INTERVIEWS

5 Questions with Maya Simler from PLAYin CHOC

I have rarely encountered a person with such an international life as Maya. Reading the answers to our 5 questions below, it became clear that she really has worked and lived in so many places! Maya currently lives in London with her husband and two boys. She’s the brainchild behind her amazing brand PLAYin CHOC, the creator of very creamy and delicious, 100% vegan chocolate (which is also entirely vegan, nut, dairy, gluten and soy free!). Her fun and clever ToyChoc Boxes contain an eco-friendly toy to collect and assemble, raise awareness about endangered animals and the natural world.

I have known Maya for a few years now, and I know how hard she has worked to ensure that her chocolate is not only delicious, but also that all the card and paper used is 100% recycled and recyclable, and printed with vegetable based inks. Plus — the chocolates are wrapped in home compostable film!

Please read the answer of this inspirational woman to our 5 questions below and learn more about her interesting story.

PLAYinCHOC

PLAYinCHOC

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you come from, where you live, and about your family.

Hi, I am Maya Simler. I was born in Belgrade which at the time was the capital of Yugoslavia. My family comes from different places in former Yugoslavia plus some Italian ancestry. We spent the first 6 years of my life as a family in Iran where I went to a German nursery and I learned Farsi and German, which I quickly forgot later on.

In Iran

After returning to Belgrade for a few years my father’s job took us to Moscow, Russia where I attended a local Russian school and quickly had to learn Russian, which I still speak today. We spent a year there before returning back to Belgrade. When I was 18 years old I decide to study abroad and ended up moving to London for my BA degree. I made a lot of international friends which I loved. I also did 2 semesters in Los Angeles while doing my BA in Visual Communications.

Following that I did a Master of Arts Degree in Scenography at Central St Martins and spent a semester in Sevilla, Spain. That year was a lot of fun as we did a lot of performances and art installations and I made a lovely group of friends, and we are still close now.
We later did group exhibitions in East London, Ireland and Serbia. I started teaching Design at the American University in London and founded an Interior Design company with a friend. London has been my base now for over 20 years.

PLAYinCHOC

A few years later I met my husband Dominic and almost 2 years after that we had our first son Sebastian, and then 3 years later Maximilian. I stopped working and became a full time mum. After both kids were a bit bigger I wanted to get back to work and decided to do something that really resonates with me and combines my different skills and experiences. After a bit of searching within myself I came up with PLAYin CHOC.

2. Tell us a little bit about how/why you started PLAYin CHOC, and about the brand’s (and your!) strong key values.

After having kids and pausing for a while, I wanted to reevaluate life. I was thinking of how to put many things I like and care for into something. I always loved chocolate 🙂 and as we are lactose intolerant in the family it had to be dairy free. Also, as I promote (to my family) and enjoy the benefits of a healthy diet it had to have a minimum amount of sugar and no refined sugar ( I know the negative “sugar high” kids can get). The main motivation for me was to try and engage kids through play and joy in the natural world and caring for our planet. Kids are the best about asking honest questions and the hope is they can trigger conversations with parents and teachers which will lead to positive action.

Creating an ethical and educational brand which can raise awareness in some small way about the planet we are leaving to our children was the core of my inspiration. It was important for me to create a product which didn’t contain any plastic or anything harmful for the environment. Another important thing was to raise awareness about nature, animals and how to preserve what we have. I am so pleased to see that there are more companies and brands now going in this direction.

3. You just launched new packaging and products! Please tell us more. Anything else exciting that you have planned for this year?

Yes, we updated our packaging so that it communicates our Unique Selling Points better. We just launched our Dinosaurs collection which is so much fun and very popular, plus our fun fact cards are written by the Natural History Museum London which is such an honour!

We also just launched our subscription offer. It’s very exciting for kids to receive 6 different ToyChoc Boxes each month and at the end collect all different toys from these ranges: : 18 Endangered animals, 18 Woodland animals, 18 Dinosaurs, 6 rabbits for Easter, 6 festive cubes for Christmas and 6 JustChoc boxes.

PLAYinCHOC

Whether you want to collect the animals, use them as plastic-free party bag favours, or purchase them individually, each ToyChoc Box contains an eco-friendly toy to collect and assemble, an educational fun facts card made from 100% recycled and recyclable card and paper and printed with vegetable based inks, plus 2 x 10g organic vegan chocolates wrapped in home compostable film. Kids can also use the frames from their animal puzzle as stencils for colouring and creative play, and keep the box for more play or for keepsakes. The chocolate is creamy and very delicious, yet entirely vegan, nut, dairy, gluten and soy free. You can now buy our NEW Single Origin Peruvian cacao JustChoc Boxes – a dark and vegan m•lk version!

PLAYinCHOC

We are also very proud of our beautiful PLAYin CHOC Advent Calendar which was featured in a lot of press as a top buy this season. You can find all our products in our web store as well as selection in many stores in the UK like Daylsford, Ocado, Design Museum, Conran shop, Natural History Museum … and abroad… We are planning more collections and more chocolate flavours in the future.

4. Do you work from home or do you have an office/studio somewhere? How do you combine motherhood with your career?

We moved into our new larger custom fitted factory in Uxbridge, UK in August – opened by the Mayor & Mayoress of Uxbridge and our young ambassadors – our kids and their friends who feel confident and proud presenting our brand!
We employed more people, and it’s now a different challenge. My husband oversees the factory team and I go there once or twice a week. The rest of the time I work from home and am with my children after school. Juggling motherhood and career is definitely a big challenge! We have more systems in place for PLAYin CHOC and I feel it’s starting to get more manageable but the first year and a half was very intense juggling so many different tasks.

PLAYinCHOC

5. What do you love most about your job?

There are a lot of things I Love about my job. Here are a few 🙂

  • I love that my family is part of it! My husband is my work partner and even though it was challenging for us both in the beginning, now it is working out nicely 🙂
  • It fills me with massive joy to see my kids being such great ambassadors for our products, they are very proud of it. After all they were the reason and inspiration behind PLAYin CHOC!
  • I also LOVE seeing so many kids and adults enjoying our products – that really kept us going during the tough moments!
  • That our chocolate is suitable for most children and free from common allergens.
  • That nothing from our products ends in landfill.

We hope to see PLAYin CHOC products all around the world and spread the joy!

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

PLAYinCHOC

PlayInChoc

Thank you Maya!

xxx Esther

PLAYin CHOC is a much valued member of our shopping portal — you can find their profile page here!


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Comments (2)

Alicia Peyrano
November 6, 2019

Adorable, the family, the style and the product. I love it. Bravo Maya, thank you for putting your beautiful products into the world.


Maryam
November 23, 2019

I actually purchased a couple of these little boxes last week as stocking fillers for my children this Christmas!! So lovely to have a plastic free toy inside! And equally lovely to learn about the woman behind the product. Well done, Maya.


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