Susie launched Totter + Tumble in 2018 after a decade of teaching in primary schools and becoming a mum herself. From the desire to find a practical yet stylish playmat, Totter + Tumble was formed. With instant success and the championing of British Totter + Tumblers, over the following years Totter + Tumble have also launched in Europe and the USA.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Totter + Tumble is all about the idea that design and aesthetics can be combined in family interiors. We are very good at adult interiors (just look at the incredible interior publications the UK produces) and we are great at kids’ bedroom interiors too. But when it comes to the family space, that flexible meet in the middle living and kitchen area, there is little that functions for everyone.
I once had a chat with a dad at the local playground, and he told me how he avoided the living room when he came home from work as he felt their garish jigsaw playmat gave him a headache. It’s the same at the other end of the spectrum where parents and children can’t relax because of an impractical play space. Totter + Tumble makes the practical pretty.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Out of sheer frustration! Shortly after welcoming our second child, we did some work to our kitchen to make it as family-friendly as possible. We put so much into creating a flexible family space we could all use. With all the time we spent at tile shops, selecting grout, painting colour samples on the walls and agonising over kitchen cabinets. When we moved in and had to put down the jigsaw playmat we had- I nearly cried. I just wanted a playmat of better quality, that would last longer and would be comfortable for little bottoms and underfoot. My vision was one piece that is super simple to roll out, easy to wipe away crumbs and spillages, and importantly something neutral that would blend in rather than stand out. Amazingly this didn’t exist!
How did you achieve awareness?
Being the original Totter + Tumbler, having had the pain-point myself and working so hard for the solution, being able to communicate genuinely with other parents and carers has been the easy part. As new parents we don’t want the oversell or the fad item, we want the products that genuinely work and actually help. Whilst Instagram was key for getting our visual message out, it has been our customers who have been the real champions of the brand. When us parents need something to solve a problem, it’s the views of other parents we trust the most.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Totter + Tumble is self funded. Our growth for the first year was purely organic, enabling us to tune in to our customers; to listen, learn and establish the brand. With market and product fit, brand trust and a lot of learnings for our customers, we have then been able to successfully use paid media to reach a wider audience.
What are the key successes?
For us, the key success is that our playmats are not simply enjoyed, but they are adored by the families who purchase and use them daily. Having a product that is king (or queen!) combined with a trusted brand, has opened many doors for us. John Lewis approaching us in 2020 was a definite highlight – I literally fell out of bed when I received the email early one Friday morning! On a day to day level having a happy team and happy customers is my measure of success.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Global shipping remains unpredictable which creates challenges for small brands. Whereas we used to balance just forecasted demands and the strategy of sitting on just-enough stock not to be heavy, we now have to add in shipping. Prices skyrocketed 10X from 2020-22 and now they often come in up to 5 weeks after schedule. Being nimble helps, but it is a constant concern to be able to keep up with demand.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We want to get to know our American and European Totter + Tumblers better this year. Their markets are completely different to our own, and cutting through is more complex. Times are choppy at the moment, especially in retail, so the focus is on investing within – on the team, our training and our processes.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own
If you have an idea that you can’t get out of your mind, there is so much support out there to help you in the entrepreneurial journey. Lean in to learning – you will be sales, marketing, logistics, finance and web developer all in one go. If that sounds even a little bit exciting (even if nerve wracking too) then it is worth it.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
For your business; product (or service) is paramount. Get that right first and don’t compromise on your brand values. Decide your boundaries before you start as it’s much harder trying to figure it out in the moment.
For yourself; prepare for the overwhelm. In parenting we refer to it as the Mental Load, but it is similar in the constant pressure and noise in your head, that is hard to share. It’s not avoidable, but recognising it and finding ways to dissipate or find mental breaks help.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
My family. My parents are both entrepreneurs themselves, who brought us up to work hard for what we wanted to achieve, and to ask and answer why as well as why not. It is no coincidence that all three children are entrepreneurs now!
My small business friends, such as Jen from Etta Loves and Emma from Binibamba, who both help and inspire me.
Joy Mangago, who fought for her success through multiple hardships. Her story is depicted in the Jennifer Lawrence movie Joy.
Madam C.J Walker the first female, black millionaire in the US whose ingenuity solved a problem, but whose hard work and commitment created a legacy and empowered many.
Reese Witherspoon, who saw something she didn’t like and set up Hello Sunshine to turn the tables with female anchored story telling.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Do not stop at the wall looming before you. Make a door wide enough not only for you but for others” Maggie Smith, Poet
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website
links so our readers can connect with you?
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