When Melissa Bossola Beese's first son was born 14 weeks prematurely, she was plunged into a crash course in children's developmental milestones. "I was never allowed to buy the same toys other parents (bought)," Beese says. "Kids born three-and-a-half months premature aren't supposed to be able to do half of what other kids do. So I worked through sensory development issues and really learned about milestones."
Beese applied that knowledge when starting Little Pnuts (267-0873; http://littlepnuts.com), a subscription-based toy program. Enrolled parents receive a box of three to five toys every three months, and each package is geared toward the child's stage of development.
"They're eco-friendly, non-battery-operated toys that focus on cause and effect, helping a child learn through play, imagination and creativity," she says. "We want to get kids back into imagining and creating an environment with a toy."
Plans start at $25 a month, and the majority of the toys are hand-assembled and made with natural materials. "These are toys that I and my husband grew up with, (made by) family-owned European companies that have been around for centuries," Beese says. "We've sent packages to people, and we got word back (from a mother): She said as soon as the box was open, her child could not stop playing with them. She says they're amazing, brilliant and beautiful toys."
A California native, Beese moved to New Orleans in 2009. In addition to basing her business in the city, she also works with nonprofit Lighthouse for the Blind and plants a tree with every Little Pnuts subscription. "We're trying to bring business back to New Orleans and bring a better earth for our children," she says. "We want to be able to provide for others and be socially aware. It's important to have those fundamentals for our children."