Hi there, welcome to another inspiring edition of passion for profession. I have another multi-talented lady’s story to share today.

Lara is a clear example of how we don’t have to limit ourselves to a particular passion, talent or interest. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong in sticking to a particular vocation and excelling at it, if you have the nudge to do more, please go for it. We all have so much in us and most times all we need to do is just take a step! You can start small and build yourself up with dedication and hard work, just take a step!

Without further ado, let’s meet my beautiful personality of today – Lara…

⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜⚜

Hi…….I’m Lara Akinwolere nee Sanusi, also known as Lara Craft!

I am a middle child, (No 3 out of 5), wife to a very supportive husband and a mother to 2 very talented and funny children. I went to Pampers Private School (Primary), Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls (Secondary), University of Lagos (B.sc Business Administration) and The University of Manchester (M.sc Management and Information Systems). I am a very positive and innovative person.

My 1st work experience during NYSC in 2002 was with Nigerian Breweries Plc, where I worked in the logistics department. I later moved to Econet Wireless the same year, where I worked as a Customer Service Agent & Supervisor from 2003 – 2006. I left to complete my Masters programme, and later returned to Nigeria in 2007. I joined Access Bank Plc in 2008, where I worked as a Management and Information Systems Analyst and helped to set up the Contact Centre Department with my colleague.

Passion for profession - Lara Craft
Lara Akinwolere

Can you tell us how you transitioned from full-time employment to self-employment? 

I always enjoyed Photography as a hobby and my super amazing parents encouraged me. One day when I got back from work, they surprised me by creating a home studio complete with lights and a backdrop. They converted one of the spare rooms in the house to a studio where I could practice. I was so thrilled and I remember inviting some friends over so I could practise with them. 

I moved to Abuja in 2010, a year after my wedding ( a move I thought was temporary at the time)  so I decided to take a break from full-time employment and focus on raising my son plus starting a new chapter in life.

I later started Judy’s Preparatory School, which is an excellent and innovative preschool, for children between the ages of 3months – 5 years old. I also recently launched my toy company ‘Lara Craft Toys’, which gives me the freedom to be absolutely inventive and create anything I can imagine.

How did you decide on starting your school. 

It’s amazing that Photography actually led me into Education. 

After I moved to Abuja, I slowly started practising photography again once I dropped my son off at school. After the birth of my daughter, I continued taking it easy but occasionally had to cover some events for clients, sometimes my daughter would be with me babbling in the background. 

Most of these event would start early in the day and end late in the evening. It was gradually taking all my time and I started spending less time with my kids. I always wanted to be there for my children 100%, so I wanted to practice photography in a way that I would be available for the children. 

I still loved photography & I absolutely cherished kids so I realized it would be a brilliant idea to combine both, while contributing to the development of each child. In 2012, my parents brought up the idea of setting up a school in Lagos if we ever moved back, so I went ahead to register the company name anyway. Around 2013 or 2014, I took my photography proposal to 5 schools in Abuja and they all said YES! I started teaching photography in schools to kids between the ages of 4 – 10yrs old. 

Photography days

Still on photography, I constantly thought of what more I could do with it, so I wanted to see how I could blend it in their curriculum. That led me to teaching at Springhall British School in Maitama, Abuja. I enjoyed every moment and I also moved my kids there which was perfect. That of course took its toll on photography because I didn’t have time to continue with it. While teaching, I realized that our stay in Abuja was permanent and I realized that I could do more not just with photography, but with all the ideas I constantly had.

I started Judy’s Preparatory School in 2015 and it’s been an amazing experience ever since.

Passion for profession - Lara Craft
Judy’s Preparatory School

What made you start Lara Craft Toys? 

Lara Craft Toys is something I wanted to start in 2017 but I couldn’t focus on it because I had too many things to do at the same time. Like I mentioned earlier, I constantly have ideas in my head and I figured that the best way for me to implement them, is clearly via this toy company. It allows me to create anything I can imagine. There’s nothing as amazing as having an idea which may seem impossible to do at the time but finding a way to actually make it happen makes it very fulfilling. The best part is also showing my kids that they can actually create anything they think of.

