Story Builder Toys

Written by Lindsay Whelchel in the December 2010 Issue

Children everywhere plead with Santa each Christmas, writing letters for that one perfect gift. As Edmond children drop their letter in the mail, they may daydream of elves scurrying about to construct their special toy at the North Pole so far away. But little do they know that one local couple has created their own Santa’s workshop only a few miles from their very own home.

Just north of Edmond, Joanna and Lukas Mueller, owners of Story Builder Toys, create intricately crafted wood and plush toys that give children all the magic they wish for during the holiday season.

Joanna says the idea for their products came from an old fashioned love of what a toy should be for a child, and more importantly, what it should not be. “It seems like toys these days, kids just push a button and the toy does everything for them itself. There’s something refreshing about toys that really are just a prop for a child’s imagination,” she said.

While Joanna ha-ndles the character and fabric design of the plush creations, her husband Lukas utilizes his technical skills for the wood-carved toys.  As though they were in Santa’s workshop themselves, this local husband and wife team create toys that are not only imaginative, but works of handmade art with finite details to please the eye.

You certainly won’t find “digital” or “pod” anywhere on these hand-made creations because the couple strives to maintain a blank canvas for childhood imagination and games. “The kid is the fuel behind it, the one making things happen and building their own fun out of it,” Mueller said.

Their love for child’s play and innocent imagination is where the couple derived the name for their company, Story Builder Toys. “The idea is that our toys – they’re characters and they’re props – so the children can build their own stories.”

Joanna and her husband have quite a story builder of their own. Joanna’s brother introduced her to his overseas online gaming pal, Lukas. The two spoke online for over a year before she went to Bonn, Germany to meet him. Just two years after meeting online, Lukas moved to the United States – a place he’d visited during high school as a Kansas exchange student.  “We realized we were as good together in person as we were online and he introduced me to his family; then asked me to marry him,” she said.

This adventurous spirit of Joanna’s was contagious – both in love, and business.

After graduating from UCO, she found herself working with a retail toy store. “I wasn’t particularly happy with it,” said Joanna. So, after she and Lukas welcomed a new son, Liam, into their lives, she took yet another risk. “When I became a stay at home mom, I decided this was my chance to find something I could be happy with. My husband and I were always talking about making a business together,” she said.

The risk paid off and Story Builder Toys was born, where Joanna uses her talent for doodling as she designs whimsical characters like “Milo,” a floppy plush bunny who has become the company mascot. Milo even toured Germany with the family this past summer and blogged about his travels.

Lukas’ background in multimedia helped him build their website, which is where most of the toy designs are sold; although, they do have some for sale in Guthrie and are looking to branch out to Edmond retailers soon. “We think that would be a great community for our toys,” she said.

Growing up in Germany, he spent many hours woodworking with his father, which influenced his creative style. Lukas now implements his German heritage into each toy design. “Because of all the extra little details that are incorporated in the wood toys, people have said these look like old-fashioned German wood toys,” said Joanna.

All of their toys are made from natural materials without metal or plastic pieces. Their adherence to safety regulations is the foundation of the company. “When our son was just a baby, that was when the big toy recalls started happening and that was really scary, especially to new parents,” she said.

Safety recalls helped spur the parents to take matters into their own hands. “We decided, ‘wouldn’t it be neat if we could just make our own stuff. We wouldn’t have to worry about what’s in it because we’d know. We put it there.”

Now, a year into their business venture, the couple has a routine when introducing a new toy to their line of products. First, they develop a prototype of a design they like. Then, they produce around 12 of the toy. “Everything is all handmade so it is all small batch,” Mueller said. Their son, Liam, acts as official toy-tester. If it passes his test, and sells well, they begin to make more.

Mueller is careful to balance her role as a business owner with her role as mother. “If I’m trying to do something and have to stop to go build a Lego tower or be a dinosaur for a little bit, then that’s just the way it is,” she laughs.

The family expects business to grow right along with their son. They are learning a lot from this holiday season rush. “You’d think after working at a toy store for so long I’d be used to how busy it gets at Christmas, but it’s such a different atmosphere when you have to actually make the toys,” Mueller said.

No doubt, she can empathize with the elves. For more information or to place an order visit:
www.storybuildertoys.com

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