Carina Tannenberg Wants to Demystify Poop for American Kids and Parents

Carina Tannenberg

By Lela Nargi

Carina Tannenberg is the owner of online shop Sweden Toys, which brings a whole host of adorable, educational Scandinavian playthings to American tots.  But perhaps none of the shop’s offerings is quite as…unexpected as its duo of plushies called Pee & Poo.

You read that right: Pee & Poo plushies, meant to lift some of the mystery for kids from the always tedious and challenging event of potty training. Here, Tannenberg, not a mom herself but doting auntie to Maya, age 10, and Noah, age 8—they call her their “extra mom”—talks about what she sees as some critical differences between raising kids in the U.S. and raising them in her native Sweden.

Where did you grow up, and when did you move to the U.S.? I moved here in 1996 to go to film school. I currently live in LA’s Westwood area, where I’ve been for the last 15 years. There are some similarities here to back home in Stockholm: I live in a residential area in a big city. I think it’s a good place for kids to grow up, but it is not as free here for them. My niece, Maya, rides on the Stockholm subway by herself or with friends. I think that shows a lot about the difference in how we perceive a child’s maturity.

What are some of the differences you’ve seen between Swedish and American parenting styles? I know many of my Swedish friends who are parents feel locked into all the rules. But in Sweden you can easily have a career and be a mother. Here, it is very difficult, as schools seem to expect mothers to spend a lot of time with the school’s programs, as if they have a free schedule.

I also see is how important it is for kids to see that they can do things for themselves; being so dependent on their parents, as they must be in LA to get everywhere, can prevent them from evolving freely. I would add that there is a gender difference that is imposed more here than in Sweden. We are very careful in Sweden not to impose our ideas on our kids, and to try to let them learn and grow freely.

What’s your background, and how did you get involved in selling kid’s toys?I have a degree in Building Engineering from a university in Stockholm, Art and Graphic Design from a university in Paris, and Film Producing and Business from a school here in LA. Overall, I am interested in design and wellbeing, but especially for kids. I have Swedish friends who have designed these amazing products, and I wanted to get them out there.

The response to Pee & Poo has been great! I believe that even at a very young age, kids like to learn responsibility. I think this is why they love dolls and puppies so loved much—caring for them is in our nature. Once we find that teddy bear we love, we become very involved and “listen” very carefully to what it needs. With the Pee & Poo characters, we can get the child’s attention and explain how Pee & Poo needs to go to the potty and not in the diaper. We will also soon come out with Apps for Pee & Poo potty training, so that the child can be part of a rewarding program for their potty visit.

You are a breast cancer survivor. How has this changed your perspective on what you do? I was diagnosed in 2010 and I have been clear for 5 years, so I can call myself “cancer free!” I have always been interested in health and wellbeing—both physical and mental, they go together. I believe this interest started at a young age, so working with kids and health makes my life so exciting.

Going through cancer was life changing. When you don’t know if there is a tomorrow, you let go of all of your expectations and start to look at life as new again. Everything in front of you becomes a blessing because you no longer can expect anything—like a child; children are so excited about everything. It’s amazing to be able to have that again as a grown.

Women Helping Women is The Hivery’s Greatest Gift—To Women


By Lela Nargi

What does a mom who’s eager to get back to work—or start a new chapter of her worklife— want for the holidays? If she lives within striking distance of Mill Valley, CA, no doubt she wants a membership to The Hivery, a two-year-old cooperative workspace, where women can meet and brainstorm whatever comes next in their lives. Mothers helping mothers is a concept as old as human society, and in this newest iteration, many other like-minded organizations have sprung up across the country. But to find out what’s so important about this sort of community, and why its time has so assuredly come, we caught up with Hivery founder and former ballet dancer Grace Kraaijvanger.

Where did you grow up and what was the worklife that was modeled for you? I grew up in a house full of girls; I was the oldest of four daughters. I am very close to my sisters, Emily, Maggie, and Abby. My dad was a pilot in the Air Force so we moved every few years. I grew up having to be flexible and make new friends often. I think that has served me well as an adult as I’m not afraid of change. My mom worked when I was younger and then stayed home later in my childhood. She was my hero as she was the perfect blend of a progressive, modern woman, but she also loved and respected her role as our mom. She passed away four years ago and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. She was a huge inspiration for me in opening The Hivery, and caring for her was my biggest lesson in not waiting on the things that make us feel vibrant and alive. I hope to pass on to my kids—Jane, 12, and Ben, 10—the unconditional love she gave to me and my sisters, as well as her sparkle, zest, and her feisty humor.

What’s your own work background? I studied marketing at the University of Arizona. I received a dance scholarship there and was thrilled to be part of their dance department. Ultimately, I received a degree in marketing, and my first job out of college was in the marketing department for a big tech firm, but I missed the community of dance and the arts. I created a marketing consulting firm so that I’d be able to pay the bills with marketing work, and still rehearse and perform with amazing professional dance companies and choreographers in San Francisco. I felt like I was able to blend business and the arts, by melding two very different careers. The Hivery was a further extension of creating a vibrant, creative community, with a business that serves a very specific need. I knew that women are seeking connection with other vibrant women, and that we all want to create meaningful work that fits into various stages and responsibilities within our lives. The Hivery is a place of creative connection and support, in addition to being a gorgeous, vibrant, co-working space for women.

