While the Covid-19 lockdown has been devastating for some businesses, it has been the making of others.
That is definitely the case for Raw Woodworx.
The business began when Ashlee Robinson pestered her joiner husband Grant to make some furniture for their toddler Bill.
“We went into lockdown, and Grant did a mad dash to Mitre 10 like the rest of Oamaru,” Mrs Robinson said.
She had been looking for a table and chair suitable for Bill, that he could “just walk in and sit on”. She found one she liked on Pinterest and they went from there.
“Then we looked at the kitchen stools and the kitchen helpers and we saw there was quite a big opening.”
Some companies were charging up to $400 for similar furniture.
“We thought, ‘we could do that for normal people’. Not everybody can afford $400 items or, you know, $200 table and chairs and stuff. So it just sort of grew from there really,” she said.
Next on the wishlist for wee Bill was the Pikler Triangle. The original was developed by Hungarian paediatrician Emmi Pikler more than 100 years ago, and is a wooden A-frame or triangular toy with rungs so young children can learn to climb and explore safely. Mrs Robinson again found a prototype on Pinterest and they adapted it.
“Most Pikler Triangles have dowels and rungs on both sides. We just changed it up, because everybody does sort of foldable ones, which are great for space-saving. But we made one that has holes on the side.”
There is also a mud kitchen and a “Raw Rocker” that is like a curved kind of ladder, with slats instead of rungs, that can also be used upside down as a bridge.
“After we did the first lot for Bill, Ash chucked it on Facebook just to see how it would go. Within two weeks we’d filled every weekend until Christmas.”
Before starting Raw Woodworx, Mr Robinson worked for Rycole Joinery. His wife worked early mornings at Delectable’s Bakery, so juggling work life and parenting could sometimes be difficult.
After a great response from her friends on Facebook, Mrs Robinson shared the furniture on Chooice – a Facebook page set up during lockdown for New Zealand small businesses to promote themselves.
“Grant came home one day, and I was like was like be right.”
So he stopped work at Rycole in about October, and they opened up the diary for more bookings. Quickly they were booked out again until Christmas.
There were about five items in the standard range for children, but he could make anything people came up with, and was building stairs for a tiny house at present.
The pair ship their natural ply furniture nationwide, the largest order going to a group of Hamilton mums last year.
“They all banded together, and there were about 14 ladies who got two pallets worth of equipment, which was a lot. But we were very grateful.”
At the moment Mr Robinson works out of his home garage, but thinks soon he might need to expand.