From cubby houses to chicken coops and even dog kennels, you’ve never seen creations quite like the ones made by the Gold Coasters behind YARDart. We chatted to Sam and Anya Imhoff about the story behind their brand, their secrets to success and the highs and lows of small business life.
What was your inspiration to start your own business?
Sam: Having worked within the construction industry for 15 years, I was keen to challenge myself and create a brand with a point of difference that I would enjoy pursuing day-to-day. I wanted to combine my building and artistic backgrounds to create versatile products that encourage people to get outdoors and as the name suggests, produce art for your yard. With my wife Anya’s career dedicated to getting more children learning and playing outside, it was a natural decision to work together on this venture.
When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
Sam: Anya was seven months pregnant in March during the peak of COVID and I wanted to keep the family safe, still be able to earn a living and have the ability to spend time with our new baby. I have always had various projects on the go in our workshop and realised this was feasible from home.
Anya: I certainly do feel very lucky that Sam has been able to combine his skills to create a family business that has allowed him to work from home and watch his son grow. There may be a great level of uncertainty and challenge for small businesses in the current climate, but we are giving YARDart our best shot!
How did you make your big break?
Sam: I’ll get back to you when hopefully that happens! So far however, the support and interest we have received since starting only a few months ago has been awesome. There has been lots of local legends sharing our business by word of mouth and online, that we will be eternally grateful to.
Anya: As a small business, it is incredibly exciting when you start to receive orders and for me an absolute highlight has been seeing the smiles on children’s faces, when their custom-made cubbies have been rolled into the yard!
What was your training prior to starting your own business?
Sam: I am a registered builder and carpenter and in my limited spare time, an artist @sam_imhoff_artist. I spent many years working on high-end architectural homes and more recently have constructed commercial and bespoke backyard play spaces.
Anya: As a qualified early childhood and primary school teacher with a Masters in Education, I chose early on to specialise in outdoor learning and play. I now am fortunate enough to consult with schools and early childhood services in my role education coordinator for Nature Play QLD. It has been fantastic to call upon this experience to support Sam and give families a weekly dose of backyard play inspiration in our YARDart ‘Backyard Cubby Play Everyday’ blog – whilst lapping up every second of my maternity leave with our baby boy.
What are the biggest challenges of being a parent and a business owner?
Sam: The biggest challenge so far is being distracted, wanting to come in and get a giggle out of my little boy Darcy, when I know I should be back on the tools. When it’s safe to do so, he likes sitting in his bouncer inspecting what I’ve been making, but he holds his cards pretty close to his chest!
What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
Sam: As a morning person, I will always get work underway early which can sometimes free me up in the afternoon for some family time on the beach.
Anya: Being a new small business working from home, our work/life balance could easily become a little out of whack. Having a baby certainly shifts your priorities and for me now it is all about short bursts of productivity, when you are on a roll and naptimes are going to plan.
What is your biggest learning since starting your own business? Is there anything you’d do differently?
Sam: Anya and I are both self-confessed tech rookies, which has forced us (predominantly Anya) to learn the ropes pretty quickly where possible. That said, we thankfully did realise the importance of employing professional services to help create and develop the aspects of our business, where we were lacking the skills and experience.
At this stage we don’t have any regrets, as we are still finding our feet. On paper, starting a new business in the middle of a pandemic, when you’re due to have your first baby looks daunting and borderline crazy, but we are loving the journey that we’re committed to and look forward to the future.
What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
Sam: We both love getting outside to the beach, national parks and camping as much as we can, living in such a great part of the world. My parents live on a farm inland, which is also great to escape the hustle from time to time and reset.
Anya: With our baby boy currently absolutely obsessed with trees, we are finding ourselves exploring many more of the incredible parks we are lucky enough to have in our local backyard here on the Gold Coast. Our spare time certainly is now spent at a slower pace enjoying the simple things.
What’s one thing other people should do who are looking to start their own business?
Sam: Where possible, tie in the things you’re most passionate about, that get you out of bed each day, talk with likeminded people and start small.
Anya: Get out into the community, make connections and collaborate with real people. This has easily been one of the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of starting our new business.
Finish this sentence: I can’t get through a workday without…
Sam: A visit to the workshop by my little man, Darcy.
Anya: Our late afternoon trip together to the beach, or the Palm Beach Parklands…paradise!
Imagery by Kirra Smith.