Passion for profession - Lara Craft

I am fascinated by Lara Craft Toys, you need to tell me more, how was it conceived?

My very 1st trip to a toy company was to Playmobil in Malta in 2007. It was a field trip with the University of Manchester and the whole idea was to understand how to use information systems to manage business processes. I was stunned by the way their production was carried out and the amount of equipment they had. It was something that just stuck and even-though, I never thought of having my own toy company at the time, it was an amazing experience.

Lara at Playmobil in 2007 (thats where the seed for Lara Craft was sown albeit unknowingly 😃)

The idea of Lara Craft Toys started around 2017 just 2 years after I started Judy’s Preparatory school. I realized that most of the toys and learning resources I needed had to be imported which cost double. So whenever I bought toys, I studied them, especially the wooden ones. I’m also trying to avoid plastic, I guess it’s a step towards caring for the environment too. I studied the toys to see if it was something that I could make as well. I like creating these challenges for myself sometimes.

I made the 1st prototype of a wooden toy in 2017 and it was hilarious. Totally the wrong shape, the wood was too heavy, and it was just wrong. I tried again the 2nd and 3rd time and it still wasn’t so great but I made progress. and spent a lot of money too. My husband always calls it money spent on research 😃. He is the most supportive person ever, he always has a good laugh when he comes back home and I’m covered in saw dust 🤦🏽‍♀️.
He’s always ready to listen to my sometimes wacky ideas except when it’s in the middle of an Arsenal game. 😃I am just so grateful for him.

One of several failed attempts – fondly called Research by Lara. #if at 1st you don’t succeed dust yourself up and try again.

My Dad also let me know that the manufacturing industry was one of the most difficult industries especially in Nigeria. With that in mind, I met up with Bola Adefila sometime last year to discuss the manufacturing industry. Bola has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry and she was extremely helpful and gave lots of insights into what to do and what not to do. Her book ‘Profit’ is also a manual I refer to often.

Along the line, I started to learn about different types of wood (still learning), the types of saws to use, blades for the saws, sanding machines etc. I consulted a local artisan who often made some materials for me at the school. He was always pleased to show me how to use these machines or change jigsaw blades. I’m still learning about all of these though. I don’t think the learning will ever stop.

Lara hard at work

Around January this year, I had a meeting with a group of friends where we decided to share work experiences as well as ideas. I told them about the toy company idea and some of the things I wanted to do. They were very supportive and gave lots of ideas as well as books to read.

Fast forward to March, I registered Lara Craft Toys just before COVID-19 locked down the whole world. I started with the wooden puzzles, which was an idea by the ever supportive Ogwa Iweze (Dzyn). She mentioned it to me and I decided to give it a try even though it wasn’t on my list of products at the time. Just like the 1st attempt in 2017, I tried several times before settling on the materials I wanted to use. The 1st customized wooden puzzle I made was a picture of myself, then I made one for Ogwa and my go to person for all my ideas Samiah Ahmed (The Gift Source).

I know you make both educational and recreational toys, but is that all you make?

I recently created theme based workbooks for preschoolers because I also realized that the online learning approach wasn’t for everyone. The workbooks seemed like the perfect solution to that because they contain lots of hands-on activities that children can be engaged in, almost the same way we engage them at Judy’s Preparatory School.

Lara with her recently launched work books

I have a list of yet to be released products which I’m excited about and some are hilarious too. I sometimes crack myself up when I think about creating some things. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my ideas through Lara Craft Toys.

This is still very fresh and I’m still learning every day but I’m definitely excited about what the future holds for Lara Craft Toys.

Which of your businesses do you enjoy the most? 

I love being at Judy’s Preparatory School because of the incredible feeling I get once I’m around all the little ones. I also absolutely love Lara Craft Toys because it makes me feel like nothing can stop any idea that pops into my head. The way the children at Judy’s Preparatory School play with toys also drives me to create materials that I know they will like via Lara Craft Toys. Both of these businesses are very related so it’s hard to choose.

