Mizzie The Kangaroo is Home of Australia’s Original Natural Teething Toy® and Educational Toys. Australian owned and designed by Founder Sandra Ebbott, Mizzie was born in Queensland and is currently taking on the world. Starting with its iconic natural baby teething toy in the shape of a Kangaroo, Mizzie aims to give newborns the best start in life, empowering their parents with the right fun learning tools — Mizzie’s range of fun educational toys for 0 to 3+ years old. Sandra conceived this idea from observing her own children and then initially developing a cool teething product to help little ones develop in a fun way.
It’s a story of determination, passion, and perseverance. I met Sandra some 2 or 3 years ago. It was early on in her development of the Mizzie brand which she launched to the retail trade market in 2016. Along the way she has encountered many challenges and also some great wins for this innovative product. Her vision is for Mizzie to be a household name for mums around the world and for her products to be widely available at B & M retail and online.
Approaching the Las Vegas licensing show, we had the opportunity to meet with Sandra and find out a little more about her evolving brand, her vision and the journey so far. In the beginning we asked Sandra about her background:
Sandra, to begin, can you tell us about your background and how it’s assisted you with the launch and development of Mizzie?
I have held senior marketing roles at large global corporations such as at BMW’s Global head office in Germany (for the global launch of MINI), at Pepsi Co UK / Ireland, as well as at Reebok Europe. These roles were global, and they have given me the insight into building a strong brand, and how to adapt it to its relevant markets. They have also given me the confidence and experience to think beyond our borders, and as such, the vision for Mizzie has always been to be a global brand, loved by babies and mums all over the world.
It’s hard to launch and build a brand, where does your determination and passion to succeed come from?
Launching a brand from scratch most certainly has its challenges. We took 2 years of research and development before launching, we made sure we understood the market, but especially that we understood our customers. Mums, babies and retailers love our products, and our market is truly global. So, as much as it’s not an easy journey, I see the love of our products through the remarkable customers and retailers’ feedback, I see the global opportunity, I am passionate about creating purposeful toys for children to learn in a fun way. All of these put together is what keeps me driven to succeed.
Since your launch in 2015, what’s the most satisfying aspect of your journey with Mizzie so far? And what has emerged as your greatest challenge?
There have been so many gratifying moments throughout the journey so far and we celebrate every single small win along the way. From first orders, to seeing Mizzie on shelves at large global retailers, the most satisfying is seeing and hearing that we can indeed have a major positive impact on a baby’s life and development, as well as the greater community, with the minimal environmental impact with our purposeful ways of doing business. In terms of challenges, we most certainly have been faced with our fair share. If we reflect over the last couple of years, we were firstly hit quite hard by the start of the pandemic. We had to re-think and flip our business model to be more direct to consumer, something we had never done. Our products were still in high demand, however we had to reach our customers in different ways. In the end, we saw a significant growth here in Australia, as well as in our international markets, especially in the UK.
Most recently, we unfortunately lost the majority of our inventory as our warehouse flooded during the devastating Brisbane floods. Although we are still recovering from this as we speak, the overwhelming support we saw from our customers was what kept us strong and reminded us to focus on all the remarkable positives currently happening with Mizzie. All in all, we ensure that these out-of-control challenges don’t define us, they merely become part of our story.Sandra Ebbott
The “Mizzie The Kangaroo” brand revolves around storytelling for young families, has this resonated with your audience?
Absolutely. Our audience wants to feel connected and take part in the story, Mizzie becomes a companion for life for babies, from soothing, comforting, to entertaining and teaching skills. Parents embrace being able to offer their little loved one a strong start in life, and Mizzie’s ways become part of their own story.
We see that you have a cool Ambassadorial program for Mizzie, can you expand upon this a little for us?
This has been a natural evolution over time. At first, it was a mere shout out on our socials to get mums involved, and through the years, it’s evolved into global brand ambassadors, twice per year. We select from the hundreds of applications (a very difficult choice) and these amazing Mums and their bubs and toddlers become an integral part of our team, a part of our community and our Mizzie family, wherever they are in the world.
We speak to them daily, we listen to them, and above all, we watch and learn with how their little ones love playing and learning with Mizzie.
Product is king, we notice that you have recently grown to include gift packs in your range and three new themed jigsaws, has this resonated with the consumer?
