need to know’ basis. By operating in this manner you will be able to form strategic alliances with key parties. Pay your bills on time: If you are slow to settle accounts a supplier is not going to do you in favours if/when you need them. Work together with your suppliers and service providers on promotions. If you ask them for something, then be prepared to give something in return.

Deb with Folkmanis Harbour Seal

You can find a whole range of Folkmanis Puppets at Entropy

5. Identify your competitive advantage
This is the single most important aspect to SME success. Competitive advantage can come through product, range, location, exclusivity, customer service or experience. It can also come through price, but be wary of strategy that is based on providing the lowest price and/or is discount based. There is always someone prepared to go out of business sooner than you. The race to the bottom is always present. Once you have identified your competitive advantage, and this is confirmed through your business plan, then COMMIT to it. Don’t deviate or compromise; as long as you’ve done your homework.

6. Spend money to make money
Over the six-year history of Entropy we have moved location three times, leased a temporary warehouse, launched a website, and had a major upgrade of this website three times. We started with one permanent staff member, but now during the Christmas peak we can have up to 20 staff on site. Our order numbers have increased 10-fold in four years and we now have around 4,000 products online, making us the most extensive quality independent online toy store in Australia. None of this would have been possible if we had not been prepared to spend money in order to grow the business. Not all businesses are in a position to do this; however it should be something you are aiming for and working towards.

You can find Entropy at:
entropy.com.au
facebook.com/entropytoys
twitter.com/entropytoys
pinterest.com/entropytoys
instagram.com/entropytoys
youtube.com/entropytoys
blog.entropy.com.au

And the winners of our Tidy Books Competition are…

It was a very tight contest with nearly 50 photos submitted, but a winner needed to be crowned in our Tidy Books Always Ready to Read Competition. The brief was to submit a photo of your little one reading in any circumstance; the more creative and imaginative the better! The fantastic prize was a Tidy Books bookcase (natural coloured with uppercase lettering) valued at $299. Due to the strength of the entries, the Elves couldn’t resist awarding two runner-up prizes – a Tidy Books Book Box with play clock (valued at $159). Well done to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered for sharing their beautiful photos with the literacy-loving Entropy Elves!

Entropy Tidy Books Competition Prizes
The prizes: A Tidy Books Bookcase for the winner and a Tidy Books Book Box with play clock for each runner-up.

 

Tidy Books Comp Winner
Tidy Books Competition Winner: Well done Drysdale family! The Elves loved this photo of four-year-old Lochie buried in the treasure of his pirate book while his pirate clothes dry on the line. Mum Shellie admits that this little cutie is even wearing pirate jocks! Definitely one to bring out at the 21st birthday!

 

Tidy Books Comp Runner Up1
Tidy Books Competition Runner Up Two: Congratulations to the Mercurio family for this great snap of three-year-old Callia proving that true readers can even do it underwater… just try that with an eReader!

 

Tidy Books Comp Runner Up2
Tidy Books Competition Runner Up One: Congratulations to Gay McCauley for this very creative photo featuring three-year-old Jill in the ‘deep dark woods’ of her yard with a Gruffalo. Very clever!

Entropy’s turning six and we’re having a Princesses & Knights party to celebrate!

I know – the Elves are pretty excited!! To mark Entropy’s sixth year in business we are hosting a Princesses and Knights party at our Hyde Park store. This party involves dressing up (of course) with prizes on offer for the best-dressed little princess and knight; plus free themed craft activities, a massive bouncy castle, face painting, and party games (plus cupcakes and coffee for the big kids!). Every little attendee will get a party bag and we will be having a big draw on the day where every $50 spent goes in the draw to win a Haba Rose Fairy Tent and a Haba Knights Tent. Phew! There’s a lot going on and we think the Elves will need to join the kids for an afternoon nap afterwards!

If you’re in Townsville and you’d love to come, please contact us on (07) 4724 4555 before 5pm Friday, August 9, 2013 to RSVP.

Look forward to seeing you then!

Entropy Sixth Birthday Party Invite