When I became a mom, it became even more apparent to me how much we seek connection and support from other women in our community. We need to know that we aren’t in it alone, both as moms, and outside of motherhood. We need to know that it’s okay to want to create something meaningful for ourselves, and that we can count on other women to empower us to do that in a way that feels authentic.

How do you see this happening? At The Hivery, we talk a lot about cultivating what’s next for women. We provide programs and workspace for women to explore their next career, start their own business, or create work that works in their lives. I’m in the lucky position of getting to hear from women about what inspires us, and also what scares or stops us from doing work we truly want to do. The Hivery isn’t just about a place to work (although we have created a stunning place for that) but it’s also about connection and the idea that whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Hivery is founded on a firm belief that together, women can do anything.

Do you have plans for your second year of business and beyond? We certainly have plans to expand The Hivery, with new locations opening in 2016. This first location has been a beautiful guide for us on what women want and need to create work enlivens them, and how to clarify what’s next for them. We have women asking us constantly when we will open The Hivery in their area, and our answer is SOON! We are thrilled to have received such support and momentum, and we know that this is part of a movement for women to support and empower each other.

hiverys-focus-loungeWhat’s your family life like? We live in Mill Valley, California, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I am in love with where I live. We are surrounded by redwoods and stunning hiking trails, yet can be in the energy of San Francisco in just 15 minutes. I feel so fortunate to live and build my business here. We lead busy lives like so many parents in our time, but we love taking it slow, too, and spending the day at the beach or taking a long hike together. Both my kids love to surf, ski, and mountain bike and I love that they can take advantage of all those things where we live!

When I need an urban fix, we hang out in our old neighborhoods in the city, the Mission, and wander the eclectic and creative streets of Valencia Street. As a lifetime dancer, I never tire of seeing professional dance, and love taking the kids along when I can. I think that seeing other artists in action reminds them of the creativity and potential they have inside, as well as broadening their minds to all that humans can do!

Photographs courtesy of Grace Kraaijvanger

Meet Phoebe Hayman, founder of Seedling, Los Angeles, CA

Phoebe and her family

As told to Lela Nargi

Where are you from originally? I spent much of my childhood in the US and then moved back to New Zealand (where I was born) in my tween years. I studied Fine Arts in Auckland, and it made me understand what an important role creativity plays in our lives. I naturally sought out creative and hands-on experiences when my kids were little and realized how limited the offering was to create quality creative moments for kids; I thought there had to be a simpler and more positive experience out there. Kids are so excited and curious around exploring what they can do with their own two hands, I really wanted something that fully supported that spirit. So, I created [activity kit site] Seedling!

You’re living in L.A. with your family now. What made you choose this location? My husband, Suraj, and our two sons Kieran (age 12) and Ashwyn (age 10) moved back to open a US office for Seedling. I have been humbled and thankful for how supportive my family has been around this. We choose L.A. because it is still close to home but has everything Seedling needs to succeed: great talent, an inspirational startup community, easy access to the rest of the US and our favorite venture capital investors. We just visited New Zealand for the holidays and our favorite thing is seeing all our wonderful family, closely followed by the food which we ate far too much of! We often have family visiting and the handy thing is that L.A. is a stopover for many New Zealanders traveling around the world, so we get to see a lot of family and friends throughout the year.

We love living in Southern California, because we really enjoy the opportunities our kids have to experience the diversity of communities. Just going in any direction 20 minutes puts us in a different culture we love exploring. When my family visits, we love taking them to the beaches and eating at our favorite restaurants; when we go to New Zealand, we love visiting the beaches and eating at our favorite restaurants. I guess we are creatures of habit.

What’s a typical day like for your family? I get to enjoy breakfast with the kids before getting on the train to go to work. My husband takes the kids to school and then their sports in the afternoon, while I work through a day of meetings. We enjoy dinner together most nights, if the kids’ sports schedules allow it.

On the weekends, we usually have some kind of sporting commitment but when we don’t, we love to go on walks, play tennis, go to the beach, or hang out at home doing our own projects. My kids love to read and build things, I love to read and paint, while my husband enjoys tennis and catching up on current events. I also love taking photos of my favorite people so there are photos all over our house; actually, we all enjoy our creative moments so there are works of art all over the place (even my husband, who doesn’t think he is creative, has a masterpiece on the fridge)

When we get the chance to go a little further afield, we love experiencing new communities, a few of our favorites are Laguna for the arts festivals and San Juan Capistrano for the amazing mission village but we’re still discovering so many spots!

Are there any issues that are really important to your family? Supporting our communities at a local level is important to us and you’ll often find us volunteering at the various sports and school communities that we belong to. Without this level of support, kids wouldn’t have the opportunities they have and we are big supporters of opportunities for kids both in our personal and professional lives.

And what about Seedling—what’s in store? Big plans! There are so many ways that kids love to play and we’re focused on supporting it in many forms. If we can imagine an open-ended play opportunity, we plan on building it and bringing it to families around the world. 2016 will see some very big product releases for us and we’re super excited about it. Watch this space!