Our core purpose is to develop little ones through our fun educational toys, staring with our Hero product Mizzie’s Naturual Rubber teething toy. It’s a natural evolution to keep creating products that will help little ones learn through fun with Mizze. Our teething gift packs have been a huge success as our teethers are a perfect gift for a new bub. Our touch and feel tactile books and sound books help discover the love of reading from an early age, as well as help with their sensory development. Our multi-level puzzles and memory match games are a perfect way to teach patience and visual memory whilst having fun. Our customers see the value of having Mizzie take little ones on a fun learning journey from birth to the toddler years.
How important is the core Mizzie the Kangaroo teether to the program?
Mizzie The Kangaroo’s Natural Rubber Teething toy will forever be our hero product, and the perfect entry point into our brand and product range. Once Mizzie wins the hearts (and sore gums) of babies, she truly becomes their fun learning companion for their early learning years.
From a commercial standpoint it looks like the Brisbane Council has seen the merit in Mizzie and provided you with some important exposure and assistance, how important is this for a new emerging brand?
We have been very fortunate to have seen great support from local Brisbane government. As an emerging brand, every support, encouragement, and exposure has the ability to make an impact. As we grow, we create more jobs and opportunity, which benefits all. We have the ability to put Brisbane on the Global toy map, and ahead of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, we are sure to look at making this happen.
What’s the verdict on your Pop up Store in Brisbane during the recent pandemic?
Originally offered to us as a trial by Brisbane City Council, we have now embraced it as our Global HQ and flagship ‘pop up’ shop. It’s a great place for us to showcase our products and speak to and learn from customers in person, daily.
You addressed your distribution model recently and appointed Bensons as your Distributor for the Independent channel, has this delivered for you?
We have formed a great partnership with Bensons. They are very well regarded in the industry and more recently also in the pre-school space with some of the amazing brands they distribute nationally. In the short time that we have been working together, throughout the years of lock downs, they have managed to open some great new doors for Mizzie and increased our retail footprint across Australia. This is sure to grow as we see retail landscape regain stability and positive momentum.
Sandra, can you update us on your progress with the Major Retailers across Australia?
Mizzie is now available through a growing number of larger retailers nationally, with the likes of Myer and Kidstuff, to name a few. Medium to high-end retailers are best suited to carry Mizzie The Kangaroo products as they are where our customers shop.
How is your expansion into the international markets progressing, I believe that you recently launched in Quebec in Canada?
Last year we expanded into the UK and we are now available at large department store John Lewis Partners nationally. We recently expanded into Canada including Quebec and we are available at Toys R Us Stores across the country. We are in talks with other major retailers in exciting new markets, and we look to further expand into the USA later this year.
Mizzie has been fortunate to receive a number of awards, what has this meant to the brand?
We are overwhelmed with the amazing awards that we have been awarded over the last 3 years, both in Australia, as well as most recently in the UK. These awards have given us the extra credibility for our customers and industry partners, which is significant for us as an emerging brand.
We saw Mizzie giving back by engaging disability workers to assemble the first Australian made Mizzie product. Can you tell us a little more about this fabulous initiative?
This was by far one of the most satisfying product development projects. We were so proud to be launching our first Australian-made product, but even more so with the fact that we were giving employment opportunities to people living with a disability. The team at the not-for-profit organisation The Makeables assembled our Queensland printed Memory Match cards, and the pride that they took in their work, knowing that these were games were going to help children learn, was truly remarkable. We also donate part of the proceeds of every Mizzie Sound Book sold – ‘Sing with Mizzie Nursery Rhymes’, back to the Brisbane School Eagle Junction SS whose choir sung in the book.
We at Mizzie aim to give back whenever we can, whether to the environment or to organisations and schools that can benefit from our offerings.Sandra Ebbott
Sustainability is a key initiative in the toy business now, where do you see this fitting in with Mizzie?
Sustainability has always been at the core of Mizzie, as we aim to have maximum positive impact on children’s development, with minimal environmental impact. From having minimal recyclable packaging, to using natural and recyclable materials including recyclable tape and environmentally friendly non-plastic ‘bubble/eco wrap’, we make conscious decisions at every part of the process on making the world a better place. We will soon be announcing a new and exciting recycling program that will be a world first. Please stay tuned to find out more.
So Sandra, you are 6 years into your journey, what’s your goal for the coming 12 months?
The next year will be full of surprises. We have big global expansion plans, and we have some great products and partnerships in the pipeline that are sure to delight both customers and retailers. The next few years will be monumental for Mizzie and in further crafting her positive and impactful story.
Mizzie has achieved a great deal over the past 6 years, We urge retailers around the world to look carefully at Mizzie as a sound inclusion to your pre-school ranges. It has already proven it’s appeal to the market and the program is now well established.
We thank Sandra for thorough insights into her journey so far and wish her and Mizzie great success into the future.