10 Years!! TEN!!! What a crazy ride it has been!! We have been reflecting a lot lately on how Bannor Toys started and where we are now! Some of you may not know about our humble beginning, so we wanted to share more of our story!
Bannor Toys started in 2011 in the tiny, two-bedroom bungalow owned by Jesse and Stacey Bannor. The home was located in Des Moines, Iowa where Stacey ran an in-home daycare and Jesse worked for a large mortgage company. Stacey became frustrated with the toys that were available for the kids in her day care, batteries needed replaced, stickers fell off, toys broke easily. Jesse then started to tinker around in the basement with very few tools that belonged to his grandfather. They decided to make the children in the daycare some Christmas toys. Stacey loves to make fun of Jesse's first attempt....she says they looked like cat toys!! The toys have come along way since then!!!
Their first toys took a lot of hard work without the use of big tools and machines. They were sanded by hand so they wouldn't have any rough edges as they couldn't afford a router to make the nice edges that we have on our toys now. The would buy very basic materials at the home stores in the area and turn them into toys. Stacey would stay up late at night hand painting their first few designs. They continued to learn more and more about toy design and production and used their creativity for more ideas.
They launched their Etsy store in October of 2011. The next January they had sold $632 worth of toys and they decided to take a BIG jump! Jesse decided to leave his job in corporate America and focus on making toys and Stacey continued to have her in-home daycare.
Jesse moved the shop from the basement to a small two car garage that was on their property. He cut out each and every toy using a scroll saw and drilled holes with his grandfather's drill press. Each toy was made one at a time. This was the perfect space to turn a hobby into a business! They stayed in the garage for a couple of years. Each order was made to order. They didn't have an overstock of items. Stacey would make a list of the orders and Jesse would then go make those toys. After they were finished, Stacey would then ship them out when the day care kids had left for the day. While they were working in the shop is when they purchased their first laser engraver. We still use this machine in the shop to this day!
They took their lack of experience and knowledge as a blessing in disguise. Had they known what they know now, Bannor Toys would not exist. Their naivete is what kept them going each day! This didn't start out as something they dreamed of, but it has since turned into a dream they didn't know they had.
As they continued to grow, they needed more space so they rented a commercial space within a mile of the home. They stayed in this location for about 3 years. While in the Des Moines shop, they had two friends, Matt and Jimmy, that would help out and they hired Tasha as their first shop assistant. It was also during this time that they purchased their first CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. This machine was a tiny "shark" CNC that was only about 12"x18". They purchased a larger CNC in 2013 that just happened to be delivered the exact same day as Eli was born....don't worry...Jesse didn't miss either delivery! Stacey stopped doing daycare in 2014 and would take the stroller with Baby Eli and walk to the shop.
It was also in 2014, they felt the need to find someone to help with cutting out the toys. They put out an ad on Craigslist for a wood-working company that had a CNC machine. They were blessed to find a company in Illinois that would work perfectly! That partnership is still in place today!
After some time Jesse and Stacey realized that they were spending more money renting the commercial space than necessary. If they could find a larger home/property that also had a large building that they could run the business out of, their lives and financial state would be much better! So they began their search and that search brought them to Madrid, Iowa in 2016. They bought an acreage that had a home, a large 4 car garage with a shop attached and a large Morton building. The shop attached to the garage became the area to store the inventory, finish toys and ship while the Morton Building housed all of the larger tools and machines. Because of the move, it was back to just Jesse and Stacey doing all of the work with the occasional help from their family friend, Matt.
In September, they put out an ad for a part-time position to help them through the busy holiday season. It was then that Mardi joined the team. She started out working just 12 hours a week with the agreement that it would just be until mid-December. By October, Jesse and Stacey asked Mardi to stay on permanently on a part-time basis. Mardi agreed and is still here 5 years later (and working more than 12 hours a week!)
Stacey and Mardi worked together in the small shop area, often bumping butts as they passed each other to grab something from the other side! Jesse worked out in the large shop cutting toys on the CNC and designing more toys with the help of Stacey. After being in that small shop attached to the garage for about a year or so, everyone realized that we needed more space. So we temporarily moved the inventory, laser, and shipping down the basement of the Bannor's home while Jesse worked to more than double the space of the shop. The Bannor's gave up half of their garage to devote to the shop. In August of 2017, we moved back out of the basement and into the newly remodeled shop with lots of room for inventory!
In October of that year, it was again time to hire someone part-time to help us with the holidays. Amy joined the team, again, starting out part-time through Mid-December. And once again, she got asked to stay on with our little team. She's still with us 4 years later!
It wasn't long before, we all realized that we had again, outgrown our space. The Bannor's had already been looking for a new space and they found just the right spot in downtown Madrid in the spring of 2018.
This was a building that needed a lot of work....inside and out! Jesse and Stacey got to work repairing, designing, and painting to get the building ready for us to move into.
We moved into the building in late July 2018. The downstairs of the building houses our larger tools and machines and the upstairs is where we finish, personalize, and ship all of the toys! Jeremy joined our team this same year. He started out as a helper to Jesse while renovating the building and then he was hired to run the shop downstairs.
We are still in this building today although there are times that we feel that we are outgrowing it! But for now, it is our home! We have seen employees come and go and currently have a team of 8 here in Madrid and a few more at our partner shop in Illinois.
Our current team here consists of:
Jesse and Stacey: Owners
Mardi: Executive Assistant (started in September 2016)
Amy: Shop Assistant (started in October 2017)
Jeremy: Shop Foreman (started in August 2018)
Nicky: Shop Assistant (started in January 2021)
Beth: Shop Assistant (started in May 2021)
Steve: Shop Foreman (started in October 2021)
We have seen many changes in toys, safety requirements, employees, and buildings, but one thing stays the same....our commitment to our customers to make the safest toys and offer the best customer service possible.
Whether you have a been a longtime customer of ours or you just found us, we can't thank you enough for helping us make it ten years! Our customers mean so much to us!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
We couldn't be more excited to see what the next ten, twenty, thirty years bring us!