Play Today; Making A Child’s Day

Its a privilege to make a childs day.

From tea parties to battling dragons; Aarons Outdoor Creations offer the backdrop for all kids imaginations with their selection of amazing cubbies. In all shapes, sizes from tea houses, mansion cubbies and a cubby fort, kids just love them and their imaginations run riot. I went to Aarons Outdoor Creations as I wanted to meet Aaron Giddings, the man who Id heard considers it a privilege to make a childs day and the founding force behind Aarons Outdoor Creations.

Aaron Giddings is a hard man to pin down. His mobile phone is always busy and he doesnt do emails, so it is only through the efforts of Catherine, his hard-working marketing manager that I manage to get him to sit still long enough to have a chat. Five minutes in his company is enough to demonstrate the drive and enthusiasm which has made his business, Aarons Outdoor Creations, the success it has become in the fifteen years since he first started making dog kennels out of 44 gallon drums. With his partner Matt Chapman, he has established four stores in Victoria, and has a further 26 distributors Australia-wide.

From the age of twenty one, Aaron has had the ability to see a gap in the market and fill it. Starting with dog kennels, he moved on to designing and building high quality cubbies, forts, timber sheds and self-contained bungalows. Looking around the display of timber structures with names like the Mansion and the Monster Fort at his Cheltenham store, Im reminded of the endless fun I had as a child, making cubbies out of large cardboard boxes that once contained a new fridge or a gas barbecue. I can only imagine the excited reaction when todays parents bring home one of Aarons Outdoor Creations for the back yard.

Its this reaction from his young clients that is one of the rewards for the hard work and long hours that Aaron puts into the business. In contrast to many toys today, Aarons cubbies actively engage kids imaginations and constructive play brings positive results. Aaron reinforces these sentiments by involving himself in numerous childrens charities among the many charities he is involved with are the Variety Club of Australia, Kids Helpline and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as the Royal Childrens Hospital Easter Friday appeal, when a top-of-the-range cubby is auctioned online to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going to the hospital.

Aarons philanthropic activities are not confined to causes within Australia. He considers one of the highlights of his career so far to be his involvement in the Broadbridge Fund in Thailands Phi Phi Island, in commemoration of Troy Broadbridge, who lost his life in the tsunami of December 2005. Staff from Aarons Outdoor Creations assisted a group of players from the Melbourne Football club in constructing the buildings for the Broadbridge Education Centre, and the company donated all the equipment for the playground. Aaron still keeps in regular contact with the teachers and students at the Centre, and proudly shows me photos taken there on a recent visit by his mum.

His ethos of helping the less fortunate is reflected not just in the many charities he supports, but in the way he runs his business. We employ kids with a good attitude, who might have had a tough upbringing and who want to turn their lives around. Thats a big part of what we do and what were about. While he admits that such an employment policy has inherent risks, he believes the benefits to the company and to the community outweigh the potential costs. That (aspect of the business) is one of my favourite things.

Its a risk that seems to have paid off for Aaron Giddings. He talks of the importance of having a good team around him, and of acknowledging their help and support. He looks for employees who are loyal, honest and hard working. The following day he has organized to fly eight of them to Queensland for the weekend to thank them for their efforts over the cubby season, the mad months between September and December 25 each year.

In light of his renowned aversion to emails, I suggest that a grasp of twenty-first century technology would be an advantage for anyone running a company that employs 80 people. In typical fashion, Aaron is undeterred. Im going to do something about that, is his parting comment as he strides, mobile firmly attached to his ear, to check one of his display homes. Given his list of achievements to date, I dont doubt it for one minute