It started 11 years ago, when Lamia, the owner and founder of the business, first became a mother. At that time, finding good quality stuff for children took work to help them develop their different skills and make learning fun. Today, Toy Box is known as the biggest branded toy shop in town. She achieved her goal to make the Western standard of products available in The Gambia, and most importantly, at quite affordable prices. Lamia says: "Branded does not have to mean expensive. It means good quality, but it will not cost a fortune".
With the family's support and having experience importing from the UK, Lamia started the business by collaborating with a few suppliers offering all the brands she wanted to make available in her shop. She has been collaborating with them since. Over the years, she strived to add new products and brands, mostly based on recognising the needs and observing her two daughters' learning and growth process. She gradually expanded the offer to the point where she could satisfy most of her customers' needs. She loves the feeling of being able to offer products that her customers are asking for after seeing them online. She says it is always rewarding for her, as an entrepreneur, to see the confusion on the client's faces when they walk in and are so spoiled with the choice that they don't know what to choose.
Lamia only started her business by offering toys and some baby products. Later she noticed that when mothers and fathers come to the shop for their kids, they are also looking for something for themselves, their better halves, their friends or for home. Lamia grabbed the opportunity and expanded her selection with some gift ideas and later with beautiful home accessories.
From the beginning, Lamia puts in the extra effort to choose toys, which can make learning fun. Montessori range of toys, STEM activities, toys and learning aids that improve motor and sensory skills and focus on development in math, languages, writing, and the alphabet. Some of her loyal clients are daycares, nurseries, and educational establishments for kids up to 6 years old.
Contrary to what her friends believe, her now 12 and 8-year-old daughters don't have everything they want from the shop. Lamia, who values family the most, is teaching them that you cannot always get what you want and have to work for it and earn it. However, they choose most of their gifts from Toy Box, but at the end of the day, it depends on many things whether they get it or not. And this year's Christmas gift selection? Of course, they already did it.
When one of her daughters was younger, she believed that when Santa came from the North Pole to The Gambia, he must have stopped at Toy Box because he could not have brought all the gifts with him, as the gifts she chose were exactly the same as from Toy Box. Lamia explains, laughing: "So we got caught, you know?"
She has always been a fan of the festive season, and even though she is a Muslim, they have celebrated Christmas in her family since she was a child. Being such an important part of her childhood and having brought a lot of happiness to her; until this day, she feels excited to create a magical place for kids and families who enter the shop to feel the festive atmosphere through music, decoration, Christmas lights, and of course all sorts of gifts and toys. Seeing kids come in, choose their toys, and even leave letters for Santa gives her so much satisfaction.
Although Christmas is the most commercialised holiday, they also celebrate and offer gifts for other holidays, such as the birth of the prophet Mohammed. There is always a reason to put a smile on a child's face, says Lamia, whether for birthdays, rewards or good work at school. Toy Box also caters for gifts for baby showers, naming ceremonies, teachers' day, retirement and many more occasions. That's why we are here, and that's why we have grown over the years.
What Lamia is most proud of is the name and reputation she has built for Toy Box. A lot of the clients come in just to see her. They always ask for her when she is away with her family. They are looking for the personal service they are given. She is third generation Gambian, born and grew up here. And there is something that she really respects and appreciates about her Gambian customers. They are very loyal. They will always return when they get used to a place and are offered good service and personalised treatment. For her, the client is king, and her duty is to take care of them. She has a personal relationship with many. They can always contact her, do a phone service, and with her help, select gifts for any of their celebrations. Lamia would take care of the personalised gift wrapping for no extra charge. And sometimes, she might even personally deliver presents to them. As she says, the little things add so much meaning, whether in business or any other relationship.
Make a stop at the Bertil Harding Highway, next to Pick'n'Save supermarket, to choose the gift for your little ones and teenagers. Fisher-Price, Barbie, Hot Wheels, Nerf, Marvel, Tooky Toy and many other popular and trending toy brands are waiting for you.
And don't worry, you will be able to find something for your grown-up family members and friends too. An inviting home accessories and gifts section will ensure your gifts this year will be unique.