What are the challenges you face in running your businesses?

The Nigerian environment has a million and one obstacles that will deter you from running a business. From operational expenses on things like diesel, to constant repairs and maintenance. In recent times, I have learnt not to think of them as challenges but as a learning opportunity. If something comes up that I have never encountered before, it’s simply a problem-solving opportunity.    

Which of your business would you say is more passion-driven and or talent-driven? 

Both. With Lara Craft Toys, however, talent is required because the products are handmade and mostly from wood. I’ve learnt how to work with wood, how to use jigsaw machines, scroll saws and many more. I have people who work with me and I also make some products myself.

Where do you see yourself/businesses in 10 years.

Multiple arms of Judy’s Preparatory school and a fully functional Toy manufacturing company with Lara Craft Toys. I see both business ultimately providing more jobs to Nigerians.

Advice for budding entrepreneurs. 

Don’t procrastinate, Do it now. But it helps when you have support (financial and otherwise) especially from family that believes in your dreams.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I’m either at home being goofy with the kids, on a video call with my entire family or out for drinks with husband and friends.

Talking about kids, tell us about your life as a mum. 

Life as a mum is the most incredible experience ever. 

I’m the type of mum that bakes cakes, paints, play football, do school runs myself, teach them photography, read bedtime stories, prays for them, correct their sentences and writings, hide behind doors to scare them, sing and dance with them, do cartwheels, scream when they’re driving me nuts and give them lots of hugs and kisses. I tell them how much I love them almost every day. The best part of any day is when my son or daughter randomly comes to me and say “Mummy can I tell you something”? and I go “What? then they say “Do you know that I love you sooooo much”. 

Is there anyone you admire and why? 

My parents of course! My Dad is the most positive person I have ever met. He’s funny, super smart, always optimistic and so cheerful. He’s the fit-fam type of Dad, he loves science and he’s always eager to tell you about the wonders of Black Seed Oil, the nutritional benefit of Pectin in Apples or the importance of drinking Magnesium water.

My mum is an absolutely creative person. I believe I got that part of her. She’s always coming up with one “invention’ or the other. We always have a good laugh the first time she shows us one of her inventions. The truth is we always end up using it which makes her laugh at us in the end! She recently started making face masks for everyone at home simply because she’s amazing with the sewing machine. I remember her making clothes for us when we were much younger just because she could. I absolutely love that about her.

Tell us something people don’t know about you? 

I used to play the Clarinet, I love to sing and listen to Brazilian music.

What do you splurge on? 

Food and Machinery. 😁

View this post on Instagram

Lara Craft Toys

A post shared by Lara Craft Toys (@laracrafttoys) on

Lara working with her machines 😁

Advice for budding entrepreneurs. 

Don’t procrastinate, Do it now. But it helps when you have support (financial and otherwise) especially from family that believes in your dreams.

If you could choose a superpower which will it be? 

To be able to keep everyone safe, genuinely happy and content.

What! Lara is our kind of Mum at the Aunty Lulu blog, thank you for your time, you totally rock 🤸🏽‍♀️🖖🏽.

I must say that the ‘Lara craft puzzles’ are the best gifts ever. It’ll make a wonderful birthday, anniversary as well as Christmas gift. Every family also needs a family puzzle, it really is amazing! So send your favourite family picture to them and it’ll be done in no time, I’ll show you mine once I have it done 😁.

Aunty Lulu.

Follow Lara on Instagram

@laracrafttoys

@judyspreparatoryschool

https://www.judyspreparatoryschool.com/

4.7 3 votes
Article Rating
admin
boadewoye@gmail.com
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Naomi K
Naomi K
2 months ago

I must say, Lara is very inspirational. Just reading her story has encouraged me as a woman. Well done Bimbs. Such beautiful piece.

Rayo
2 months ago

Nice one. Well done Lara and Bims

Abisola
Abisola
2 months ago

Welldone Lara❤️I’m so proud of you