BIOGRAPHY – Phoebe Hayman

BIOGRAPHY – Phoebe Hayman
Product designer, founder and CEO of Seedling NZ, Phoebe Hayman, was born in 1978 in Palmerston North
and describes herself as a “uni baby”. Her original and creative toy kits are stocked in shops and department
stores all over the world.
The daughter of an embryo veterinarian, the family moved to the United States when Hayman was a preschooler and she returned to Cambridge, New Zealand as a 13-year-old.
She credits her parents with encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit in their offspring so instead of spending her
winnings from a sewing competition on just anything, the young Hayman bought ice-blocks to sell at the local
Friday night baseball game to double her money.
Imaginative and artistic, Hayman completed a Fine Arts Degree at prestigious Whitecliffe Art School in
Auckland (1997-99), specialising in photography before commencing work as a commercial photographer for
five years.
Hayman is married to Suraj Keshvara who works in IT and she is the mother of two boys (Kieran 9 years,
Ashwyn 7 years). Even before having children, Hayman had noticed a lack of quality craft toys available for
children and so the idea for Seedling NZ took root in a room of her Whitford house in 2007.
The fledgling company started out with just four basic activity packs - and produces over 300 varieties today.
Hayman’s goal was to create quality toy kits that weren’t simply a paint-by-numbers process but rather
provided kids with the tools to be as creative as their imaginations allow - hence the company tag line,
“planting ideas, growing minds”.
Hayman had to overcome a male-dominated industry’s initial reaction to not take her seriously, but quickly
proved her credibility as a serious player on the international toy stage. Her products are now stocked in 300
stores locally and are sold in 20 countries including in Harrods and Selfridges in the UK, and US-based stores
Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie.
The likes of Jessica Alba and Elizabeth Hasselbeck have posted pictures of themselves making Seedling kits
with their children and Seedling products have made appearances on The Today Show, The View and at the
RHS Chelsea Flower Show (London).
Two-thirds of Seedling’s business is exported and Hayman has succeeded in a 1,100% increase in turnover in
five short years.
She remains passionate and true to her original objectives of producing a high-end, organic product
manufactured and assembled locally in New Zealand despite pressure to make it more economically abroad.
Hayman prefers to maintain high quality control standards and consistency in her handmade brand and is
proud that Seedling NZ represents a Kiwi number-eight-wire mentality.
Inspiring children to grow a passion for hands-on creative thinking