Skip to main content

Tyson Leavitt and wife Audrey of Charmed Playhouses.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

Charmed Playhouses Inc. is one of the five semi-finalists in The Globe and Mail's Small Business Challenge Contest. (Check out the other four here and vote for your favourite.) The 2016 contest drew more than 3,400 entries, and a panel of judges selected the semi-finalists. The winner of the $100,000 business grant – and a suite of secondary prizes – will be announced in September.

When Tyson Leavitt built a playhouse two years ago as a present for his daughter, he had no idea the fantastical structure would lead to a new business venture.

Mr. Leavitt, who owned a landscaping company, has plenty of experience building backyard structures such as outdoor ovens, pergolas and fireplaces. After building his daughter's playhouse, he fashioned another one for a local home and garden show.

Story continues below advertisement

"It got a lot of attention, but I was so swamped in my landscape business that I couldn't follow up on the business opportunity," recalls Mr. Leavitt.

"Come the following year, a client I was building a playhouse for asked for a Rapunzel tower. I built it on spec, put in the same home and garden show from the year before, and the client ended up buying two playhouses."

This time, Mr. Leavitt was ready to get into the playhouse business. He and his wife started Lethbridge, Alta.-based Charmed Playhouses Inc. in April of 2015, and within months they had sold the landscaping business and hired workers for the new company.

Click here to vote for your favourite Small Business Challenge semi-finalist in this year's contest

In its first year, Charmed Playhouses generated close to $700,000 in revenue, Mr. Leavitt says. The price tag for his custom-made playhouses, which are designed by an architect, start at $7,500 and can go as high as $100,000-plus.

"Right now in the market you'll find other luxury playhouses but they don't have the same type of interior finishes that you would find in an actual, beautiful home," Mr. Leavitt says. "With our playhouses, every part is beautiful and amazing so kids will want to be there."

Charmed Playhouses clients include the likes of NBA player Stephen Curry, who has two young daughters. Mr. Leavitt says he sent the basketball player a sketch of a playhouse based on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (Mr. Curry plays for the Golden State Warriors). While Mr. Curry didn't go for that design, he did ask Mr. Leavitt to build his kids a playhouse.

Story continues below advertisement

In addition to building outdoor homes that are comfortable enough to live in, Charmed Playhouses is also working on licensing deals and developing a lower-priced, modular design based on a shed-like structure with interchangeable facades. The company has also started a playhouse furniture line.

Mr. Leavitt predicts about $5-million in sales this coming year. To meet this anticipated jump in demand, Charmed Playhouses will need to buy new equipment, invest in significantly more inventory, and hire more carpenters and office staff.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.