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US woman starts up Swedish toy store online
Leigh Neil and a llama hand puppet. Photo: Private

US woman starts up Swedish toy store online

Published on: 20 Oct 2014 12:12 CET

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American Leigh Neil, who started online toy store ABC Leksaker in 2005, has been in Sweden for 15 years. The former consultant first noticed a gap in the children's toy market during a play session with her children. 
"I looked at all the toys scattered around the floor. Not one of them I'd bought in Sweden," she tells The Local.
"Then I went to look for the brands in Sweden and they weren't there. I was frustrated. All the things I wanted to buy for my children, I couldn't find."

The frustration, combined with the need to find an alternative job, led the mother-of-three to consider starting her own business. 

"How do you go back to work with three kids? It's hard to find a part-time job, especially somewhere you haven't worked before, so I started thinking that maybe I should do something on my own," she says. 

Convinced she wasn't the only one to suffer from the gap in the market for toys that were easily available in the US but lacking in Sweden, Neil started her own online toyshop in her basement in Stockholm’s suburb Danderyd.

But she didn't just want to bring in toys that weren't available on the Swedish market, Neil also wanted to expand what already existed.

"In 2005, there was the princess and the knight – and that's it. If a child didn't fit into these moulds, there are different things to be. If I took in a brand, I got the whole range: the magician, the veterinarian, the animal trainer, the ballerina… so people could find something that fit their child and not the mould."

Through her business, Neil wants to encourage play and allow children to be creative and develop their interests.

"Play is important for emotional development, education, language development… it’s important for everything. The playing age has stopped younger and younger, anything we can do to interest them in something that isn't the computer or the iPad is a necessity."

Leigh Neil in the storage room of ABC Leksaker
Photo: Private

ABC Leksaker has expanded beyond the walls of the basement and now features a wide range of over 2,500 toys and games. Customers can go online and search based on the type of toy they're after, the age of the child they're buying for, or other specific desires.

Payment is done in advance by credit card, PayPal, or Klarna. The packet will be sent out with the postal service the same day and in most cases arrive the next day. 

Neil does not only run the company, she's part of the entire process with the marketing, the packaging of the toys, and postage, and says it makes the day go by quickly as there's never a dull moment.  

Running a successful online toy shop for nearly a decade, Neil has accumulated some insight and words of wisdom for those looking to set up a business in Sweden. Apart from stressing the importance of learning the language, she suggests others shouldn't lose track of their progress. 

"You can't do everything at once – start with what you can do. Be satisfied with your efforts, regardless of how far you get. There's always so much time in the day, figure out your priorities and what you have time for, don’t be disappointed, think of it as an experience," she tells The Local.

"It's life. Take advice from where you can find it and be open to learn new things."

Mimmi Nilsson

The Local(news@thelocal.se)