Brunch

The Woodpecker Hub

  • A charming small business to stimulate your child

It takes a lot of courage to open up a small business, and today, Brunch spoke to Chithalka Ellawala, an enterprising young mother, nursery school teacher, and childcare centre manager, on her business baby The Woodpecker Hub.

Chithalka Ellawala

Born somewhat by accident almost a year ago, The Woodpecker Hub came about when Chithalka was asked to design a logo for the nursery school where she works, the Grand Monarch Nursery in Colombo 6. Creatively inclined, a hobby of Chithalka’s was creating wooden ornaments, toys. and wall decor to decorate her child’s room and the rooms of her friends’ children, and so, she fabricated the logo out of wood as well.

Now, almost a year later, Chithalka leads a team of three out of a small workshop under the name of The Woodpecker Hub. When asked what led her to choose the name The Woodpecker Hub, Chithalka shared that the name just came to her. “We were trying to think of a good name, my husband was also helping me to think of names. I knew I wanted something to do with wood, and the woodpecker just sprang to mind. I used to watch Woody Woodpecker, growing up too. We searched for similar names, and found that in Sri Lanka, to our knowledge, at least, there are no similar names, so we went ahead and selected it.”

The Woodpecker Hub specialises in customised wooden toys, decor, and ornaments, mostly made from wood. A prominent technique of The Woodpecker Hub’s designs is laser-cutting, with the team using their own personal laser-cutter. “I wanted to work with wood because it is durable. I started with children’s toys and wall decor, and children use these things for some time. Other products like paper are one-time use, but with wood, they can keep it for longer. Wood isn’t our only material, however, we also make products in KT board and acrylic as well, and last year, we made a range of Christmas ornaments using eco-board.”

Chithalka designs all The Woodpecker Hub’s products herself, working closely with her team to make sure that quality is paramount. “I now have a good customer base from whom I get orders. I promoted The Woodpecker Hub mainly through Facebook, and last year I did some Christmas ornaments which were very well-received. My customers are like friends now, and when I create something new I get in touch with them on WhatsApp to see if they’re interested.” 

As The Woodpecker Hub focuses on customised products, the bulk of Chithlaka’s work is made-to-order and can range from simple toys to things like wall hangings, and more complex educational toys, like for example, boards that show the life-cycles of children’s beloved animals. Chithalka’s main audience is young children of nursery school age because that is the age group she has the most experience with. “I don’t keep a big profit margin on The Woodpecker Hub’s products,” Chithalka explained, adding: “I always want it to be something that people can afford, especially in these difficult times. If they can’t afford it, then there’s really no point. I feel this is why I have so many repeat customers. I also give my customers priority when it comes to ideas, and let them tell me if they would like to change or something or if they want something specific. I even re-do products if they’re not happy with them, regardless of if it is a loss to me or not.”

Chithalka’s favourite thing about being able to run The Woodpecker Hub is being able to design and deal with customers. It’s not always, but she gives her customers her full attention and enjoys dealing with them, sharing again that her customers have become like friends to her.

As a small business owner trying to make it in the midst of a pandemic, we asked Chithalka what her biggest challenge was trying to launch a small business in this turbulent time, and she shared that the biggest challenge was the timing itself, because at this point in time, fewer people are looking for items like those that The Woodpecker Hub is trying to produce. “I’ve had great support from my husband and my child, and The Woodpecker Hub is a very small business because I am also working on other things, so we thought why not try this. Investing in art at this time is a risk, but anything can be done if you do it with a good heart.”

Facebook: The Woodpecker Hub

Instagram: @woodpecker_hub