Sara Altukhaim, The Toyary, Melrose, MA: 2023 Rising Star Nominee
“I didn't know the CWE existed before I launched The Toyary, and it is one of the first resources that was recommended to me when I began business planning. Now I recommend them to others!” - Sara Altukhaim
What inspired Sara’s Business?
During the depths of Covid-19, Sara launched The Toyary, a toy lending library, with the mission to save sanity and minimize waste. Through her business, she offers an alternative path to toy consumption and constructive play—one that she hopes positively helps influence the ways that the youngest (and most rapidly developing) among us perceive consumption, approach reuse, and sharing, and engage locally.
Sara’s three children are proud toy testers. She feels that If toys can handle her 3, 5, and 7-year-olds then they will survive toy lending! As she has become more aware of the staggering statistics behind toy waste (e.g., 90% of the industry is made of largely unrecyclable plastic), she has also become more mindful of how we can all be more sustainable across other aspects of our lives.
The families Sara serves are diverse and appreciate the various and inclusive learning opportunities offered through the 800+ toys and games in her collection.
With The Toyary’s commitment to minimize toy waste, they accept toy and game donations of all kinds. Some may go into The Toyary, those less lendable (like stuffed animals) go to partners supporting children and families displaced by war, and those with missing parts help fuel their replacement part catalog, which allows members to borrow without the stress of losing or breaking toys.
To date, nearly 3,000 toys and games have been reused through The Toyary! As awareness of the business grows, more people turn to her for toy donations versus potentially sending toys to the landfill. In turn, both her collection and ability to support nonprofit partners grows.
Since Sara launched in the spring of 2021, she has rolled out 3 pickup locations (Kendall Sq, Medford, and the North End) at sustainability-rooted, women-run businesses. This past fall, The Toyary was one of three sustainability-focused, mom-run businesses behind The Loop in Melrose. At The Loop, they have created a public rotational play space where families can engage with toys and games, where members can pick up orders, and where folks can host parties through event rentals that are tailored to their interests, age ranges, and themes.
How Has CWE Helped Her in Her Journey?
Sara didn't know that CWE existed before she launched The Toyary. It was one of the first resources that were recommended to her when she began business planning. Now she recommends CWE to others! Sarah has participated in both structured (webinars, business planning calls, Power Forward) and more informal engagements (those random questions!) with the CWE and says she has always valued the time and expertise she has consistently received.
Because The Toyary is so unique and requires a shift in mindset, the "why" behind what Sara is doing is so important. Many people click with her mission because it is so strong, which she attributes in part to CWE business planning guidance. The Power Forward sessions challenged me to take this even further!
Most recently, Sara reached out to the CWE to ask about options for hiring an employee! This is a great example of an area where she expresses no understanding of where to start and feels safe asking the CWE for guidance. Sara is excited to keep growing her business and looks forward to bringing some extra help on board.
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