While doing a cleanout of her two sons’ toys one day, Melissa was shocked at what she found.
“We filled a wheelie bin ¾ full of toys that had to be thrown away because they were broken or had missing parts and worn out,” the Sunshine Coast mom tells Kidspot.
“It was horrifying how much waste there was.”
The perfect present idea
A few weeks later, when it came time to attend parties for friends of Harvey, 7 and Flynn, 4, Melissa decided her spending could be put to a different use than what she’s done before.
“I didn’t want to give another toy and add to someone else’s clutter,” the 40-year-old says.
“I wanted to do something better.”
Melissa went on the hunt for a website that would let her choose and book a range of fun experiences that could be gifted to a child. When she didn’t find a single one made specifically for kids, her lightbulb moment came.
A side hustle is born
At that time, in February 2022, Melissa had been a stay-at-home mom for just six weeks after leaving a career in marketing when she got her business idea off the ground.
For nine months, she worked day and night to set up an online platform that ticked all the boxes. There have been other sacrifices to achieve her goal too. She and her husband, Josh, have spent $50,000 of their savings on technology and integration for the website.
“It’s a massive gamble,” she says.
“We’re rolling the dice. It’s a big juggle for a young family to take but we’re 100 percent committed. The environmental aspect really motivates me and knowing we need to do something for our kids.”
In October last year, Spark Pop – Australia’s only marketplace for experience gifts for kids and families – was launched with a focus on South East Queensland.
Since then, locations for experiences — from wildlife encounters, physical adventures to pampering sessions and a ride in a Ferrari — have grown exponentially, and they are now available across the east coast and in Perth, with more regions to follow.
Spark Pop earns its money by taking a small commission from every gift purchased at no extra cost to the customer. It also guarantees a price match.
Kids will love the experiences
With the business still in its infancy, Melissa was excited to have sold $2,000 worth of experiences in May this year, which is one of her best months.
“We’re not focusing on sales so much yet as we’re working hard on offering more gift ideas in more places,” the mom-of-two says. “We expect to have close to 500 experiences by Christmas.”
The mumpreneur won’t just stop at Australia. Her goal is to offer experiences in the US and UK.
One of the things she’s most proud of is that her business is also a social enterprise, which donates profits to The Smith Family, organizes toy trade events, and partners with toy libraries to promote their membership to decrease landfill in any way possible.
Melissa’s children have also reaped the benefits from their mom’s new business.
“Harvey did iFly (indoor skydiving) with his friend for his 6th birthday which I purchased along with the friend’s mum,” she says.
“He also did a high ropes course with my husband, which was really lovely to watch them doing it together. Flynn has done horse riding, and bouldering and had a sea lion experience at SeaLife.”
As for Melissa’s toy clutter, she’s happy to say it’s much easier to manage these days, with a focus on conscious consumerism spreading across the whole family. Their free time is also being spent in much more fun ways.
“The boys still love their collector items like Beyblades and Bakugan,” she laughs.
“You’re never going to eliminate tangible gifts but we reinforce having a balance, and they love that. Rather than it being about, ‘What can I have?’ the kids are always saying, ‘Can we do this? Where are we going next?’ Our leisure time as a family has completely changed. It gives us a better connection with lovely memories.”