Leanne, Director of the business and mum to five boys (hence the name 5 Little Bears!) is the graphic designer, millworker, ideas woman, printer and engraver whizz behind the beautiful puzzles, games and sensory proucts at 5 Little Bears

A finalist for our New Breed Scholarship for Life Instyle 2021 and an exciting addition to The Neighbourhood: Great Southern Land for Life Instyle Sydney 2021, 5 Little Bears is set to make a name for itself in the retail industry!

Life Instyle sat down with Leanne to discuss all things design, inspiration and being a first time Life Instyle exhibitor.

Tell us a bit about the story behind your brand; your inspiration, the meaning behind your products and designs, your brand mission, etc

I have always wanted to work for myself and having 5 kids under 6 gave me the opportunity to do so. Being able to raise our boys and bring in an income gives me the best of both worlds. I started a packaging business just after my first was born, hand crafting photography packaging, timber memory boxes and urns. We started to have timber off cuts piling up and I was wanting to find a sustainable use for them. I was discussing with my local preschool about making puzzles out of the scrap piece of wood and after extensive research, I found that there was an obvious void in the market for Australian themed educational resources. 

With focusing on teaching Australian kids about their own backyard, 5 Little Bears was born. All my products are designed and skilfully handmade onsite in New South Wales and are proudly Licenced Australian Made. I have loved every minute of this journey creating 5 Little Bears, teaching kids about everything Australian. Most kids know what an elephant or a giraffe is but not a wombat or Tazzi devil. My boys have learnt so much since I have made these products I could only image how many other kids have done the same. I love designing new products, not sure who gets more excited, me or the boys when we test them out! I feel I have finally found my purpose, teaching kids about Australia! Their own country!


What sets your brand apart from similar companies?

Australia was lacking good quality Australian Made and Australian themed puzzles and sensory products. This is 100% of our range, our products are made right here in Australia, this is something that sets us apart from the rest.


What were the first steps you took to launch? And what would you say was the scariest part/your biggest fear?

When launching I was very unsure on the market I needed to target! I started with day-care and preschools showcasing the products knowing this was a market I had researched and there was not a lot of Australian themed resources, so it was a good starting platform. We have just grown from there on social media. I was not scared, I was excited; I had made products that were not in the market, I was going in full steam ahead, I did not have time to be scared!


What sparked the idea to start this business?

Just needing to do something different, I was not being appreciated for all the hard work I was putting into my other business and was just hating what I was doing! After attending a conference in Melbourne, I came home so inspired I just wanted to do something new. I am a creative person and love designing new things, this business just suites me perfectly. I do not just make our pieces, we also make a lot of custom pieces for other people. I love being their ideas to life!


Why does Australia play such an important part in your brand story, from being Australian made to your beautiful Australian themes and designs?

With having young children, I saw that they all knew what the African animals were, but having resources that are Australian themed was very important. Being Australian myself, I am able to teach kids about our amazing land; something they may not ever learn unless these products were in the market.

Why is it important to you to use locally and sustainably sourced timbers and to have the mantra ‘reuse, reduce, recycle’?  

Supporting local business is part of our business theme. All our products are handmade from sustainably sourced timber and all waste is minimalised. When designing we (jigsaw) our products together to help with the manufacturing times reducing the machine running time to a minimum. We recycle our printer cartridges, collect our sawdust to use in compost and minimise our off-cut waste. Any small off-cuts we have left goes in our green waste bin. Some more usable pieces we sell as a 'craft loose parts bag' to help further help reduce waste. All our packaging boxes we send to clients are all recycled carboard boxes from the bottle shops. That way we are not purchasing more boxes, we are reusing where possible.


What do you you think your customers love about your brand/products?

We get so much feedback on our products that are so unique and one of a kind! Australian theme seems to be the topic on most feedback and that people have seen nothing like what we have created. I love that I have created so many pieces that are not in the market!


What are your personal favourite products in your range, and why?

I love my ecosystems, these are such unique pieces. I had sat on the design for 6 months until one day I said “I need to just make one and see if they work”!  They would have to be one of our most sold products to date! Another amazing product I am in love with is the first of a series of children’s books I have just written. I wanted to teach children about the importance of flora and fauna, so I have selecting a range of native plants and written a series about who needs them and what they need to survive. I did have all this information together for a puzzle but there was just too much content, so I decided to write it into a story. I have loved this journey so much and I have incorporated my boys into the stories with each going on their own little journey exploring with their poppy!


What path led you to Life Instyle and what is it about the show that makes it a great fit for you?

I heard about Life in style from some of our wholesale customers telling us we must attend to get these beautiful pieces into the market. I attended the expo earlier this year and there was noting like us there. We are very excited to be attending the “neighbourhood” in February 2021



Can you share one of your proudest moments in business so far?

Oh, how can I pick just one! I think just winning 2 silvers with the Ausmumpreneur Awards. I received silver in product design and silver in making a difference in Education. The wild ride with interviews and articles has given us so much exposure, enabling us to get our products out into the marketplace.


What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?

Hire people in the field that is their expertise, eg marketing, social media, web design etc. Outsourcing where possible to reduce your workload allowing you to put 100% focus on running your business.


What exciting things are on the horizon for 2021 and beyond?

Releasing the rest of the collection of my Flora and Fauna books and a heap of new products that are in the works. Branching further into the international market for wholesale.


When you’re not busy with the business, what’s your ideal way to unwind and give yourself a little bit of self-care?

Camping with my boys, getting back to nature to unwind and regroup with ideas.


Favourite podcast?
Mamamia Lady start-ups

Guilty pleasure?
Devouring a block of Darall Lea peppermint dark chocolate! 

Bucket list holiday destination?
Everywhere out of Australia, I am yet to travel overseas.

Last book you read?
Heart Notes K P Weaver 

You can meet Leanne and experience 5 Little Bears in person at The Neighbourhood: Great Southern Land at Life Instyle Sydney, 20-23 February 2021 at the ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour.