It has been just over a year since Susan Cohen created Once Loved Toys, a business which specializes selling gently used toys. The company primarily operates out of her Facebook page, where anyone can request to reserve a toy. Once the toy has been reserved Susan will drive to the toy’s drop off location, removing any time or travel burdens from those purchasing the toys. What is special about Once Loved Toys is that by buying used items and receiving toys through donation, Susan is able to sell the toys at prices everyone can afford.
Susan is also mother to Friendship Circle participant Mathew, her 13-year-old son who is nonverbal and has an intellectual disability. Before running the business seven days a week, during the day Susan was often left feeling lonely and quite depressed as she found she was not busy like other parents were.
“I was in my house a lot and I didn’t have much to do and when you’re a special needs mom with one child you don’t really connect with that many people,” said Susan
That's when the idea for Once Loved Toys began when Susan’s son was in need of books for a book drive for the school’s library, so she reached out to everyone she knew to get as many books as she could, and even spent her own money on the drive. In the end, the school did not need most of the books, and as a way to get rid of them, Susan went to VerageSale, an online garage sale platform. She began to post different items including some of Matthews old toys and shares that she noticed the toys were the items which sold the fastest.
“I said to myself. because I was looking to do something with my time because my mind was thinking about my son and his special needs and all of that, I said ‘I’m going to open a buy and sell toy business’ just like that,” says Susan.
Once Loved Toys has five core values. Help families declutter, save time and money, help the environment, and give back to the community.
Upon recieveing a donation, Susan asks clients to name a charity they wish to donate to. Then, every few months, she gives to the charity which she chooses at random, out of pocket. “Three or four times a year, I take all the names of the charities into a charity bank. Then I pull out a name, and I give a monetary donation. I think this is part of the reason why the business has flourished,” says Susan.
“I want to make life as easy as possible for families,” said Susan. The desire to make life easy is one of the reasons Susan shares is behind why Once Loved Toys has taken off within the past year. The organization has been particularly successful for the fact that through the power of word of mouth, her business now has begun to gain revenue. Susan says that this is mainly because there is no longer a need for any marketing costs as the business is gaining notoriety in many neighborhoods across Montreal and as well as at the events which she attends to promote the business.
“It’s amazing because I was at an event this weekend doing like a booth, and I said ‘oh have you heard about me? I’m once loved toys,’ and she was like ‘oh my friend talked about you,’” says Susan, “it’s really cool.”
Through this experience, Susan has been able to meet many interesting people from her community and from around Montreal including a speech-language pathologist. The spread of Susan’s social circle goes in hand with the final, and arguably most important value of Once Loved Toys is to ‘help spread smiles.’ From charitable donations to low-cost toys that all families can enjoy, Susan’s business spread smiles to people all across the city and is yet another example of a mother of a special needs child who is doing amazing things. Not only does Susan spread smiles but Susan now says that she is far happier than before and that bringing smiles to young families has completely changed her life for the better.