Business has a lot of ups and downs,” she says. “But what keeps me motivated is the satisfaction of doing something I’ve always wanted to do.”

– Fernanda Rodriguez

Playful and powerful may not be two words typically paired together, but for Fernanda Rodriguez, they perfectly encompass who she aspires to be. “There is creativity all around us, but many of us lose our ability to connect to it,” she says. “So I hope that in my work, I can access that creative, playful part of myself, and share that with my customers!”

Her customers – those lucky enough to secure one of Fernanda’s adorable wooden robots – not only enjoy a lifetime of playfulness with their bots, but are supporting a woman who has found her power, in every sense of the word.

“I love the sense of independence and empowerment I feel when I make my bots,” says Fernanda. “And using power tools, it’s even more powerful! Using a saw, creating things with my hands, I realise that I can create things by myself, which feels incredibly powerful.”

But let’s be clear: Fernanda is not experimenting with power tools. With a degree in industrial design, she took university courses on working with all types of materials; from plastic, to wood, to metal. “I started the degree because I always loved crafts,” says Fernanda. “And I was so lucky because I discovered that it really was my thing. As an industrial designer, I need to know how to make materials work not only aesthetically, but functionally, and that comes to life in Bot Workshop.” 

Bot Workshop – Fernanda’s brand new business – was born out of a Covid-19 redundancy, from what Fernanda calls her ‘dream job’ making toys for an airline. “I suddenly had a lot of time, and was living with my boyfriend and his parents, who had lots of power tools and offcuts,” she says. “So I started to play. I made these little robots, began giving them as gifts, received a really positive response, and then realised I might have a good business opportunity.”

A good business opportunity – and a gorgeous gift – they are. Made in Melbourne with sustainable materials, each Bot Workshop kit is made by hand, taking a full day for Fernanda to create in her signature high quality and attention to detail. Each box comes with three paint pots and a paintbrush, so the bots can be fully customised and made your own. 

And while we are often very quick to assume a toy is for children, Fernanda reassures us that these bots are for all ages. “The robots become a unique and personalised toy for anyone to play with,” she says. “As well as being a creative and hands-on project, they end up being a companion. They might sit on your desk while you work, be there to fiddle with while on calls, or for a child to keep forever. So many toys today are disposable – I wanted to create the opposite of that. A friend for life.”

While Fernanda is creating friends for life, this is also what she’s found in Australia, the country she fell in love with when she arrived as a student on exchange from Mexico. “In Mexico, I was very shy, and I found it hard to make friends and to talk to people,” she says. “But here, I felt the opposite. I found it so easy to meet people, to learn and to share my experience with. It’s so multicultural, it’s so laid back, and I appreciate the freedom here in terms of safety and in opportunities for work,” Fernanda says. “When I returned home after my exchange, I knew I needed to eventually come back, so I moved to Australia for good in 2018.” 

While it may sound idyllic – this new life of empowerment and entrepreneurism – Fernanda also reassures us that it’s not always easy. “Business has a lot of ups and downs,” she says. “But what keeps me motivated is the satisfaction of doing something I’ve always wanted to do.”

On that note, she finishes with some brilliant advice for budding migrant business owners. “It’s scary, it’s not easy, but it’s very satisfying,” Fernanda says. “There are so many resources, and people are very willing to help you to achieve your dreams.”

We couldn’t agree more, particularly with a bot friend by your side.

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer