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Starting a toy lending library - any experience?

(11 Posts)
bluecarrot Thu 07-Mar-13 14:46:57

Just wondering if there is anyone who could chat to me a bit about working in, or setting up a toy library. Id also love to hear from anyone who has used one and what you liked / disliked about it.

There is only one here in NI as far as I can see. Im not sure why (yet) when they seem popular in England, but Im working on it. smile

I have been accepted on a business start up course after Easter and plan to research the heck out of it before I start so I have a good base to work from.

Any help is very very much appreciated!

fiddlemethis Fri 08-Mar-13 07:29:02

Hi there, we used to have one in our town and it was great. I didn't use it as much as I should have, mostly just because I kept forgetting it was there. Maybe if you made it easy for people and offered a 2 weekly or monthly toy exhange which you could deliver? It would be good if people signed up then made a list of toys they would like to borrow (like lovefilm) and then every 2 or 3 weeks you could deliver to everyone. Also contact the children's centres and playgroups, these might be a source of regular income for you.
Good luck!

lljkk Fri 08-Mar-13 07:38:08

I don't want to poor rain on you parade but I'd be surprised if you could make money out of this. I have used toy libraries quite a bit in the past.

GingerPCatt Fri 08-Mar-13 07:45:12

Might be an idea to also add book, both children and adult (not in the porn-y way - though they may be popular) books. I'd love a service that dropped off some new toys and books for DS and something for me to read as well.

bluecarrot Fri 08-Mar-13 18:56:06

Thanks everyone. I was hoping to include a delivery service for larger outdoor items that would maybe tie in with our "mobile" unit work. I hadn't really thought about delivering smaller items or books (except in story sacks). I think Id rather encourage support of local libraries for the book aspect though, but could see if they wanted to team up in some way.

My plan is to have a main center/ storage facility, a mobile unit (to go to schools so parents can bring kids after school, leisure centers, churches who dont run their own tots group etc, and for deliveries), a party pack and a visitors pack (say a local grandparent is having their baby grandchildren over for a week to visit - we could offer short term loan of highchair, travel cot, a few age appropriate toys)

I would like to do stay and play sessions as well as maybe have a pickup/drop off night for parents who cant make it to full sessions. I would have an online catalog with all the info and they can reserve on there.

The center could potentially have visiting classes - baby massage, workshops encouraging child-parent play and craft, supporting your child in education groups - that sort of thing. If a for-profit group wanted to come they would be asked to pay a small donation to the center to help with advertising for event and running costs.

lljkk, I know it wouldnt be a business that will have me swimming in piles of gold or anything. I just want to do something worthwhile (but I would need to have a wage from it) Im looking into it potentially being a charity / non-profit but I have a lot to learn!

crazycrush Tue 12-Mar-13 20:56:39

I like the idea especially the mobile unit. Just to say though that where I am toy libraries are free (central London). Obv they don't have all the extras you are thinking of, like pre-book website.

lumpybumps Tue 12-Mar-13 21:02:21

I'm from Northern Ireland and loving the sound of this smilesmilesmile

AlwaysOneMissing Fri 15-Mar-13 08:37:58

Although it sounds good in theory, I'm just not sure you'd get enough custom through the door to cover costs and make a wage. I have used a toy library in the past, but I never saw anybody else in there. It was very cheap, around 30p - £1 per toy for 3 weeks if I remember correctly. You'd probably have to charge a lot more than that!
Which sort of neighbourhood or town will you be situated in? An affluent area would have parents willing to spend more, but unlikely to as they are more likely to have a good range of toys at home. A less affluent area may have more custom, but you would need to make sure your prices were not too high. I would imagine businesses would be your best bet, toddler groups, nurseries, childminders etc.
You will really have to do your sums carefully though, it would be hard to cover costs IMHO, unless you are targeting the right area.

bluecarrot Sat 16-Mar-13 21:33:35

Sorry- didnt realise thrre had been more replies!

Where I live is v mixed, income wise but I would prob set it up in a nearby town or in Belfast with mobile unit coming to smaller towns like mine.

Re sums, I have NO idea where to start. I've looked online at loads if ones in England and India(!) who have very varied pricing plans. It'll all come down to what my market research in the target areas tells me!

I have a meeting on Friday with local group who help new start-ups, plus a princes trust course in April to attend. Hoping they will help guide me on where to start. The first, all going well, offers a grant and mentors to trade for 3 months if you successfully complete the course.

I've pretty much decided it will be a charity, unless someone gives me good reason for it not to be. I know it'll never be a big money spinner, and luckily, I'm not in it for the money ( other than a regular wage!)

ThedementedPenguin Sat 16-Mar-13 21:39:03

I'm from Northern Ireland, we have this in my area. It's through sure start. I haven't been to it yet but plan on starting this week. They offer everything you said (not lend of high chairs, etc and not outdoor stuff) but hv told me they have toys you cannot buy. They are educational toys and you cannot get them in a shop. I'm not sure how true this is but I will be going on Tuesday so I will report back.

Also in another town/city close to me they have a mobile toy library, the can goes around certain estates and families come out. They have quite a good selection of outdoor toys.

I'm not sure where in N.I your from but there might be more than you think, they just might not be online.

cakebar Sat 16-Mar-13 21:57:51

I have never used one because I was scared of what would happen if I lost a part from something, or it got damaged. I would have thought that the likelihood of something getting damaged was quite high and I wouldn't want to risk paying for a replacement.

I have joint run a playgroup and it was actually quite easy to get decent toys. We had some donations, and if you were prepared to do some paperwork then fairly easy to get a small grant to get some new things. The Sure Start centers will support groups to do this.

Personally I have bought a lot of toys second hand, we then sell them on when we are finished with them so they end up costing hardly anything. Would a second hand (maybe mobile) toy shop be good? I would imagine that you could buy lots of the same thing and use some for parts for ones that need mending. People might like it if you can guarantee something is working, comes complete and with batteries, instructions (downloaded from web/photocopy if missing) and disinfected. I have had problems with some second hand stuff with parts being missing, a bit manky, not as described and would like a shop that did that.

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