We make toys, books and games that delightfully spark curiosity and celebrate diversity. Our thoughtful products empower creatives and makers from around the world, while contributing to social and environmental impact. Keep reading for the full story or...
A Tale Of Two Women
Small Fires is the creation of two change-makers: Paty Galán and Grace O'Hara. How they came to be interested in social impact, education, diversity and each other is an unconventional love story. Read on to find out how two people became one heart-warming business.
I fell in love with a Kenyan soul while studying in Australia and all my future plans changed completely - including staying in Australia after my studies as we both decided to stay. When we became parents for the first time we knew we wanted to share with our children our rich cultures. We also knew language was a very important part of this, as we have always wanted them to be close and have a bond with their families in Mexico and Kenya. So, our journey as a multilingual family started.
We would always “read” out loud in Spanish or Swahili all the books we had in English. This language immersion didn’t last long, as I started teaching our older son to recognise letters and eventually read. I was committed to raise my children not only able to speak both languages but read and write too. For years, I have made learning materials while also looking around for resources to help me in this journey.
Fast forward to 2020 and experiencing lockdown and learning from home as schools were closed: I saw a great opportunity to enhance my language teaching to my children as I had to spend literally all day with them!
My children had often expressed how easier it is to understand something when I explained it than when their teachers do at school. This encouraged me to create games and toys to learn other languages and that is how my first business (called Kipepeo) started.
In 2015, I had the privilege of travelling to different corners of the world to learn how different impact-driven organisations worked. When I arrived back home to Aotearoa (new Zealand), my friends and family eagerly asked me, “so, what was it like in all of these places?” To which I could only reply: “totally the same as here”.
I had realised while travelling that the books, movies and TV that I had consumed growing up had done little to prepare me in understanding different cultures and places. When I dug deeper into the world of publishing specifically, I saw where my problem had started. There was an alarming lack of diversity within pictures books: with less than 25% in 2018 featuring a character that wasn’t white or wasn’t an animal.
With my sister's first baby soon on the way, I set my heart on trying to help bring new stories to life that would help the next generation grow up with a better understanding of all the ways there are to live, play and be around the world.
In 2020, I helped to publish a story written by my Kenyan friend and change-making extraordinaire, Lillian Shirayar Mang'ong'o, and the first iteration of Small Fires was born!
When Two Became One
The journey of a solo founder comes with its moments of doubt and loneliness. Kind words, advice and time from friends, family and supporters provide some crucial lifelines in keeping momentum going. Since 2020, when Paty and Grace met through an online conference, they had been keeping in touch to swap notes and encourage each other with their individual businesses.
In early 2021, Grace put a call out for a Co-Founder in the Small Fires journey - and when Paty expressed interest, it felt like a perfect fit. Since then, we’ve been putting our minds together, complementing each other’s skills and creativity and supporting each other in growing a sustainable business by making products that inspire, delight and do good!
Our Kind Of Business
These are the things that underpin every element of the Small Fires range and ethos.