Joyce Sprau, vice president of CreataDream, is the creator of the Flower Fairies and Peter Rabbit Secret Garden Collections, two lines of miniature gardening figurines and products specifically developed for children based on characters and stories from Cicely Mary Barker of Flower Fairies and Beatrix Potter, known for her classic Peter Rabbit tales. Sprau, who has been designing toys for two decades, discusses the development of the products and why they are unique to the market.
Q: You recently celebrated your first anniversary of the launch of the Flower Fairies line. What inspired you to develop the Flower Fairies Secret Garden Collection?
A: I design toys for a living, and I saw an opportunity in the growing trend of miniature gardening. In the lawn and garden market, there were really no specific miniature gardening products for kids. It’s really focused on adults and product that is made of very fragile polystone material.
When designing products for kids, play value was our No .1 focus. In order to design a new product line, you have to bring innovation, and we decided to make the product out of durable plastic so kids can spend hours playing. Our figurines and accessories are made with beautiful, fabulous bright colors, affordable for kids and moms and grandparents to buy and of course, safety tested for kids. Our company, Ultimate Source, has experience in designing and producing these type of products, so it was a perfect match for us.
Q: There are many popular, iconic children’s book characters. What was the process of your partnership with the publishers of Barker and Potter’s work, and how did you select Flower Fairies and Peter Rabbit characters?
A: When you design products for kids, they need a story behind it. They need a character’s name, and they want to know who it is and what they are about. I found the Flower Fairies book in a store and read all about it. Cicely Mary Barker wrote these publications in the 1920s, and she wrote about fairies that really made you believe they were real. She designed 170 different characters, and it was just the perfect story and the perfect simple character names, like Rose and Buttercup and Strawberry. Barker was a fantastic artist, and she wrote a poem for each individual fairy. We are partnering with Penguin Books on both licenses, and it worked out to be a great partnership that promotes stories and reading for kids. After we did Flower Fairies, it was just the perfect opportunity to expand the line even further with the Beatrix Potter characters and the Peter Rabbit storyline.
Q: Did you read any of these books as a child?
A: Oh yes, I did read them as a kid. I remember my parents reading them over and over. I was really familiar with the story and what Peter Rabbit does in the garden, and I really wanted to take the designs and take them to a new level with kids. [In one of the stories,] We have Peter with his wheelbarrow and his jacket on. We have nine different vegetables that you can select to create a little vegetable garden. It was really fun to look at all of the characters and imagine the kids creating an entire Peter Rabbit scene.
Q: When you first decided to develop the Peter Rabbit line, what did you do that gave the product play value?
A: We wanted to create characters based on Beatrix Potter’s original artwork and story line. We choose the top 10 characters and gave each character its own special garden accessory. Some characters can hang or plug into different areas to give kids options to explore different ways to create their scene.
Q: The Peter Rabbit children’s books are classics and well-known, but has recent interest in the movie correlated with retailers’ interest in the collection?
A: Oh, absolutely. The Peter Rabbit line is a classic story that everyone, young or old, knows about. It’s just a plus that we were able to get our production and design out there and in the hands of kids at the same time as the movie. And of course, it’s springtime and there’s hype around starting your new gardens, and it was the perfect time to go shopping for spring and new flowers and plants. And of course, Easter. The movie was great and we are happy that our launch timing worked out so well. Peter Rabbit will be top of mind with consumers this spring.
Q: What feedback are you getting from retailers on the Flower Fairies Secret Garden Collection?
A: It’s been fantastic. Retailers are loving the fact that we design our product with play value and help them expand their customer base by specializing in miniature gardening for kids. Many are designing new spaces and having special areas for kids to play. We’ve received great feedback on the durability and the packaging. Our packaging offers a new way for the lawn and garden industry to display fairies and miniature gardening products. The packaging ties the brand together, and it also saves on some theft and that they’ve been concerned about. Many retailers also love our new moss and silk flowers that customers can use to design imaginary garden scenes. Overall, miniature gardening is not just a fad, but an actual growing category of its own now.
Q: How did you come up with the CreataDream brand?
A: When we launched Flower Fairies, we really wanted to focus on the Flower Fairies name. Once we designed the Peter Rabbit collection, we wanted to create a brand that encompassed both licenses and products together, thus we came up with the word CreataDream. It really gives a sense of what we were about and helping kids recreate a scene in miniature gardening. Our company that produces these items is called Ultimate Source, and our company that distributes the items in the U.S. is called Creata.
Q: Congratulations again on winning the Rising Star Innovator of the Year Award at the 2017 Chicago Toy and Game Show. What was going through your mind when you were on the stage?
A: I was very nervous, but I was really very honored to receive such a prestigious award. This award is not just about me winning, but the full team involved behind the scenes to make it all happen and bring products to life. I think what really helped me win was that the product really had the opportunity to expand the shelf space for kids into an untapped market in the lawn and garden and gifting areas. We’re all about creating new destinations that kids and families can go, beyond a toy aisle and fast food market. We really want to bring kids into other areas that promote reading and imaginary creative play.
Kids, when they create their miniature gardens, they like to touch and feel and actually play with the characters and accessories and move them around without being afraid to break them. It’s a great activity for moms, dads and grandparents to craft these miniature gardens together. And we’re really trying to provide an option for kids and a new destination for them to go and be able to purchase and create their ideas.